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Is there any data for the average number of papers published per year by individuals at different career stages (ph.d. student, postdoc, tenure-track, tenured associate/full professor)? It would obviously be dependent on research areas and I also realize that such data may not be easy to obtain - hence the question to put it out and hope to get some direction for my study. I am interested in data from the Computer Science and/or Applied Mathematics fields, but answers for other research areas could also be interesting. In absence of data, anecdotal experience in one's branch may also be helpful.

UPDATE: - Obviously, the number of paper per year is highly field specific. So is citation counts (which includes all the analysis it comes with such as average citation counts, h factors, impact factor of a journal and so on). - Several countries such as the New Zealand, have their own research evaluation system in which one of the important evaluation criterion for research-groups or even individuals is the number of papers published in one to six years span. The data for average number of papers by individuals in different disciplines may put these evaluations in perspective with the global averages. e.g., individual publishing two paper per year in a sub branch where the average number of papers per year by individuals is one should not be directly compared to those publishing 10 papers a year in subbranches in which 15 papers per year is the average norm. In short, the purpose of obtaining such data is to provide corrections to the evaluation systems in such countries.

1 Answer 1

Carl Newport tried to answer a similar question in a blog post The Single Number that Best Predicts Professor Tenure: A Case Study in Quantitative Career Planning. He is a computer scientist (and therefore values conference proceedings rather than journal articles).

His main findings were that:

  1. The successful young professors published a lot. On average, they published 25 conference papers during their first four years. The non-successful professors published only 10. (Recall, in computer science, it’s competitive conference publications, not journal publications, that matter.) There was, however, high variance in these numbers. I was struck more by the floor function: the successful professors all published at least 4 conference papers a year (with some, but not all, publishing quite a bit more)....
  2. Neither the successful nor non-successful professors strayed far from the key conferences in their niche.
  3. The biggest differentiating factor between the two groups was citations.

More broadly, I do not know of any systematic study or dataset that would answer your question across other disciplines.

Edit based upon clarification of the question

The Computer Research Association has a white paper, Evaluating Computer Scientists and Engineers For Promotion and Tenure about promotion and tenure for CS and engineering faculty. The authors note that:

Relying on journal publications as the sole demonstration of scholarly achievement, especially counting such publications to determine whether they exceed a prescribed threshold, ignores significant evidence of accomplishment in computer science and engineering.

Another source of information on this topic is a a presentation by Kathryn Chalorner that is on the American Statistical Association's webpage and lists expected publication counts for Statisticians/Applied Mathematicians (who obviously focus on statistics).

For promotion

  1. to Research Associate Professor: 25-30 publications total, with at least 5 statistical methods papers, at least 5-10 health science publications, at least 3-5 first authored papers (or first-author equivalent publications), and at least 3 top-tier publications. The required numbers of papers can be lower, provided the impact is higher. Well funded on grants, but do not need to be PI on any.
  2. to Tenured Associate Professor: Same minimum numbers of publications as Research Associate Professors, except that about twice as many statistical methods and top-tier publications are expected. Have similar funding requirements.

This presentation also goes on to talk about quality of publications rather than quantity.

In summary, publication count can be important, but quality is also important. If you're looking for career advice, strike a balance between publishing high quality and high quantity papers. Also, other products such as patents and conference proceedings may also advance your career.