Suresh points out that Richard Feynman wrote only 37 research papers.
I entirely agree with what Suresh implies. To be fair, the main Canadian science funding agency (NSERC), while it asks for your publication list, actually asks you first what your top 5 contributions are. The concept of a contribution is open ended. Maybe you had an idea and wrote 10 papers on it. Or maybe you wrote a journal paper on a crucial idea. Or maybe you designed one piece of software. Or maybe you wrote a patent. Maybe you lead a research project. Naturally, contributions tend to lead to publications, but the relation is not bijective.
This doesn’t mean that the number of publications is irrelevant. There is a correlation between the number of papers someone wrote and the importance of his contributions. But need I remind you, dear reader, that a correlation is not the same as causality? Having written 255 papers (yes, I met a man who had such a pub. record this very summer) does not imply you did anything significant other than keeping journals and conferences alive.
I suggest that publishing frequently is more important than publishing many papers. If you stop publishing for many years, then release a very thick book (Wolfram’s example comes to mind), you are not doing yourself a favor. Also, it is tremendously difficult to get and keep a job or a grant if you stop publishing for a long time. Other than that, we ought to actually read what people write instead of, I don’t know, counting the number of words/pages/papers/books?
Recently, I added a table with count statistics to my c.v. Maybe I should take it out.