I know that the number of publications is just a number, but it can be used as measure for progress in academic career.

What is the highest number of publications you have seen for

a postdoc fellow before assuming a tenure-track position? an associate professor before promotion to full professor?

I mean, have you even seen a postdoc fellow with more than 100 papers or an associate/assistant professor with more than 200 papers?

I just wish to get an estimate in chemistry.

  • The number of papers depends not only on the field, but also on the line of work. I know PhD students in astronomy with more than 15 papers, most of which are reporting the discovery and analysis of an object. Others, finish their PhD with just four, but much deeper papers.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 8:58
  • I served on a search committee for an Assistant Professor position which saw an applicant with well over 100 papers. We did not seriously consider this applicant since almost all the papers were published in very low ranked (but not vanity) journals and seemed to be trivial, while none of the 15 or so papers in somewhat respected journals were much better. (I was hired with less than 10 papers.) Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 9:34
  • I think what you are curious about is the mean or median number of publications at promotion. Asking for the most extreme value is probably not a useful way to get that, even if it is easier than trying to compute the mean. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 12:06

2 Answers 2


I could give you some reference in chemistry. I know people which finished their PhD with a single paper, and I know professors who got their position with some 7 papers, with strong competition.

About the maximum amount, it depends. Let's say it this way: we can be more or less efficient with our work, but I believe that only professors and people making small and easy contributions to papers can afford to have more than a few papers (at least in chemistry or physics) per year.

I, like most of you, have received (spam) messages from students asking me for a PhD position and claiming that they have 30-50 publications. Some people also counts proceedings, posters, and almost even stack exchange posts, as publications. Also, many groups have "Quid pro quo" policies, where every time someone publishes a paper, includes the names of everybody.

If someone (non professor) tells you that he/she has more than 100 papers, check how many authors are on them on average. Or, pick one and ask him/her very technical details about it.


Compare Euler (I believe he published thousands of outstanding, groundbreaking papers) with some others who published almost nothing, like Weierstrass.

There just can't be any "standard" number of papers.

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