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Personal impact factors (e.g., the h-index) are becoming more and more important in evaluations of faculty with respect to job hiring, promotion, and tenure, but they are largely poorly understood by the community at large. The purpose of this study is to educate biologist and other scientists about some of the wide literature about impact factors, including highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. This includes a thorough exploration of dozens of such indices by comparing how they perform through repeated calculation of data representing 15 years of scientific output of a single individual from beginning through mid-career. Indices are examined with respect to factors such as interpretability, consistency, and stability.
A version of this manuscript has been posted online at my website for almost three years already, and has already been cited in such form. I am uncertain as to the eventual direction of this paper, which may be unpublishable in a traditional framework, but I thought PeerJ's preprint forum would be a better way of generating feedback on its eventual fate.