I have heard that while recruiting in faculty member positions people look at the career of the applicants very critically and if someone has a year without a paper might face difficulties in getting permanent positions. I was wondering how important the issue really is in the context of securing permanent teaching/research positions.

Edit : I am asking this as a theoretical high energy physics postdoc.

  • Do you mean getting the initial position, or getting an initial position converted into a permanent one via the tenure process?
    – aeismail
    Dec 10, 2017 at 20:40
  • I mean getting the initial position itself. Dec 10, 2017 at 20:42
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    This varies greatly according to field (biology and mathematics and history probably have very different standards) and according the institution (Ph.D. students in the department vs. Departments of Natural Sciences). Dec 10, 2017 at 21:19
  • I can name scientists who publish infrequently but every publication is a major work with large impact. I am sure that in most fields it's possible to get hired, including top departments, with a relatively small number of truly remarkable papers. This is just the more risky way of getting a job. Dec 12, 2017 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


With respect to getting an initial faculty position, I'm not sure that there really is a penalty associated with having "no papers" in a given year, especially with the vagaries of the publishing system. Is a person with one paper in two successive years a stronger candidate than a person with no papers one year, and then three or four the next? Or was it just that one paper took too long in review for one candidate but not the other?

I think one has to look at the overall record to make a fair determination. Besides, the relative significance of the articles will also play a role. One paper in a top journal in your field is probably worth more than two papers in a random low-impact journal.

Spend less time worrying about things that aren't in your control, and focus on what is: doing solid, publishable research and writing a strong application.

  • 2
    +1 However a long gap (several years) with no publications can be harder to overcome, even if one has been productive recently. So perhaps if you're in a field where 10 papers/year is the norm (if there are such fields) this might look strange. (E.g., you didn't present at any conferences in a given year.)
    – Kimball
    Dec 11, 2017 at 15:54
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    10 papers a year for someone who doesn't already have a group?
    – aeismail
    Dec 11, 2017 at 16:14

I have a colleague who did not have a paper published in one year, but had 13 the next -- he had been writing papers all along, but for some reasons his papers submitted in year X all got accepted quickly, the papers submitted in year X+1 all required multiple rounds of reviews, and were published in year X+2 where also his papers got accepted quickly. So he ended up with none in X+1 and lots in X+2.

That's an extreme case, but everyone understands that getting things published is a stochastic process. What's more important is the number and quality of publications you have.

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