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Putting personality in context: determinants of research productivity and impact in political science

Abstract

Research on the determinants of scholarly productivity is flourishing, driven both by long-standing curiosity about its wide variation, and by recent concern over race and gender inequalities. Beyond standard structural and demographic determinants of research output, some studies point to the role of individual psychology. We contribute to scholarship on personality and productivity by showing not only that personality matters, but when and for whom. Using an original, representative study of faculty from one discipline, political science, we propose and test several hypotheses about the “Big Five” personality determinants of productivity, as gauged through counts of publications, H-index scores, and citations. Controlling for a large number of familiar determinants (e.g., race, gender, rank, and institutional incentives), we find that conscientiousness predicts productivity, but that its effects are conditioned by openness to experience. More precisely, we discover that these two personality traits have compensatory effects, such that openness to experience and conscientiousness each matter most in the absence of the other. In addition, personality has heterogeneous impacts on productivity across different contexts; conscientiousness more strongly affects scholarly output in research-oriented institutions, while collaboration reduces the penalty associated with lack of conscientiousness.

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Fig. 1

Source: PASS data for political science, 2017. Note: The figure shows 76% confidence intervals. Comparison of two 76% confidence intervals is equivalent to a 90% (p = .10, two-tailed) test of statistical significance at the point of overlap. Citations are logged

Fig. 2

Source: PASS Data for Political Science, 2017. Note: The figure shows 76% confidence intervals. Comparison of two 76% confidence intervals is equivalent to a 90% (p = .10, two-tailed) test of statistical significance at the point of overlap. Citations are logged

Fig. 3

Source: PASS Data for Political Science, 2017. Note: The figure shows 76% confidence intervals. Comparison of two 76% confidence intervals is equivalent to a 90% (p = .10, two-tailed) test of statistical significance at the point of overlap. Citations are logged

Notes

  1. In their analyses, Grosul and Feist (2014) do not include measures of such attributes as where one earned their doctoral degree, or the character of an individual’s current academic department.

  2. In June, 2017 we conducted a companion study of sociology departments (at the same sampled universities). We discuss those results elsewhere (Djupe et al. 2019).

  3. We had coders collect email addresses from the webpages for these departments. 44 email addresses were not usable.

  4. Simon Hix graciously shared a list that went beyond what was reported in his paper, including 400 departments—this covered almost all of our sample.

  5. We also attempted to replicate this procedure with Google Scholar, but discovered that a large portion of our respondents did not have public profiles there. SSCI counts are much lower than Scholar, but are highly correlated (Martín-Martín et al. 2018).

  6. r(publications, H-index) = .81; r(publications, logged citations) = .71; r(logged citations, H-index) = .84.

  7. The dependent variable for citations is estimated by adding one to the count, before logging. Hence, we exponentiate predicted values and subtract one to obtain predicted effects.

  8. We do not find a statistically significant interaction between conscientiousness and any other personality variables beyond openness.

  9. We obtain a similar pattern of results if we the model the average number of publications (dividing by years since PhD).

  10. We thank Reviewer 1 for suggesting this direction of discussion and analysis.

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Funding

No grants funded this research, we have no apparent conflicts of interest, the data are not yet available (but can be in the interests of replicationcontact the authors).

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Correspondence to Paul A. Djupe.

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Authors are listed in alphabetical order.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and Figs. 4, 5.

Table 2 A comparison of sample statistics from three recent surveys of political scientists
Table 3 Variable coding
Table 4 Interaction between openness and conscientiousness
Table 5 Interaction between conscientiousness and PhD granting department
Table 6 Interaction between conscientiousness and network co-authorship
Table 7 Negative binomial estimates of articles published in the past year with and without the personality interaction
Fig. 4
figure 4

Source: PASS Data for Political Science, 2017

The distribution of the personality dimensions.

Fig. 5
figure 5

Source: PASS Data for Political Science, 2017. Note: The figure shows 76% confidence intervals. Comparison of two 76% confidence intervals is equivalent to a 90% (p = .10, two-tailed) test of statistical significance at the point of overlap

The interactive effects of conscientiousness and openness are consistent across ranks.

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Djupe, P.A., Hill, K.Q., Smith, A.E. et al. Putting personality in context: determinants of research productivity and impact in political science. Scientometrics 124, 2279–2300 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03592-5

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Keywords

  • Productivity
  • Personality
  • Coauthorship
  • H-index
  • Citation

JEL Classification

  • A11
  • A14
  • C83