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How long do top scientists maintain their stardom? An analysis by region, gender and discipline: evidence from Italy


  • Giovanni Abramo

    () (National Research Council of Italy)

  • Ciriaco Andrea D’Angelo

    () (University of Rome “Tor Vergata”
    Institute for System Analysis and Computer Science (IASI-CNR))

  • Anastasiia Soldatenkova

    () (University of Rome “Tor Vergata”)


We investigate the question of how long top scientists retain their stardom. We observe the research performance of all Italian professors in the sciences over three consecutive four-year periods, between 2001 and 2012. The top scientists of the first period are identified on the basis of research productivity, and their performance is then tracked through time. The analyses demonstrate that more than a third of the nation’s top scientists maintain this status over the three consecutive periods, with higher shares occurring in the life sciences and lower ones in engineering. Compared to males, females are less likely to maintain top status. There are also regional differences, among which top status is less likely to survive in southern Italy than in the north. Finally we investigate the longevity of unproductive professors, and then check whether the career progress of the top and unproductive scientists is aligned with their respective performances. The results appear to have implications for national policies on academic recruitment and advancement.

Suggested Citation

  • Giovanni Abramo & Ciriaco Andrea D’Angelo & Anastasiia Soldatenkova, 2017. "How long do top scientists maintain their stardom? An analysis by region, gender and discipline: evidence from Italy," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 110(2), pages 867-877, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:scient:v:110:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-016-2193-x
    DOI: 10.1007/s11192-016-2193-x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abramo, Giovanni & D’Angelo, Ciriaco Andrea, 2016. "A farewell to the MNCS and like size-independent indicators," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 646-651.
    2. Levin, Sharon G & Stephan, Paula E, 1991. "Research Productivity over the Life Cycle: Evidence for Academic Scientists," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 114-132, March.
    3. Zucker, Lynne G. & Darby, Michael R., 1997. "Present at the biotechnological revolution: transformation of technological identity for a large incumbent pharmaceutical firm," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4-5), pages 429-446, December.
    4. Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Jialan Wang, 2010. "Superstar Extinction," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 549-589.
    5. Ciriaco Andrea D'Angelo & Cristiano Giuffrida & Giovanni Abramo, 2011. "A heuristic approach to author name disambiguation in bibliometrics databases for large-scale research assessments," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 62(2), pages 257-269, February.
    6. Abramo, Giovanni & Cicero, Tindaro & D’Angelo, Ciriaco Andrea, 2012. "Revisiting the scaling of citations for research assessment," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 470-479.
    7. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Maximo Torero, 2002. "Labor Mobility from Academe to Commerce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 629-660, July.
    8. Abramo, Giovanni & Cicero, Tindaro & D’Angelo, Ciriaco Andrea, 2013. "The impact of unproductive and top researchers on overall university research performance," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 166-175.
    9. Albert N. Link & Donald S. Siegel & Barry Bozeman, 2007. "An empirical analysis of the propensity of academics to engage in informal university technology transfer ," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(4), pages 641-655, August.
    10. Abramo, Giovanni & D’Angelo, Ciriaco Andrea & Rosati, Francesco, 2013. "The importance of accounting for the number of co-authors and their order when assessing research performance at the individual level in the life sciences," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 198-208.
    11. Giovanni Abramo & Ciriaco Andrea D’Angelo & Francesco Rosati, 2015. "The determinants of academic career advancement: Evidence from Italy," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(6), pages 761-774.
    12. Abramo, Giovanni & Cicero, Tindaro & D’Angelo, Ciriaco Andrea, 2011. "Assessing the varying level of impact measurement accuracy as a function of the citation window length," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 659-667.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giulio Marini & Viviana Meschitti, 2018. "The trench warfare of gender discrimination: evidence from academic promotions to full professor in Italy," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 115(2), pages 989-1006, May.
    2. Marek Kwiek, 2018. "High research productivity in vertically undifferentiated higher education systems: Who are the top performers?," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 115(1), pages 415-462, April.


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