Higher Education Policy

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 225–243 | Cite as

Competition in Science: Links Between Publication Pressure, Grant Pressure and the Academic Job Market

  • Cathelijn J. F. WaaijerEmail author
  • Christine Teelken
  • Paul F. Wouters
  • Inge C. M. van der Weijden
Original Article


In the current discussions concerning the pressure for publication and to obtain grants, the questions about what publication and grant pressure actually involve and how they are linked to the academic job market, are often neglected. In this study, we show that publication and grand pressure are not just external forces but internal ones as scientists apply pressure to themselves in the process of competition. Through two surveys, one of 1,133 recent PhDs at five Dutch universities and one of 225 postdoctoral researchers at two Dutch universities, we found that publication and grant pressure have to be considered in relation with competition for academic jobs. While publication and grant pressure are perceived to be too high by a majority of these early career researchers, the effects of publication and grant pressure by themselves are limited.


publication pressure grant pressure competition early career researchers academic careers 



We would like to thank Cornelis van Bochove, Rosalie Belder, and Hans Sonneveld for discussion on the questionnaire for the PhD survey. We would also like to acknowledge Cornelis van Bochove for coding a random sample of open answers to assess inter-observer reliability. We are very grateful to Moniek de Boer, Danique van den Hanenberg, Malu Kuhlmann, Lisa van Leeuwen, Lisette van Leeuwen, Suze van der Luijt-Jansen, Laura de Ruiter, and Bert van der Wurff for their work in finding the PhDs’ current email addresses. Moniek de Boer and Mariske Drost are thanked for collecting the postdoc data and the HRM departments of the two universities for their support in providing the postdocs’ email addresses. We thank Fleur Praal for helpful literature suggestions. Finally, we would like to thank Nikki Kromkamp for constructive comments and proofreading this article.


  1. Abma, R. (2013) De publicatiefabriek: Over de betekenis van de affaire-Stapel [The publication factory: the meaning of the Stapel-affair], Nijmegen: Uitgevery Vantilt.Google Scholar
  2. ACUMEN (2014) ACUMEN Portfolio, (accessed 29 April 2016).
  3. Adviesraad voor Wetenschaps- en Technologiebeleid (2014) Boven het maaiveld: Focus op wetenschappelijke zwaartepunten [Standing out from the crowd: Focus on scientific priorities], The Hague: Adviesraad voor Wetenschaps- en Technologiebeleid.Google Scholar
  4. Alberts, B., Kirschner, M.W., Tilghman, S. and Varmos, H. (2014) ‘Rescuing US biomedical research from systemic flaws’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111(16): 5773–5777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Anderson, M.S., Ronning, E.A., de Vries, R. and Martinson, B.C. (2007) ‘The perverse effects of competition on scientists’ work and relationships’, Science and Engineering Ethics 13(4): 437–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Association of Dutch Universities (2015) Feiten & cijfers personeel: Verhouding vast en tijdelijk personeel [Facts and figures of staff: ratio between permanent and temporary staff], (accessed 2 November 2015).
  7. Association of Dutch Universities (2016) Financiering van wetenschappelijk personeel, [Funding of scientific staff] (accessed 20 February 2017).
  8. Association of Dutch Universities (2017) Rankings, (accessed 20 February 2017).
  9. Ates, G. and Brechelmacher, A. (2013) ‘Academic career paths’, in U. Teichler and E.A. Höhle (eds.) The Work Situation of the Academic Profession in Europe: Findings of a Survey in Twelve Countries, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 13–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. de Goede, M., Belder, R. and de Jonge, J. (2013) Facts & figures: Academic careers in the Netherlands, The Hague: Rathenau Instituut.Google Scholar
  11. Fanelli, D. and Larivière, V. (2016) ‘Researchers’ individual publication rate has not increased in a century’, PLoS ONE 11(3): e0149504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fang, F.C. and Casadevall, A. (2011) ‘Reforming science: Structural reforms’, Infection and Immunity 80(3): 897–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gerritsen, S., Plug, E. and van der Wiel, K. (2013) Up or Out? How Individual Research Grants Affect Academic Careers in the Netherlands, The Hague: CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.Google Scholar
  14. Goastellec, G., Park, E., Ates, G. and Toffel, K. (2013) ‘Academic markets, academic careers, where do we stand?’, in B. Kehm and U. Teichler (eds) The Academic Profession in Europe, New tasks and New Challenges, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 29–48.Google Scholar
  15. Jonkers, K. (2011) ‘Mobility, productivity, gender and career development of Argentinean life scientists’, Research Evaluation 20(5): 411–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kwiek, M. and Antonowicz, D. (2015) ‘The changing paths in academic careers in European universities: Minor steps and major milestones’, in T. Fumasoli, G. Goastellec and B. M. Kehm (eds.) Academic Careers in Europe - Trends, Challenges, Perspectives, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 41–68.Google Scholar
  17. Lepori, B., van den Besselaar, P., Dinges, M., van der Meulen, B., Potì, B., Reale, E., Slipersaeter, S. and Theves, J. (2007) ‘Indicators for comparative analysis of public project funding: Concepts, implementation and evaluation’, Research Evaluation 16(4): 243–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lutter, M. and Schröder, M. (2014) Who Becomes a Tenured Professor, and Why? Panel Data Evidence from German Sociology, 19802013, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, MPIfG Discussion Paper 14/19.Google Scholar
  19. Merton, R.K. (1957) ‘Priorities in scientific discovery: A chapter in the sociology of science’, American Sociological Review 22(6): 635–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Merton, R.K. (1968) ‘The Matthew effect in science’, Science 159(3810): 56–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Miller, A.N., Taylor, S.G. and Bedeian, A.G. (2011) ‘Publish or perish: Academic life as management faculty live it’, Career Development International 16(5): 422–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. NWO (2016) Innovational Research Incentives Scheme. Available at (accessed 18 February 2016).
  23. OECD (2002) Frascati Manual: Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys on Research and Experimental Development, Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  24. Sanz-Menéndez, L., Cruz-Castro, L. and Alva, K. (2013) ‘Time to tenure in Spanish universities: An event history analysis’, PLoS ONE 8(10): e77028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Smeenk, S., Teelken, C. Eisinga, R. and Doorewaard, H. (2008) ‘An international comparison of the effects of HRM practices and organizational commitment on quality of job performances among European university employees’, Higher Education Policy 21(3): 323–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Stephan, P.E. (2012) How Economics Shapes Science, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Teelken, C. (2015) ‘Hybridity, coping mechanisms, and academic performance management: Comparing three countries’, Public Administration 93(2): 307–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Teichler, U., Arimoto, A. and Cummings, W.K. (2013) The Changing Academic Profession: Major Findings of a Comparative Study, Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tijdink, J.K., Verbeke, R. and Smulders, Y.M. (2014) ‘Publication pressure and scientific misconduct in medical scientists’, Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 9(5): 64–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tijdink, J.K., Vergouwen, A.C.M. and Smulders, Y.M. (2013) ‘Publication pressure and burn out among Dutch medical professors: A nationwide survey’, PLoS ONE 8(9): e73381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Tijdink, J., Pont, C.A.M. and de Jonge, J.F.M. (2015) Publicatiedruk bij Medisch Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek: [Publication pressure in Medical Scientific Research], The Hague: Rathenau Instituut.Google Scholar
  32. van Arensbergen, P., Hessels, L. and van der Meulen, B. (2013) Talent Centraal [Talent Central], The Hague: Rathenau Instituut.Google Scholar
  33. van Arensbergen, P., van der Weijden, I. and van den Besselaar, P. (2014) ‘Different views on scholarly talent: What are the talents we are looking for in science?’, Research Evaluation 23(4): 273–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. van Balen, B. (2010) Op het juiste moment op de juiste plaats [In the right place at the right time], The Hague: Rathenau Instituut. Google Scholar
  35. van Dalen, H.P. and Henkens, K. (2012) ‘Intended and unintended consequences of a publish-or-perish culture: A worldwide survey’, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 63(7): 1282–1293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. van den Brink, M. and Benschop, Y. (2012) ‘Gender practices in the construction of academic excellence: Sheep with five legs’, Organization 19(4): 507–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. van der Weijden, I., Teelken, C., de Boer, M. and Drost, M. (2016) ‘Career satisfaction of postdoctoral researchers in relation to their expectations for the future’, Higher Education 72(1): 25–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Waaijer, C.J.F. (2015) ‘The coming of age of the academic career: Differentiation and professionalization of German academic positions from the 19th century to the present’, Minerva 53(1): 43–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Waaijer, C.J.F. (2017) ‘Perceived career prospects and their influence on the sector of employment of recent PhD graduates’, Science and Public Policy 44(1): 1–12.Google Scholar
  40. Waaijer, C.J.F., Belder, R., van Bochove, C.A., Sonneveld, H. and van der Weijden, I.C.M. (2015) Survey on the Labour Market Position of PhD Graduates: Development of a novel questionnaire, CWTS Working Paper Series, CWTS-WP-2015-01.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathelijn J. F. Waaijer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christine Teelken
    • 2
  • Paul F. Wouters
    • 1
  • Inge C. M. van der Weijden
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Faculty of Social and Behavioural SciencesLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Organisation SciencesVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations