The Kardashian Index

Posted: November 29, 2016, 11:29am

I think the scientific community can be, at times, guilty of over-analyzing everything. But scientific methodology has a certain rigor and systematical nature to it that it can be irresistable to put together some statistical modeling for every scenario. Case in point: this article about the discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and their academic prowess (here, measured by the number of citations of their journal articles).

I’ve written extensively and more than anyone might care to read about the importance of a social presence for an academic in today’s day and even try to document the goings-on of academic events I’ve attended. So it’s right up my alley to review this paper.

The paper (published in…. Genome Biology? Is this a joke? I don’t know…) takes 40 researchers and compares their citation index (number of citations summed over all the papers in their career) and the number of Twitter followers. Thankfully, to the credit of the Twitterverse, there is a positive correlation between the two: more citations generally leads to more Twitter fame. That’s a good thing, because we want the loudest voices to be the ones with the most scientific consensus in the measure of academic “points,” i.e. citations. Each citation can be viewed as a high-five of sorts, a recommendation or an endorsement of the research article.

The paper proposes a Kardashian index, aptly named for a celebrity family with unlimited fame but likely little-to-none scientific credibility. The index is simply the division of Followers/Citations. An index over 5 indicates, in the words of the article, “then it’s time to get off Twitter and write those papers.”


In the name of trying to get my Kardashian Index below 4700, I might take a few weeks off blogging. Ooops.


Published on July 26th, 2017

Last updated on January 20th, 2021