How to Quantify Success

June 18, 2013

A growing number of researchers have begun devel­oping cre­ative ways to mea­sure suc­cess from a quan­ti­ta­tive point of view, from ana­lyzing cita­tion pat­terns to number-​​crunching pres­i­den­tial elections.

On Monday at a day­long con­fer­ence, more than two dozen econ­o­mists, physi­cists, math­e­mati­cians, and social sci­en­tists con­vened to dis­cuss the quan­ti­ta­tive laws and pat­terns gov­erning high achieve­ment. The inau­gural Sci­ence of Suc­cess Sym­posia was hosted by Harvard’s Insti­tute of Quan­ti­ta­tive Social Sci­ence and orga­nized by Northeastern’s Center for Com­plex Net­work Research, which cur­rently focuses on sys­tems biology and social networks.

“We’re trying to math­e­mat­i­cally describe and pre­dict what it means to have suc­cess and how to achieve it,” said net­work sci­en­tist Albert-​​​​László Barabási, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Physics and director of the Center for Com­plex Net­work Research.

Suc­cess, he said, is a col­lec­tive phe­nom­enon. “In a way,” he explained, “you are suc­cessful because others around you believe you are.”

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