I am applying for an academic position and have been shortlisted. My one potential major stumbling block is in terms of publications. I have a number of them, but none of them are A grade publications. More worrying though, I have virtually no citations. These publications range in age from 6 months to 4 years ago. How might I address this in the context of an interview?

  • 4
    What field is this? How narrow a subfield? It might be entirely reasonable.
    – Buffy
    May 14 '20 at 15:52
  • 1
    What is the level of the position? Is it entry level or mid/ high (lecturer and above)? Teaching Only, Research Only or Both?
    – user117109
    May 14 '20 at 16:14
  • It's a postdoc. Predominantly research. The field is comp sci. The field that I had been working in was medical informatics.
    – Stumbler
    May 14 '20 at 16:15
  • 1
    You don't need to address your lack of citation usually. Maybe mentioning that the field is niche would be enough.
    – user35129
    May 14 '20 at 16:21
  • One way is to publish more papers and make them of more relevance in the eyes of other academics. May 14 '20 at 17:11

You seem to be near the beginning of you academic career. In that case I wouldn't worry about it at all at this point. Certainly it isn't something to mention in application materials, but you are beyond that.

But if you are asked in an interview, the answer that you could fairly give is that is one of the precise reasons that you find the post doc desirable, so that you can get more experience writing, develop collaborative relationships, and earn some of those sweet sweet citations.

Well, fix up the language a bit, I suppose, but something like that. Unless other people in your position have got lots already it shouldn't be an issue. And it may be, also, that your work is a bit esoteric and so citations aren't easily achieved, thought that says little about the actual quality of the work. I'll have to guess, since it isn't my subfield, that medical informatics has a deep future.

You are currently in competition with only a few people. It would seem odd to me that you'd be so closely matched that selection would come down to citation count.


It is important that this is an entry level position, since a lack of publications is not that harmful and may be seen as normal. Lack of citations is entirely out of your control - it may theoretically be improved by publishing in more visible journals, social media networking/ promotion etc, but eventually the majority of academic work is cited the proud number of 0 (zero) times.

On the number and quality of publications, it cannot change in the short-run but you can present it in a more representative or favourable way. You can discuss the quality of your work ("first-rate" work published in "second-rate" journal is a very real situation, either for getting it out more quickly or due to the maladies of refereeing), focus on having a pipeline of research and ongoing paper output (which always matters) and talk about how you plan to improve. Since, for better of for worse, the names and numbers will not impress, you could bring forward what is relevant, innovative and generally a strong point, and what this continuation of publications show about you as a post-doc and researcher. Finally, there is a fine balance between self-awareness, self-promotion and self-defeating.


Just last month I came across a blog post by a Management prof who offers a few really well thought out answers to this question. Granted, this is a different field, but you may find the general approach and some of the ideas valuable.

The post is called "Making your case for impact if you have few citations"

But in general, as other people have said here, if this is your first academic job, don't worry about it too much and have an argument for why your current and future work is likely to generate good research impact.

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