] Theoretical conversation between mikhail simkin and his thesis
] advisor: So how's your research going?
] mikhail: Yeah I'm not really "motivated", I sorta want
] to just sit on my ass and surf the net.
] advisor: You can't just waste time searching for
] useless crap on the internet, this is UCLA dept of
] Electrical Engineering. You'd better have a publishable paper
] the next time I see you.
] mikhail: crap...
This study stems from our recent research on scientific citations
(M.V. Simkin and V.P. Roychowdhury, "Read before you cite!"
Through the analysis of misprint propagation in scientific literature we concluded that 80% of citations are copied from the lists of references used in other papers.
There is a good popular article about that work in the New Scientist:
In a follow up paper
(M.V. Simkin and V.P. Roychowdhury, "Copied citations create renowned papers?"
we had shown that this citation copying can explain why some papers are a lot more cited than the other.
In other words some papers can become famous by chance, totally independent of their merit.
Afterwards we started to wonder whether fame at all depends on achievement. However, for the scientists, though an objective measure of fame does exist (the number of citations to their work), it is difficult or impossible to define an objective measure of achievement.
At this point I recalled one case where such measure does exist.
Initially I became familiar with it through my aviation hobby. Flying an airplane does not imply studying WWI aces, but every pilot (at least in America) read "The Spirit of Saint Louis" by Charles Lindbergh. In that book the aviator described his celebrated 1927 New-York - Paris flight. There was a prize set for the first man to do such flight, which Lindbergh
had won. Among other contestants was French pilot Captain Rene Fonck. He was the second highest-scoring ace of WWI and ... only a Captain. Lindbergh, though he just recently completed his military training, was also a Captain, and, upon landing in Paris, was promoted to Colonel. Why Fonck was only a Captain? I made Yahoo search for Rene Fonck. It produced many results. I found the (anticipated) answer: Fonck had undesirable social qualities.
Among the search results also was the directory of aces, which came handy few years later.
Dr. Mikhail Simkin