Determinants of faculty research productivity

Should you hire Ph.D. graduates from top schools in your country? Maybe not:

The present analysis however dispels the notion that graduates of high-status doctoral programs in the discipline of information systems will become superior researchers. (…) The findings indicate that productive scholars were not heavily concentrated among a few elite universities with respect to their academic origins, and that graduates of middle-status doctoral programs were as productive as graduates of high-status programs in terms of both research quantity and quality, if not more so. (Long et al., Scientometrics 2009).

(Hint: There is no substitute for getting to know people.)

Further reading: Big schools are no longer giving researchers an edge? and Why are top universities losing their lead? (Andras, Charlton and Source: Science and Public Policy, 2009)

7 thoughts on “Determinants of faculty research productivity”

  1. But what about the work places of the most productive scholars? Did they look into that as well? I’m curious to know if the most productive scholars were also distributed all over the universities.

  2. From the paper: “While graduates of the more prestigious IS programs did produce more highly cited research, they did not produce a larger average number of publications.”

    Well, this is actually exactly what we are trying to teach our own graduates (NYU is one of the “high prestige” IS departments in the study).

    I actually consider this a good thing: “Write less but get more people to read what you write.”

  3. @Shane

    In their study, the exception seemed to be researchers of middle academic origin that moved up the ladder. They were significantly more productive and had the highest mean citation counts. This is not surprising is it?

    They published more articles in top journals than researchers from more prestigious schools who were also hired in the same positions.

    In effect, based on this study alone, there is no justification for a hiring committee who favors graduates from lesser schools.

    Producing fewer high impact research papers should be more important than turning out many mediocre papers (but that might not always be recognized at tenure time).

    In this survey, they specifically picked “quality journals”. So they did not count “mediocre papers”.

  4. I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn from Long et al. One comment that stood out to me was: “While graduates of the more prestigious IS programs did produce more highly cited research, they did not produce a larger average number of publications.”

    In their study, the exception seemed to be researchers of middle academic origin that moved up the ladder. They were significantly more productive and had the highest mean citation counts. This is not surprising is it?

    Producing fewer high impact research papers should be more important than turning out many mediocre papers (but that might not always be recognized at tenure time). Measuring impact is a different problem entirely, but simply counting publications and averaging citation counts across them does not seem to be sufficient.

  5. In this survey, they specifically picked “quality journals”. So they did not count “mediocre papers”.

    Point taken. However, much like the distribution of good researchers, there is not a one-to-one correspondence between good papers and good journals!

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