Ranking of Tunisian Scientists According to Their Efficient Productivity. An Overview of Scientific Research Output in Tunisia

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2014

34 Pages

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a) Database Characteristics
b) Data Analysis






The work starts with a single-center retrospective Statistical Study that begins by doing a Ranking of Leading Tunisian Scientists based on their Hirsch Index as computed by Google Scholar MyCitations Database in order to assess the quality and the efficiency of the Leading Tunisian Scientific Range. Then, the information is analyzed. For organizational purposes, the ranking is limited only to Scientists having a Hirsch Index of 15 and more so that the error risk become very narrow and the results would be optimized.

The ranking process returned 307 Tunisian Scientists having 15 or more as Lifelong Achievement Hirsch Index. 181 of them are working nowadays in Tunisian Leading Public Universities. As for disciplinary specializations, it is seen that over 41,500 pc. of the Tunisian Scientists considered in the following ranking are working on Medical Sciences. This important influence of Medical Sciences is explained by different reasons. The main reason of this considerable phenomenon is the high impact factor of Medical Journals. But, there are other reasons related to the country itself. In fact, it is explained by the lack of influencing young Scientific Researchers in Core Sciences like Physics and Mathematics and the deficiency of the research policy of Tunisia.


Scientometrics; Bibliometrics; Hirsch Index; Science evaluation; Research Trends; Scientific Output; Tunisian Scientists; Literature Analysis


Ranking Scientists had been a huge purpose in order to guess who the best in a country is [1]. However, in several important fields like Economic Sciences[2] and even in general context, the Ranking of Potential Scientist is limited to developed countries[3]. For example, the Rankings of Van Ours is made in particular for Dutch Economists[4,5]. So, there are no national rankings for scientists in developing countries and even in Tunisia[4] and that affected a lot the Knowledge and Understanding of the situation of Scientific Research in such countriesand this is what affected their situation in International Standings like IDEAS and SCImago[6,7].In fact, the number of publications of Tunisia in Scimago Ranking is quite the same as the one of some developed European countries like Cyprus and Austria[5]. However, their number of citations and their reputation is still extremely limited[5].

So, a ranking for Potential Scientists in Tunisia and a critical reading of it are required in order to better the standings of Tunisia and guess the overview of Scientific Research Deals and Environments in Tunisia, the adaptability of Tunisian Leading Scientific Range to Worldwide Major Research Trends and the reasons of the lack of citations and quality for Scientific Papers from Tunisia. Therefore, how such rankings would be done? And who is the best scientist in Tunisia? What is the state of Scientific Research in Tunisia? And which procedures should be taken in order to solve the matter of making Rankings for Scientific Researchers and Scholars in Tunisia and to better the situation of scientific research process and output evaluation in general?


The lifelong potential of a scientist in this retrospective single center study could be measured only by the precise study of the Efficient Productivity of the same working scientist and according to Harzing 2013 Paper and Hirsch 2005 Paper, this is not possible unless we use the Hirsch index as a metric criterion of the Ranking[8,9,10] though that this metrics has some deficiencies[10]. As for the names of the scientists, as we do not have a complete list of scientists in Tunisia, we will gather Tunisian Surnames from Scopus Websites, Essential Science Indicators Highly Cited Papers, Web of Knowledge, the Research Gate, the Phone Directory, Microsoft Academic Search, LinkedIn and the Google Scholar[7,12,13]as well as from Conferences held in Tunisia of some organizations like IEEE and the FIP, from lists of Visiting Professors and Researchers in Tunisia, from Official Websites of Tunisian Universities, from a paper that talked about Scientific Production in Tunisia[14]andsome biographical reference books[15,16]and some nominations from some Tunisian Consulted Working Scientists and we will later test each of them in Google Scholar My Citation Search Toolbar as it is the fastest and the most precise tool to search scientists in Internet[17]because from a theoretical side, it gives the list of scientists in a few seconds as it uses the Google Database directly while Harzing PoP4 uses the same database through an Internet Server and even the software should do limited queries so that the IP address would not be blocked and the output would not exceed a list of 1000 papers that are the property of 100 scholars in maximum[8]. The other benefit of using Google Scholar is that this interface divides the articles in group according to the two criteria of the name and the affiliation of the researcher. As well, Google Scholar can give the list of coauthors and scientific community members of the author searched in the results of Google Scholar Author Search and this will broaden the probability of guessing more names for the scientists in Tunisia[17,18]. So, the problem of mixing the works of two scientists having the same name would be effectively minimized. We will limit our research to the scientists having a Standard Hirsch Index Value of 15 and more so that we do not spend time in assessing medium scientists and because the number of scholar achieving this scientific level is too limited so the risk of forgetting to put a scientist into the list would be narrowed (The Algorithm could be found in Appendix A) . Furthermore, we would not be obliged to put the names of some scholars who had done scientific research for a quite limited period of time and some former students who had submitted scientific papers in order to get a grant or a degree like M.Sc. and Ph.D. and not to contribute to the wealth of Science and to the development of fundamental and applied concepts, theories, surveys and overviews[9,19]. The Scholars existing in the Ranking should be verified as Tunisian Citizens by searching for Press Article, Scientific Paper, Curriculum Vitae or Official Homepages or even by email or direct phone call proving this fact surely and that would be done by the use of Google as Search Engine and Google Scholar My Citations Software as a computational tool. The Scholars having the same Lifelong Achievement Hirsch Index are ranked according to their 5 Years Hirsch Index and the institutional affiliation of the existing researchers is verified using ORCID Accounts[20]. The Reference State of the Ranking adopted in this ranking process is 01 September 2014 and even if a scientist was included later in the ranking, their performance would be assessed as it was in 01 September 2014 through the manual elimination of Extra Citations using Google Scholar Citations Database and the manual verification of all works sorted by Google Scholar MyCitations Database and judged as theirs.

This Method is quite used also by Top Italian Scientists Site because they see that the period of scientific weakness of a scientist does not mean the deterioration of his level or of his prestige[17]. In fact, an excellent scientist can return to his good potential after a period of several weeks and he can even return to scientific production with innovative ideas that will contribute to the characteristic amelioration of his Hirsch Index and by that to the huge bettering of his national and international Scientific Ranking[9]. Based on the information retrieved about the lifelong achievement of Tunisian Scientists, we can make the ranking of the best 20 Tunisian scientists in Achieving Current Performances. The metrics used is the Google Scholar Since 2009 5 Years Hirsch Index computed on the base of the citations dated from 2009 and more for all published papers in his scientific history[18]. The computation is done for the scientists existing in the Lifelong Achievement Tunisian Ranking from the ConsideredFirst to the ConsideredLast because the best ranked scientists are more likely to build the best current performances as the Since 2009 Hirsch Index is smaller or equal to the Hirsch Index and because during the ranking process, all scientists having a Hirsch Index that is smaller than the 5 Years Hirsch Index of the 20th Scientist ranked according to his current achievements are effectively eliminated before the end of the evaluation of all scientists. This way will make of the way of getting the results of the Current Achievement Tunisian Ranking extremely faster and more accurate. The full ranking would be published first under the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike License in SelectedWorks and Wikipedia in its French version for review purposes only[13,21].

Once the ranking is verified with no existing objection, a statistical study would be done to prove the major scientific trends in Tunisia. Disciplines of Tunisian Scientists would be divided in 8 subunits or branches: Medical Sciences and Pharmacology, Biological Sciences and Geology, Mathematics, Engineering and Computer Science, Physics, Economic Sciences, Chemistry and Material Science and Linguistics [13]. Interdisciplinary Sciences would be considered as a component of the subunit that is benefiting from it[22]. For example, Biochemistry would not bring new knowledge to fundamental Chemistry. Its objective is to use chemical concepts to explain molecular phenomena in the human body. So, it is considered as a discipline of the set of Medical Sciences and Pharmacology [23]. After, the rate of researchers in each subunit and interdisciplinary researchers in the top 5, top 20, top 50, top 100, top 200 and in all the considered national standings would be calculated using the statistical software of Microsoft Office Excel 2007 that would be used later in further computations. The leading two subunits (Interdisciplinary Sciences are included as an additional subunit) of the Scientific Research Process in Tunisia would be analyzed by calculating their impact through the computation of the number of scientists that had worked 3 works or more, 2 works or even 1 work or no work about the subunit, by correlating the ranking of scientists in the subunit in function of the overall ranking of the same scholars as well as by computing the institutional and disciplinary affiliation of the scientists. If interdisciplinary sciences were ranked first or second, this work would be substituted by computing the rate of interdisciplinary researchers in each subunit in order to see which subunits are mostly based on interdisciplinary research and by calculating the Hirsch Index Medians for the main fieldsof the two most important scientific subunits to get a more precise overview about Scientific Research in thesetwo branches of science.


As a result of the ranking process, 307 Tunisian Scientistswere recognized to have a Lifelong Achievement Hirsch Index (CI=1.88, CL=0.95) equal or superior to 15 and were included in the work. 181 of them are working in Tunisian Public Leading Universities (a rate of 58.96 pc.).

Table 1 shows the list of the top 20 in 2014 Tunisian Scientists’ Standings according to their lifetime achievement in the scientific level using the scientometric metrics of Hirsch Index. This Scientific Ranking includes individuals working in Tunisia and abroad in some developed countries like the United States, Canada, France and Germany and in a various range of sciences like Medicine, Physics, Engineering and Chemistry (Full ranking is available as Appendix B).

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Table 1: Ranking of the best 20 Tunisian Scientists according to their Lifelong Achievement Hirsch Index

Table 2 shows the list of the 20 best Tunisian Scientists in 2014 according to their current achievement in the scientific level using Google Scholar Since 2009 Hirsch Index. This Ranking is developed on the basis of the Original Ranking shown in Table 1. In fact, 17out of the 20 ranked in the list of top 20 in the Lifetime Achievement Ranking are existent in the list of the top 20 in the Current Achievement Ranking.

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Table 2: Ranking of the best 20 Tunisian Scientists according to their Since 2009 Hirsch Index

According to the Full Ranking shown in Appendix Band as shown in Fig. 1, it is clear that the main discipline for the leading scientific researchers in Tunisia is Medicine with an excellent percentile rate of 41,500 pc. It is also seen that over 36 pc of the scientists are interdisciplinary.

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Fig 1: Repartition of the leading Tunisian Scientists according to their main discipline

When measuring the impact of the main discipline in Tunisia on leading national scientific range, it is stated that only 46.333 pc of all the 307 scientists do not accomplish any work in relationship with Medicine in all their scientific history as shown in Fig. 2.

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Fig 2: Rates of interest of leading Tunisian Scientists in current medical issues

When computing the disciplines of specialization of researchers of Medicine, it is shown that the tendency is to study molecular and microbiological phenomena in human body because the interdisciplinary science of Biochemistry was ranked first discipline of the subset as shown in Table 3 and Genetics were ranked second. The third to eighth ranks explains the location of the medical phenomena of study. So, it is clear that the main subject of research or rather Research Trend in Medicine for Tunisia is the Biochemistry and Genetics of Neurology, Cardiology, Oncology, Toxicology, Virology and Sportive Performance.

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Table 3: Disciplinary Affiliations of Researchers in Medicine

When computing the Ranks of Researchers in Medical Standings in function of Overall Ranks, a linear correlation is shown with an exceptional R squared of 0.996 as shown in Fig. 3 and a considerable F-test value of 0.9794 as computed by the Statistical Software of Microsoft Office Excel 2007.

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Fig 3: Curve of Ranks in Medical Standings in function of Ranks in Overall Standings

For the study of the interdisciplinary Researchers, it is shown that only the two categories of Medical Sciences and Pharmacology and Biological Sciences and Geology do have a rate of Multidisciplinary Researchers higher than the average as shown in Fig. 4.

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Fig 4: Repartitions of Monodisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Researches in each subunit

While trying to compute Hirsch Index Medians for every field of the two most influencing subunits and as shown in Table 4, it is seen that Health Sciences are the ones that contribute to the enhancement of the Hirsch index median of Medical Sciences and Pharmacology and it is seen also that Biological Sciences are the ones that allowed the promotion of the Hirsch Index Median Performance of the category of Biological Sciences and Geology.

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Table 4: Hirsch Index Medians for each subunit


a) Database Characteristics

While comparing the results of the Table 1 to the list of scientists taken in international rankings such as IDEAS, it is widely noticed that the three best performing Tunisian scientists in Economic Sciences are not included in the Official Ranking and this is what explains the bad rank of Tunisia in that Scientific Ranking[7]. Furthermore, the works of some scientists are divided in many sections because they put different spellings of their names in their papers[8]. For Example, “Mongi Ben Hamida”, “MB Hamida”, “M Ben Hamida” and “Ben Hamida Mongi” are different spellings for the name of the same working scientist and hopefully, this is recognized by Google Scholar in many cases[17]. However, it can affect medially the ranking of Tunisia in Some International Standings[14]. So, Scientists should be conscious of the importance of submitting their papers with full names using a unique identifying spelling because the situation will worsen with the entry of new scientists having the same initials and Surname with the currently existing scholars in the near future and should care of creating some accounts in scientific sites like Google Scholar and ResearchGate[7,12].

b) Data Analysis

As shown in the full ranking, manyleading had held administrative, governmental and industrial and Economic Professional Positions in their scientific history and this fact had helped them to acquire practical and proficient experience. For Example, Elyes Jouini had been the Minister of Administrative Reform in the Transition Government of 2011[13], Mongi Ben Hamida had been the Minister of Public Health in the Nouira Government[13], Tawfik Jelassi is the Former Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Information and Communication Technologies in Jomaa National Technocratic Government[13] and Slim Souissi holds now the chair of Scientific Research Responsible Manager in Motorola Corporation. This fact brings more accreditation, trustworthiness, accuracy and reliability to Practical Solutions guessed by this kind of scholars.

As for the results brought by Table 2, they prove that all scientists are still acting, active, potential and performing and that proves that the best scientists in the history of Tunisia are those who build the Scientific Excellence of Tunisia[8] nowadays excepting some scientists who became retired or inactive like Malek Kamoun or dead like Mongi Ben Hamida who died in 2003[13].

As for the previous works about Scientific Performance of Tunisian Scientists[14], they are not only insignificant but also done by Foreign Scholar like Hammouti. They were great initiative in the time when they had done their works because they do not have the technology available now for Scientometric Analysis[8,12]. However, these analyses gave wrong results that were not fitting to the situation of Science in Tunisia or even in the other countries involved in these studies for that period[14]. That is why this work would be a great initiative for such scholars to revise their researches and update their data.

From another side and examining the data brought by the full ranking, it is clear that Medical Research is the most influencing and efficient field of study as 41.50 pc of the scientists are Medical Scientists and 46.67 pc of the leading Tunisian Scientists have dealt with Medical Problems more than twice. This may be explained in part by the huge impact of Medical Journals while comparing them to other journals which explains the fact that Hirsch Indexes of Medical and Biological Scientists are inflated[24]. According to Hirsch Paper, a Hirsch Index of a Biologist of 7 is comparable to a Hirsch Index of a scientist of 2[9]. However, that is not the only reason for this. If the high impact of medical journals is the only reason for this difference of proportions in the repartition of Leading Scientists in Tunisia between Subunits, Medical Scientists would be more likely to have more citations and by that to get best ranks as the number of citations is equal to a*h² (Postulated by Hirsch 2005 and Verified with little rectifications by Sangwal 2012)[9,25].Yet, this is not real in truth. In fact and as shown in Fig. 1, the repartition seems to be homogenous whatever the size of the ranking was (From 2 to 306).

Furthermore, the linear correlation between the Medical Scientific Range Rank and the Overall Scientific Range Rank proves that the distribution of Medical Scientists along the ranking is constant. So, there is a second reason behind the Medical Influence in Tunisian Scientific Research Processes. Effectively, when examining Fig. 1, it is seen that the rate of scientists in Core Sciences like for Physics in the leading range is decreasing significantly when the size of the sample becomes wider and as Hirsch Index is Age Related[26], it is seen that there are not an evolution of young influencing core scientists in Tunisia

Similarly, when comparing the rate of Scientists working in Tunisia in Medical Sciences and Pharmacology and the one of those working in Tunisia about the other sciences, it is clear that the rate of Working Scientists in Tunisia in Medical Sciences and Pharmacology is largely greater than the one computed for the other sciences as shown in Fig. 5.

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Fig 8: Rate of Scientists working in Tunisia in Medical Sciences and Pharmacology and in Other Sciences

A simple calculation of the WelchStudent t-test returns a value of t equal to 𝑡=. For t=2.6699 and df=610, p=0.012<0.05.

So, this difference is significant and this means surely that better conditions and even better training and knowledge are given in Tunisia for scientists searching in Medicine and this is one of the reasons of the impact of Medical Research in Tunisia. That is why more advantages should be given equally to scientists working on other Sciences so that they can catch up to meet to international Standards.

Moreover,when comparing the repartition of Scopus Publications[6] between the studied subunits in 2013 and the repartitions of Leading Scientists in 2014 between the same scientific branches as seen in Fig. 1, it is clear that only Biological Sciences and Geology and Medical Sciences and Pharmacology do have higher proportions in the Standings of Leading Scientists as shown in Fig. 6. Choosing another repartition of Scopus Publications from another year did not change lots of things.

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Fig 6: Proportions of each subunit in Scopus Publications and in Leading Scientists’ Standings[6]

According to Fig. 6, this can be explained by the lack of productivity of Social Scientists and Mathematicians as they only produce about 15 pc of the Scopus Output of Tunisia and many efforts should be done in this context. But, it may essentially be explained by the lack of quality and innovation in the Tunisian output in the subunits that are not biomedical or biological. Tunisian Works in Biological Sciences and Geology and Medical Sciences and Pharmacology are based on exceptional tools and Methods that make them distinguished in Tunisia and abroad. According to Fig. 4, it seems that only Biological Sciences and Geology and Medical Sciences and Pharmacology have stated rates of interdisciplinary researchers that are higher than average. So, it is clear that the use of interdisciplinary approaches is the main cause of the high parts obtained in the repartition of Leading Scientists according to the subunits. However, the method used in this research does not explain why interdisciplinary approaches had such influences on Biomedical and Biological Sciences. Yet, a simple Literature Review can help explaining this important phenomenon in Scientific Research in Tunisia and abroad. First, many scientists had stated that interdisciplinary research had succeeded in several times to return more precise and reliable explanations to the commonly most complex phenomena[13,27,28] due to the better access to data[29], better opportunities to get efficient materials[29] and the exchange of knowledge between the leading scientists and scholars who are more fluent in the other discipline[29].Thanks to its quality, such researches could have more citations than the works using quite mistrusted classical methods. Second, interdisciplinary researches open the door to collaboration between multiple institutions and even countries[29]. This allows the work to spread to a higher audience[29] and by that become more citable. Third, Interdisciplinary Knowledge is more likely to easily spread and become understood because it would be written in a language that is common to scholars in at least two distinct fields[30]. Finally, interdisciplinary approaches can enhance scientific production and engagement in solving real world and complex problems through the promotion of the speed of scientific thinking through interaction, integration and hybridization of knowledge between the different scientific communities[31].

When examining the example of scientific research in the two subunits that are the best influencing in Tunisian Scientific Research Process and according to Table 4, it is clear that Health Sciences has a better Hirsch index median than Biomedical Sciences that are practically basic interdisciplinary core sciences and this is explained by the fact that Tunisian Scientists are more interested in applying interdisciplinary sciences for research purpose in Biology and Health than searching for developing these kinds of scientific knowledge, methods and techniques and creating their own more efficient methods. When comparing the situation of Tunisian Research with some other countries and as shown in Fig. 7, it is seen that the opposite fact is just happening in the Leading Scientific Ranges in the United States and Brazil[32].

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Fig 7: Hirsch Index Medians for the main fields of Medical Sciences and Pharmacology for Tunisia and two countries[32]

This situation should be resolved immediately if Tunisian Scientific Research units are concerned with reducing the gap of knowledge between them and Foreign ones because if this still occurs, Tunisian Researchers would be obliged to wait for new interdisciplinary methods to be created before they can do anything while other countries just create them and take advantage of that.

For the case of Biological Sciences and Geology, it is seen that Biological Sciences had the best Hirsch Index median when comparing them with Agriculture and Earth Sciences and this is explained by the lack of interest and work in these subjects when compared to great effort performed on Biological Sciences and this witnessed fact is quite evident and ordinary as the two countries in comparison with Tunisia have a similar situation as shown in Fig 8[32].

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Fig 8: Hirsch Index Medians for the main fields of Biological Sciences and Geology for Tunisia and two countries[32]

Tunisian Scientific Research Units can build a new image and particularity that can be valuable worldwide by investing on Agriculture and Earth Sciences and making new researches about them using interdisciplinary approaches and sciences such as Geophysics and Biochemistry. Such initiative with some institutional[33] reforms can allow Tunisia to be a worldwide reference in Scientific Research.


The 2014 Ranking of Tunisian Scientists is made using Google Scholar Hirsch Index and this ranking had revealed the existence of Outstanding Scholars in Tunisia comparable to foreign ones who are still active, genuine and updated and can contribute to the amelioration of the state of Scientific Research in Tunisia in the Near Future. However, scientists should author their scientific papers with their full names with a unique spelling and should care about doing international cooperation and Scientific Discussions by creating Online Accounts on some servers in Internet like Google Scholar, Research Gate, Comment Visions, Researcher ID…

As for the quality of Scientific Research in Tunisia, more reforms and works should be done even though the current situation is acceptable. Researches on Social Sciences, Economic Sciences and Humanities should be done more seriously and some methods should be ameliorated in order to insure a better output of research.


Finally, it is an honour for me to thank the scholars that interest in the concept, supported the whole work and contributed to the adjustment of the final results by giving useful advices: Mr. Adel Bouhoula (Université de Carthage, Tunisia), Mr. Fakhri Karray (University of Waterloo, Canada), Mr. Wolfgang Glänzel (KU Leuven, Belgium), Mr. Abdelhamid Sayari (University of Ottawa, Canada), Mr. Hichem Eleuch (Université de Carthage, Tunisia), Mr. Mohamed Ksibi (Université de Sfax, Tunisia) and Mr. Hamadi Khemakhem (Université de Sfax, Tunisia).


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Appendix A: Algorithm for database creation

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Ranking of Tunisian Scientists According to Their Efficient Productivity. An Overview of Scientific Research Output in Tunisia
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Houcemeddine Turki (Author)Manel Turki (Author), 2014, Ranking of Tunisian Scientists According to Their Efficient Productivity. An Overview of Scientific Research Output in Tunisia, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/306853


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