Did anyone research the data about scientific productivity? I.e. what is the average number of articles written by author in a year in a specific field? I am referring to average, since this is maybe easiest to calculate, but it would be interesting to see the distribution data too. This of course depends on how many journals we want to scope, but I would be interested to see any data on say most popular fields like physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, psychology, economics, etc (order is of no importance).

  • 5
    can you rephrase/edit your question to define why one would want to study such numbers? in other words, give us a context of the question
    – ElCid
    Sep 5, 2012 at 13:20
  • It's been my impression that quantity is not as critical as quality. A paper in a reputable journal is worth more than several papers in their less reputable counterparts.
    – Paul
    Sep 5, 2012 at 13:50
  • 4
    A single number "papers per author per year" is nearly meaningless. Publication and coauthorship rates vary radically from one field to another — in many subfields of physics, people publish tons of papers with lots of coauthors; in many subfields of economics, people publish few papers, with few or no coauthors.
    – JeffE
    Sep 5, 2012 at 15:51
  • 1
    @JeffE, yes different fields have varying number per articles written. So this is why in my question I mentioned that I want to see the data for different fields.
    – mpiktas
    Sep 8, 2012 at 14:28
  • 1
    @Paul do you have data to back that up? My recollection of Byrnes's study in psychology (pss.sagepub.com/content/18/4/283.short) is that that is not the case for tenure review in the US.
    – StrongBad
    Sep 9, 2012 at 10:01

4 Answers 4


A comprehensive review was conducted in the field of psychology in relation to publication rates and tenure. There is also a "fun" review related to beer consumption and publication in the field of avian evolutionary biology.

doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01889.x Psychological Science April 2007 vol. 18 no. 4 283-286

  • From the psychology study: It is possible that the only way to fully understand this finding will be to conduct detailed case studies in which chairpersons or colleagues of the candidates for tenure are interviewed about the cases. — Really? Ya think?
    – JeffE
    Sep 9, 2012 at 18:47
  • @DavidKetcheson the link works for me. Added the doi at the end.
    – StrongBad
    Apr 14, 2015 at 8:45
  • Thanks; it works for me now too. Maybe just a server hiccup. Apr 14, 2015 at 10:06

Though this is not a direct answer to your query, this hopes to lead to more productive / useful answers.

See this Wiki article, on Hirsch index or h-index that is a widely accepted measure of

both the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar.

The article also points to other indices on scientific/academic productivity and impact in the field.

The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System Abstract Service provides a gateway to the online Astronomy and Physics literature. A new interface of the ADS provides a tool to visualize the author and paper networks; that tells you how productive the author is, quantified with the number of collaborators and papers produced.

For e.g. see this link; a search for the name Narlikar. On top of the resulting page, next to Top 200 results, you can see a drop-down menu, on which you can select various options like Author Network, Paper Network etc to get various visualizations.

You can contact the project personnels here http://adsabs.harvard.edu/ . They do conduct studies on bibliographic data, which is one of the measure of academic productivity.

Update :

Here is a link to the articles that cite J. E. Hirsch's article - An index to quantify an individual's scientific research output- on h-index via Google Scholar http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=link:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pnas.org%2Fcontent%2F102%2F46%2F16569.abstract


In the subject that I am familiar with, political science, there is a recent study using bibliometric data on patterns of publishing in journals - maybe this could be interesting (and might be similar to already mentioned work in other comments): https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/patterns-of-publishing-in-political-science-journals-an-overview-of-our-profession-using-bibliographic-data-and-a-coauthorship-network/D946105595ED2C314AE2A04138F7A5B6

As the authors state:

We drew on more than 67,000 papers published from 1990 to 2013 in one of today’s 96 core journals. The network consists of more than 40,000 authors located worldwide.

and regarding your question, they find this:

Whereas some are highly productive in terms of publications, the majority of authors published only a single paper, which suggests significant turnover in the community.

You should have a closer look at it (although polsci is not in your list of mentioned disciplines)


Papers on coauthorship networks such as Newman (2004) have the descriptive statistics on publication rates in different fields, e.g. publications per person per year.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .