Researchers’ risk-smoothing publication strategies: Is productivity the enemy of impact?
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In the quest for balance between research productivity and impact, researchers in science and engineering are often encouraged to adopt a play-it-safe research and publication strategy that allows them to maintain high publication productivity and accelerate their career advancement but may reduce the likelihood of high impact or breakthrough research outcomes. In this paper, we analyze bibliometric data from Scopus and present results for the relationship between publication strategies, publishing productivity and citation-based publication impact for 227 full professors of chemistry and 148 professors of mechanical engineering at ten research-intensive universities in the United States. The results indicate some evidence for the “productivity as the enemy of impact” hypothesis in chemistry, where publishing at the higher margin of productivity leads to a stagnant or declining publication impact. Findings differ for mechanical engineering, where higher publishing productivity consistently leads to higher publication impact. We attribute the differences in findings between the disciplines to a higher propensity for productivity-focused publication strategies in chemistry than in mechanical engineering.
KeywordsRisk aversion Publication strategy Publication productivity Research strategy Citation impact
Mathematics Subject Classification62P25
JEL ClassificationI23 J24 O31
We gratefully acknowledge the work of Craig Boardman who assisted with the conceptualization of the study and two anonymous reviewers for invaluable suggestions for improving this work.
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