, Volume 109, Issue 2, pp 997–1016 | Cite as

Age stratification and cohort effects in scholarly communication: a study of social sciences

  • Cassidy R. SugimotoEmail author
  • Thomas J. Sugimoto
  • Andrew Tsou
  • Staša Milojević
  • Vincent Larivière


Aging is considered to be an important factor in a scholar’s propensity to innovate, produce, and collaborate on high quality work. Yet, empirical studies in the area are rare and plagued with several limitations. As a result, we lack clear evidence on the relationship between aging and scholarly communication activities and impact. To this end, we study the complete publication profiles of more than 1000 authors across three fields—sociology, economics, and political science—to understand the relationship between aging, productivity, collaboration, and impact. Furthermore, we analyze multiple operationalizations of aging, to determine which is more closely related to observable changes in scholarly communication behavior. The study demonstrates that scholars remain highly productive across the life-span of the career (i.e., 40 years), and that productivity increases steeply until promotion to associate professor and then remains stable. Collaboration increases with age and has increased over time. Lastly, a scholar’s work obtains its highest impact directly around promotion and then decreases over time. Finally, our results suggest a statistically significant relationship between rank of the scholar and productivity, collaboration, and impact. These results inform our understanding of the scientific workforce and the production of science.


Aging Cohorts Scholarly communication 



This work was funded by the Science of Science Innovation and Policy (SciSIP) program of the National Science Foundation (Grant No. 1158670). The authors would also like to thank Chaoqun Ni and Ying Ding for contributions to earlier drafts of this work.


  1. Abramo, G., D’Angelo, C. A., & Murgia, G. (2015). The combined effects of age and seniority on research performance of full professors. Science and Public Policy, 43(3), scv037.Google Scholar
  2. Allison, P. D., & Long, J. S. (1990). Departmental effects on scientific productivity. American Sociological Review, 55(4), 469–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allison, P. D., Long, J. S., & Krauze, T. K. (1982). Cumulative advantage and inequality in science. American Sociological Review, 47(5), 615–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allison, P. D., & Stewart, J. A. (1974). Productivity differences among scientists: Evidence for accumulative advantage. American Sociological Review, 39(4), 596–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Archambault, É., Vignola Gagné, É., Côté, G., Larivière, V., & Gingras, Y. (2006). Benchmarking scientific output in the social sciences and humanities: The limits of existing databases. Scientometrics, 68(3), 329–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bayer, A. E., & Smart, J. C. (1991). Career publication patterns and collaborative “styles” in American academic science. The Journal of Higher Education, 62(6), 613–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bernier, C. L., Gill, W. N., & Hunt, R. G. (1975). Measures of excellence of engineering and science departments: a chemical engineering example. Chemical Engineering Education, 4, 194–197.Google Scholar
  8. Blackburn, R. T., & Lawrence, J. H. (1986). Aging and the quality of faculty job performance. Review of Educational Research, 56(3), 265–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chi, P. S. (2014). Which role do non-source items play in the social sciences? A case study in political science in Germany. Scientometrics, 101(2), 1195–1213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cole, S. (1979). Age and scientific performance. American Journal of Sociology, 84(4), 958–977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Corley, E. A., & Sabharwal, M. (2010). Scholarly collaboration and productivity patterns in public administration: Analysing recent trends. Public Administration, 88(3), 627–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cronin, B., & Meho, L. I. (2007). Timelines of creativity: A study of intellectual innovators in information science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(13), 1948–1959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Diamond, A. M. (1986). The life-cycle research productivity of mathematicians and scientists. Journal of Gerontology, 41, 520–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dietz, J. S., Chompalov, I., Bozeman, B., O’Neil Lane, E., & Park, J. (2000). Using the curriculum vita to study the career paths of scientists and engineers: An exploratory assessment. Scientometrics, 49(3), 419–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dubois, P., Rochet, J. C., & Schlenker, J. M. (2014). Productivity and mobility in academic research: Evidence from mathematicians. Scientometrics, 98(3), 1669–1701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Endenich, C., & Trapp, R. (2015). Cooperation for publication? An analysis of co-authorship patterns in leading accounting journals. European Accounting Review, 25(2), 1–21.Google Scholar
  17. Fox, M. F., & Faver, C. A. (1984). Independence and cooperation in research: The motivations and costs of collaboration. Journal of Higher Education, 55, 347–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gingras, Y., Larivière, V., Macaluso, B., & Robitaille, J. P. (2008). The effects of aging on researchers’ publication and citation patterns. PLoS One, 3(12), e4048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gonzalez-Brambila, C., & Veloso, F. M. (2007). The determinants of research output and impact: A study of Mexican researchers. Research Policy, 36, 1035–1051.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hu, Z., Chen, C., & Liu, Z. (2014). How are collaboration and productivity correlated at various career stages of scientists? Scientometrics, 101(2), 1553–1564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jones, B. F. (2005). Age and great invention. NBER Working Paper No. 11359.Google Scholar
  22. Larivière, V., Archambault, É., Gingras, Y., & Vignola Gagné, É. (2006). The place of serials in referencing practices: Comparing natural sciences and engineering with social sciences and humanities. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57(8), 997–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Larivière, V., Ni, C., Gingras, Y., Cronin, B., & Sugimoto, C. R. (2013). Global gender disparities in science. Nature, 504(7479), 211–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Larivière, V., Sugimoto, C. R., Tsou, A., & Gingras, Y. (2015). Team size matters: Collaboration and scientific impact since 1900. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 66(7), 1323–1332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lehman, H. C. (1953). Age and achievement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Long, J. S. (1992). Measures of sex differences in scientific productivity. Social Forces, 71(1), 159–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Long, J. S., Allison, P. D., & McGinnis, R. (1993). Rank advancement in academic careers: Sex differences and the effects of productivity. American Sociological Review, 58(5), 703–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Long, J. S., & Fox, M. F. (1995). Scientific careers: Universalism and particularism. Annual Review of Sociology, 21, 45–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Long, J. S., & McGinnis, R. (1981). Organizational context and scientific productivity. American sociological review, 10, 422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Long, J. S., McGinnis, R., & Allison, P. D. (1980). The problem of junior-authored papers in constructing citation counts. Social Studies of Science, 10(2), 127–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mählck, P. (2001). Mapping gender differences in scientific careers in social and bibliometric space. Science, Technology and Human Values, 26(2), 167–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Merton, R. K. (1968). The Matthew effect in science. Science, 159(3810), 56–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Merton, R. K., & Zuckerman, H. (1972). Age, aging, and age structure in science. In N. W. Storer (Ed.), The sociology of science: Theoretical and empirical investigations. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  34. Milojević, S. (2012). How are academic age, productivity and collaboration related to citing behavior of researchers? PLoS One, 7(11), e49176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Milojević, S. (2014). Principles of scientific research team formation and evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 111(11), 3984–3989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nederhof, A. J. (2006). Bibliometric monitoring of research performance in the social sciences and the humanities: A review. Scientometrics, 66(1), 81–100.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nederhof, A., van Leeuwen, T., & van Raan, A. (2009). Highly cited non-journal publications in political science, economics and psychology: a first exploration. Scientometrics, 83(2), 363–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. O’Brien, T. L. (2011). Change in academic coauthorship, 1953–2003. Science, Technology and Human Values, 37(3), 210–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Oromaner, M. (1977). Professional age and the reception of sociological publications: A test of the Zuckerman–Merton hypothesis. Social Studies of Science, 7, 381–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Oster, S. M., & Hamermesh, D. S. (1998). Aging and productivity among economists. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 80(1), 154–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Over, R. (1988). Does scholarly impact decline with age? Scientometrics, 13, 207–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Over, R. (1989). Age and scholarly impact. Psychology and Aging, 4(2), 222–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Planck, M. (1949). Scientific autobiography and other papers. New York: Philosophical Library.Google Scholar
  44. Prozesky, H., & Boshoff, N. (2011). Bibliometrics as a tool for measuring gender-specific research performance: an example from South African invasion ecology. Scientometrics, 90(2), 383–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sabharwal, M. (2013a). Comparing research productivity across disciplines and career stages. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, 15(2), 141–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sabharwal, M. (2013b). Productivity and leadership patterns of female faculty members in public administration. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 19(1), 73–96.Google Scholar
  47. Shaw, D., & Vaughan, L. (2008). Publication and citation patterns among LIS faculty: Profiling a “typical professor”. Library & Information Science Research, 30(1), 47–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Simonton, D. K. (1988). Age and outstanding achievement: What do we know after a century of research? Psychological Bulletin, 104(2), 251–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stephan, P. E. (1996). The economics of science. Journal of Economic Literature, 34(3), 1199–1235.Google Scholar
  50. Sugimoto, C. R., & Cronin, B. (2012). Bio-bibliometric profiling: An examination of multi-faceted approaches to scholarship. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(3), 450–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sugimoto, C. R., Russell, T. G., Meho, L. I., & Marchionini, G. (2008). MPACT and citation impact: Two sides of the same scholarly coin? Library & Information Science Research, 30(4), 273–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. van Arensbergen, P., van der Weijden, I., & Van den Besselaar, P. (2012). Gender differences in scientific productivity: A persisting phenomenon? Scientometrics, 93(3), 857–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Whitley, R. (2000). The intellectual and social organization of the sciences (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Wuchty, S., Jones, B. F., & Uzzi, B. (2007). The increasing dominance of teams in production of knowledge. Science, 316(5827), 1036–1039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zuckerman, H. (1987). Persistence and change in the careers of men and women scientists and engineers. In L. S. Dix (Ed.), Women: Their underrepresentation and career differentials in science and engineering (pp. 127–156). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cassidy R. Sugimoto
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas J. Sugimoto
    • 2
  • Andrew Tsou
    • 1
  • Staša Milojević
    • 1
  • Vincent Larivière
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Informatics and ComputingIndiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Evaluation and Educational PolicyIndiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’informationUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada
  4. 4.Observatoire des sciences et des technologiesUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations