The prestigious journal Science has just published a ranking with the most followed scientists on the popular blue bird social network. However popularity and scientific eminence do not always have to go hand in hand . To differentiate it, they have created the so-called ‘Kardashian index’.
Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) – famous for being Carl Sagan’s successor on the television program ‘Cosmos’ -, physicist Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) and biologist Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) occupy the podium of the list . In fact, they are the only ones who exceed one million followers. Then they are followed in number of followers by all kinds of scientists, from astronomer Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) to computer scientists like Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee), psychologists like Richard Wiseman (@RichardWiseman) or geneticists like Craig Venter (@JCVenter) .
However, the popularity of scientific figures is not correlated with the importance of their publications. To differentiate between the two data, social importance and scientific importance, a geneticist at the University of Liverpool, Neil Hall, has created a formula called the Kardashian index .
The curious name comes from the American diva Kim Kardashian, “famous for being famous”, we could say. Basically, as he explains in the scientific article published in Genome Biology in which he has proposed this index, “in the era of social networks there are people who have scientific blogs or Twitter accounts that are very followed but who have published very few articles of great importance. These scientists are considered leaders in their field simply because of their own notoriety. ” As initially happened with Kardashian herself.
The formula compares the number of social media followers of a researcher with the number of citations of their scientific works.
After taking 40 geneticists present on Twitter, he compared both data and drew up an intermediate scale that marks the right amount of followers that a scientist should have based on his research importance. So dividing the actual number of followers by the fair number of followers you should have results in the Kardashian index.
Those researchers who score higher than 5 are, according to Hall, in ” Kardashian territory .” And the higher the result, the greater the risk that the importance of a researcher will be overrated .
Well, the Kardashian index of the top three in the ranking of the most followed scientists on Twitter , Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins is 11,129, 1,128 and 740 respectively. Or what is the same, they are also in the top positions of very notorious characters on a social level, but not so much on a scientific level.