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I work in global health - I want to have an impact on global health. And I would like to know what the impact of my work has been. But I often work far removed from the vulnerable populations we work to help, as I provide technical backstopping, conduct training, lead evaluations and conduct research. Other HealthBridge colleagues are in a similar situation. While I am convinced the work is no less valuable than those who are on the frontlines, there are few measures of impact.

However there is one metric that gives some measure of impact, at least the impact of the research part of our work, and that is counting how many times the work is cited in other publications. The most often cited paper has been cited over 200,000 times but papers never being cited is common, and the majority of papers in any field will be cited less than 10 times.

With data gathered from Google scholar, the most cited HealthBridge papers are:

1. "Hungry for tobacco: an analysis of the economic impact of tobacco consumption on the poor in Bangladesh". Published in 2001, Cited by 112.

2. "A review of the effectiveness of agriculture interventions in improving nutrition outcomes". Published in 2004, Cited by 49.

3. "Stability of iodine in iodized salt used for correction of iodine-deficiency disorders". Published in 1998, Cited by 33.

4. "Breastfeeding and mixed feeding practices in Malawi: Timing, reasons, decision makers, and child health consequences". Published 2008, Cited by 18.

5. "Cigarette advertising in Mumbai, India: targeting different socioeconomic groups, women, and youth". Published in 2005 Cited by 18.

So... now that we have those numbers, what does it mean? An essay from 1976 argued that "any paper cited ten times in one year is ipso facto significant... a paper cited ten times in each of two successive years is well on its way to citation stardome". See the graph below of the number of citations per year for each of these five papers. By those criteria "Hungry for Tobacco" is a star, and Agriculture and Nutrition approaches stardom. For these papers, the number of citations peaks more than five years after publication and as "Child feeding in Malawi" is still in the ascent it may yet hit "stardom".

Whether "stars", "significant" or merely good published research, there is value in all these papers and, I think, value in tracking our impact with this metric. And I wonder what our future "citation stars" may look like.