The Publications of Italian Economists in ECONLIT. Quantitative Assessment and Implications for Research Evaluation
We analyse the publications in ECONLIT database of 2,160 Italian economists for the period 1969- 2004. We present and discuss non quality-weighted indicators for per capita publications of university professors by academic position, disciplinary group, gender, geographical location, propensity for internationalisation and co-authorship, and preferred international and Italian journals. We develop similar indicators for the publications of economists from four non-academic research institutions (CNR, ISAE, ISTAT, Banca d'Italia). Our analysis highlights a relatively low average number of ECONLIT publications per capita for the whole sample. However, across academic positions, disciplinary groups, and other profiles publication performance varies greatly. A high and increasing propensity to publish multi-authored articles in international journals also emerges. The analysis of universities/institutions highlights a wide variability in the performance of their individual researchers, with a few researchers ("prolific authors") being responsible for a large share of all of an institution's ECONLIT publications. We hypothesise that possibly sub-optimal mechanisms of labour division and externality inside multiple-mission research institutions could partly explain the variability in individual performance, which would have implications for the meaning and the use of bibliometric indicators. We suggest that bibliometric indicators can be an incentive for specialization within institutions. Within a homogenous evaluation system that assigns a significant weight to bibliometric indicators, institutions might be unable to specialize in a specific preferred "mission". As a consequence, the variability in individual researchers' performance, or the gap between "prolific authors" and other researchers, will increase.