Background: Although being a simple and effective index that has been widely used to evaluate academic output of scientists, the h-index suffers from drawbacks. One critical disadvantage is that only h-squared citations can be inferred from the h-index, which completely ignores excess and h-tail citations, leading to unfair and inaccurate evaluations in many cases.
Methodology principal findings: To solve this problem, I propose the h'-index, in which h-squared, excess and h-tail citations are all considered. Based on the citation data of the 100 most prolific economists, comparing to h-index, the h'-index shows better correlation with indices of total-citation number and citations per publication, which, although relatively reliable and widely used, do not carry the information of the citation distribution. In contrast, the h'-index possesses the ability to discriminate the shapes of citation distributions, thus leading to more accurate evaluation.
Conclusions significance: The h'-index improves the h-index, as well as indices of total-citation number and citations per publication, by possessing the ability to discriminate shapes of citation distribution, thus making the h'-index a better single-number index for evaluating scientific output in a way that is fairer and more reasonable.