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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abma, R. (2013) De publicatiefabriek: Over de betekenis van de affaire-Stapel [The publication factory: the meaning of the Stapel-affair], Nijmegen: Uitgevery Vantilt.
ACUMEN (2014) ACUMEN Portfolio, http://research-acumen.eu/about (accessed 29 April 2016).
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.
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.
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.
Association of Dutch Universities (2015) Feiten & cijfers personeel: Verhouding vast en tijdelijk personeel [Facts and figures of staff: ratio between permanent and temporary staff], http://www.vsnu.nl/f_c_verhouding_vast_tijdelijk.html (accessed 2 November 2015).
Association of Dutch Universities (2016) Financiering van wetenschappelijk personeel, [Funding of scientific staff] http://www.vsnu.nl/f_c_wetenschappelijk-personeel.html (accessed 20 February 2017).
Association of Dutch Universities (2017) Rankings, http://www.vsnu.nl/en_GB/f_c_rankings.html (accessed 20 February 2017).
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.
de Goede, M., Belder, R. and de Jonge, J. (2013) Facts & figures: Academic careers in the Netherlands, The Hague: Rathenau Instituut.
Fanelli, D. and Larivière, V. (2016) ‘Researchers’ individual publication rate has not increased in a century’, PLoS ONE 11(3): e0149504.
Fang, F.C. and Casadevall, A. (2011) ‘Reforming science: Structural reforms’, Infection and Immunity 80(3): 897–901.
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.
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.
Jonkers, K. (2011) ‘Mobility, productivity, gender and career development of Argentinean life scientists’, Research Evaluation 20(5): 411–421.
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.
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.
Lutter, M. and Schröder, M. (2014) Who Becomes a Tenured Professor, and Why? Panel Data Evidence from German Sociology, 1980–2013, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, MPIfG Discussion Paper 14/19.
Merton, R.K. (1957) ‘Priorities in scientific discovery: A chapter in the sociology of science’, American Sociological Review 22(6): 635–659.
Merton, R.K. (1968) ‘The Matthew effect in science’, Science 159(3810): 56–63.
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.
NWO (2016) Innovational Research Incentives Scheme. Available at http://www.nwo.nl/en/funding/our-funding-instruments/nwo/innovational-research-incentives-scheme/index.html (accessed 18 February 2016).
OECD (2002) Frascati Manual: Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys on Research and Experimental Development, Paris: OECD.
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.
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.
Stephan, P.E. (2012) How Economics Shapes Science, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Teelken, C. (2015) ‘Hybridity, coping mechanisms, and academic performance management: Comparing three countries’, Public Administration 93(2): 307–323.
Teichler, U., Arimoto, A. and Cummings, W.K. (2013) The Changing Academic Profession: Major Findings of a Comparative Study, Dordrecht: Springer.
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.
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.
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.
van Arensbergen, P., Hessels, L. and van der Meulen, B. (2013) Talent Centraal [Talent Central], The Hague: Rathenau Instituut.
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.
van Balen, B. (2010) Op het juiste moment op de juiste plaats [In the right place at the right time], The Hague: Rathenau Instituut.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Waaijer, C.J.F., Teelken, C., Wouters, P.F. et al. Competition in Science: Links Between Publication Pressure, Grant Pressure and the Academic Job Market. High Educ Policy 31, 225–243 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41307-017-0051-y
- publication pressure
- grant pressure
- early career researchers
- academic careers