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How Many Is Too Many? On the Relationship between Research Productivity and Impact

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  • Vincent Larivière
  • Rodrigo Costas

Abstract

Over the last few decades, the institutionalisation of quantitative research evaluations has created incentives for scholars to publish as many papers as possible. This paper assesses the effects of such incentives on individual researchers’ scientific impact, by analysing the relationship between their number of articles and their proportion of highly cited papers. In other words, does the share of an author’s top 1% most cited papers increase, remain stable, or decrease as his/her total number of papers increase? Using a large dataset of disambiguated researchers (N = 28,078,476) over the 1980–2013 period, this paper shows that, on average, the higher the number of papers a researcher publishes, the higher the proportion of these papers are amongst the most cited. This relationship is stronger for older cohorts of researchers, while decreasing returns to scale are observed for recent cohorts. On the whole, these results suggest that for established researchers, the strategy of publishing as many papers as possible did not yield lower shares of highly cited publications, but such a pattern is not always observed for younger scholars.

Suggested Citation

  • Vincent Larivière & Rodrigo Costas, 2016. "How Many Is Too Many? On the Relationship between Research Productivity and Impact," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 11(9), pages 1-10, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0162709
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162709
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rodrigo Costas & Thed N. van Leeuwen & María Bordons, 2010. "A bibliometric classificatory approach for the study and assessment of research performance at the individual level: The effects of age on productivity and impact," Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 61(8), pages 1564-1581, August.
    2. Rodrigo Costas & Thed N. van Leeuwen & María Bordons, 2010. "A bibliometric classificatory approach for the study and assessment of research performance at the individual level: The effects of age on productivity and impact," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 61(8), pages 1564-1581, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ciriaco Andrea D’Angelo & Nees Jan Eck, 2020. "Collecting large-scale publication data at the level of individual researchers: a practical proposal for author name disambiguation," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 123(2), pages 883-907, May.
    2. Zhang, Lin & Sivertsen, Gunnar & Du, Huiying & HUANG, Ying & Glänzel, Wolfgang, 2021. "Gender differences in the aims and impacts of research," SocArXiv 9n347, Center for Open Science.
    3. Lin Zhang & Gunnar Sivertsen & Huiying Du & Ying Huang & Wolfgang Glänzel, 2021. "Gender differences in the aims and impacts of research," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 126(11), pages 8861-8886, November.
    4. Michelle L. Dion & Sara McLaughlin Mitchell & Jane L. Sumner, 2020. "Gender, seniority, and self-citation practices in political science," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 125(1), pages 1-28, October.
    5. Мarina V. Vasiljeva & Gennady V. Osipov & Vadim V. Ponkratov & Vitali Ju. Ivlev & Marina I. Ivleva & Svetlana G. Karepova & Zhanna R. Gardanova & Olesya V. Dudnik, 2021. "Factors to Improve Publication Productivity in Russian Universities," Publications, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(2), pages 1-22, May.
    6. Győrffy, Balázs & Herman, Péter & Szabó, István, 2020. "Research funding: past performance is a stronger predictor of future scientific output than reviewer scores," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3).
    7. Adam Emmer, 2019. "The careers behind and the impact of solo author articles in Nature and Science," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 120(2), pages 825-840, August.
    8. Yu, Xiaoyao & Szymanski, Boleslaw K. & Jia, Tao, 2021. "Become a better you: Correlation between the change of research direction and the change of scientific performance," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3).

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