Publishing papers in top-tier journals, getting big grants and renewals, being invited to give talks at top-tier international conferences — those are some of the qualities shared by scientists who are considered stars.
In a Management Science article, the Georgia Institute of Technology's Alexander Oettl suggests shaking up the standards by which scientists are considered stars. "I expand the traditional taxonomy of scientists that focuses solely on productivity and add a second, social dimension: helpfulness to others," he says. For this, Oettl examines not only publications and citations, but also paper acknowledgments, as a measure of helpfulness.
In a study examining the change in the publishing output of the coauthors of 149 scientists who have died, Oettl found that "co-authors of highly helpful scientists that die experience a decrease in output quality but not output quantity," and that "the deaths of high productivity scientists that are not highly helpful do not influence their coauthors' output."
Further, Oettl also found that "scientists who are helpful with conceptual feedback (critique and advice) have a larger impact on the performance of their coauthors than scientists who provide help with material access, scientific tools, or technical work." This, he concludes, may well merit a re-evaluation of how the community conceptualizes what makes a star scientist.