I just came across this beautiful website on which Northeastern University’s Barabasi Lab created an interactive visualization of Roberta Sinatra and colleagues’ paper “Quantifying the Evolution of Individual Scientific Impact”. The paper argues that scientists’ most impactful publications (as measured by citations) could occur at any point in their career. The authors base their argument on a large-scale bibliographic dataset containing publications of more than 10,000 scientists in different disciplines.
The visualization looks like a life-line for an individual scientist’s work (picture on the left) or an ocean with wave peaks and valleys for whole disciplines (picture on the right). It is striking how the overall disciplinary patterns look very similar – at least when they are corrected for absolute citation counts. The authors found that impact is randomly distributed within a scientist’s career. So, if you haven’t published an impactful paper yet, don’t give up – it might just be the next one.