Is there any data for the average number of papers published per year by individuals at different career stages (ph.d. student, postdoc, tenure-track, tenured associate/full professor)? It would obviously be dependent on research areas and I also realize that such data may not be easy to obtain - hence the question to put it out and hope to get some direction for my study. I am interested in data from the Computer Science and/or Applied Mathematics fields, but answers for other research areas could also be interesting. In absence of data, anecdotal experience in one's branch may also be helpful.

UPDATE: - Obviously, the number of paper per year is highly field specific. So is citation counts (which includes all the analysis it comes with such as average citation counts, h factors, impact factor of a journal and so on). - Several countries such as the New Zealand, have their own research evaluation system in which one of the important evaluation criterion for research-groups or even individuals is the number of papers published in one to six years span. The data for average number of papers by individuals in different disciplines may put these evaluations in perspective with the global averages. e.g., individual publishing two paper per year in a sub branch where the average number of papers per year by individuals is one should not be directly compared to those publishing 10 papers a year in subbranches in which 15 papers per year is the average norm. In short, the purpose of obtaining such data is to provide corrections to the evaluation systems in such countries.

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    Some people already publish during their BSc or MSc
    – mmh
    May 18, 2016 at 6:51
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    I don't know what your intentions are, but be aware that the number of papers published in some year only very, very weakly related to productivity. If I prove some result in year x, the paper may be finished somewhere between years x and x+2. If I submit a paper in year x, it may get published somewhere between years x and x+3, hence, the number of papers I published in year x does not really say much about my productivity in year x, year x-1, x-2, x-3, x-4 or x-5…
    – Dirk
    May 18, 2016 at 7:14
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    @all, I am very well aware of the fact the average no. of papers is not the best way to measure anyone's productivity! I never said the contrary in my question, nor did I even used the word 'productivity', 'success', etc. so please don't be presumptuous.
    – John
    May 18, 2016 at 18:10
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    I feel like this is something that the Delaware Study should have also included in its collection because being able to correlate publications/conferences with SCH/sections taught, funding, etc, on a field-by-field and/or uni type would be really interesting. May 25, 2016 at 4:56
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    I would also love to see these statistics for a variety of fields. Median and interquartile range of number of papers per year, number of first author papers per year, citation count and h-index a) by PhD graduation; b) at attaining a tenure-track position at a research-intensive university (and at teaching-focused institutions); c) at attaining tenure; d) post-tenure. I'd be particularly interested in the environmental sciences. Jun 2, 2016 at 23:26

3 Answers 3


Italy introduced a few years ago a habilitation process which involves heavy bibliometric evaluation, and in the process they computed median values for all the professors in Italian universities for:

  • number of papers published in 10 years
  • citations per year
  • a sort of normalized H-index: the number h such that the person has h papers with score >=h, where a paper published Y years ago with C citations has score 4C/Y. (more precisely defined here (Italian) and here).

The medians are separate by discipline and academic role (associate and full professor only --- not for assistants, unfortunately). You can find them here: associate full, and a legend for the codes of the scientific disciplines is here. The documents are in Italian, but you can google-translate them (or guess the meaning of most words, it's not too difficult for an English speaker).

For instance, in computer science (01/B1) the medians for an associate professor are

  • 10 journal papers / 10 years,
  • 9.15 citations / year
  • "contemporary H-index" 5.

and for a full professor

  • 12 papers / 10 years
  • 14.8 citations / year
  • "contemporary H-index" 6.

The calculations are of course imperfect, but they are very interesting to browse and give an idea of how wildly these numbers vary across different fields. For instance, the typical professor in nuclear physics (02/A1) publishes 59.5 papers over 10 years and gets over 104 citations per year, while one in mathematical logic (01/A1) publishes 5 papers in 10 years and gets 1.74 citations per year.

  • FYI, the habilitation process has changed since then, so the information on the requirements is not up-to-date anymore. Of course this resource is still useful as median bibliometric production data. Mar 3, 2017 at 9:24

Carl Newport tried to answer a similar question in a blog post The Single Number that Best Predicts Professor Tenure: A Case Study in Quantitative Career Planning. He is a computer scientist (and therefore values conference proceedings rather than journal articles).

His main findings were that:

  1. The successful young professors published a lot. On average, they published 25 conference papers during their first four years. The non-successful professors published only 10. (Recall, in computer science, it’s competitive conference publications, not journal publications, that matter.) There was, however, high variance in these numbers. I was struck more by the floor function: the successful professors all published at least 4 conference papers a year (with some, but not all, publishing quite a bit more)....
  2. Neither the successful nor non-successful professors strayed far from the key conferences in their niche.
  3. The biggest differentiating factor between the two groups was citations.

More broadly, I do not know of any systematic study or dataset that would answer your question across other disciplines.

Edit based upon clarification of the question

The Computer Research Association has a white paper, Evaluating Computer Scientists and Engineers For Promotion and Tenure about promotion and tenure for CS and engineering faculty. The authors note that:

Relying on journal publications as the sole demonstration of scholarly achievement, especially counting such publications to determine whether they exceed a prescribed threshold, ignores significant evidence of accomplishment in computer science and engineering.

Another source of information on this topic is a a presentation by Kathryn Chalorner that is on the American Statistical Association's webpage and lists expected publication counts for Statisticians/Applied Mathematicians (who obviously focus on statistics).

For promotion

  1. to Research Associate Professor: 25-30 publications total, with at least 5 statistical methods papers, at least 5-10 health science publications, at least 3-5 first authored papers (or first-author equivalent publications), and at least 3 top-tier publications. The required numbers of papers can be lower, provided the impact is higher. Well funded on grants, but do not need to be PI on any.
  2. to Tenured Associate Professor: Same minimum numbers of publications as Research Associate Professors, except that about twice as many statistical methods and top-tier publications are expected. Have similar funding requirements.

This presentation also goes on to talk about quality of publications rather than quantity.

In summary, publication count can be important, but quality is also important. If you're looking for career advice, strike a balance between publishing high quality and high quantity papers. Also, other products such as patents and conference proceedings may also advance your career.

  • Good answer indeed. It would be great to see similar studies for other disciplines. Also anything for other career stages for theoretical comp science?
    – John
    May 19, 2016 at 21:30
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    Huh. The numbers in Carl Newport's study seem really inflated. I'm a theoretical computer scientist with tenure in a strong department, and I only published nine conference papers in my first four years as an assistant professor. But maybe publication rates in distributed computing are significantly higher than in my subsubsubfield.
    – JeffE
    May 19, 2016 at 21:43
  • @JeffE, Thank you for your insight. I am biologist so I have no idea how to evaluate computer scientists publication rates, let alone CS sub-fields. May 20, 2016 at 0:39
  • @JeffE, I just saw your comments on the question. I agree it is a too broad of question and would befit from being narrowed down to a discipline or sub-discipline. May 20, 2016 at 0:41

In regard to the data, I would suggest you to look at NSF's Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) (select Data tab for data sets). A potentially more convenient or flexible way to access and select data of interest might be via NSF's SESTAT Data Tool (provides access to the SDR data as well).

Some data (or data sources) might be extracted from relevant literature. In particular, the study Comparing Research Productivity Across Disciplines and Career Stages uses the 2003 SDR dataset (see Table 3 for some ready-to-use numbers). Beyond the above-mentioned direct and indirect data sources, I would recommend to review related studies that might potentially contain of refer to relevant data. In particular, check the following papers (obviously, a non-exhaustive list).

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