Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Unexpected opportunities hidden behind troubling indexes

Don’t measure yourself by your metrics. Your worth is in how much you put yourself into what, how and why you do science. The unexpected opportunities of making a difference with your work lie ahead, but the question is: are you all-in?

Unexpected opportunities

My first publication was in 2002 for an International Conference of the Society of Automotive Engineering in the USA. Since then I always thought about scientific articles as a way of asking the scientific community – “what do you think about my work?”

Scientists are a community. Not because we have a common goal, but a common life. Pains, failures, sense of ignorance are everyday life experiences among scientists. Then came the need to measure performance…

It started when others commented on the importance of choosing high impact factor journals to publish my work. Then came the need to know my h-index to measure the impact of my work for scholarships and awards. Now we’re moving toward how much readings you have of your work, or the number of patents generated.

Where is all this need to measure performance leading to?

On the one hand, I’m concern if this is driving us away from the scientific spirit rather than approaching. On the other hand, I recognize the importance of having some performance index. And eventually, instead of an obstacle, this could be an opportunity to discover new and better ways to build meaningful work is a noisy world of ever more fragmented knowledge.

Even if I think performance indexes represent a danger for the creative process of developing scientific thinking, they drive us to explore five essential opportunities.


Unexpected Opportunities for…

… Deep Work

If you want to improve your performance index, you have to invest in your performance. Cut distraction and strive for developing the ability to focus, and perform deep work. This will boost the quality of research, not because you have to, but want to.


… Deep Thinking

What is the point of doing research? Are we constantly working on the next paper or following a clear research path where publications represent giving steps forward? High-performance indexes would be the natural result of “deep thinking” your journey in scientific research.


… Cherish Time

We complain more about time than anything else. Time is the new currency. Excellent research, shedding meaningful insights, takes time. Lots. Of. Time. Thus, improving your h-index is an invitation to cherish time and avoid wasting it.


… Deep Change

We do science because reality fascinates us, but it has little sense unless we share it and make a positive impact in people’s lives. The first one where your research performs a profound change is yours. Your life. A deep change in your perspective on the world.


…and the 5th unexpected opportunity.

If your h-index rises, people will see growth, but deep down you’ll see a mountain. It makes little sense reaching the top if you don’t enjoy the climb. This opportunity is probably the most critical, the opportunity for enjoyment.

Question: what opportunity will you seize first?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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