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My question is specific to computer science area since in departments like medicine and physics, good quality work usually is a result of big team of researchers.

Not arguing that publish or perish is a fact in academia, I believe there might be some nuances that make an adacemician more or less valuable in terms of preferrability, credibility and reputability.

Publishing quality papers is always a big plus. However, suppose that there are two papers (call them A and B) where A's significance is 8/10 with seven authors whereas B's significance is 6/10 with two authors. And suppose that two people (call them X and Y) have 20 publications each. X has a lot of instances of A in their CV, and Y has a lot of instances of B.

Assuming that every other parameter is identical (their references, their universities, their field of studies, etc.), which one is more credible? Which one's reference is more valuable? And which one of them is closer to get a the only position in a university, if applied simultanously?

  • It depends on the department. Some will value A more, and others will value B more - sometimes for reasons related to their needs, but sometimes just because of personal preferences of people on hiring committees. You don't know which is which ahead of time, which is why you apply to 100 jobs so that it is statistically likely one of the departments you applied to will value your combination of strengths. – Alexander Woo May 2 '17 at 20:10
  • Sorry but I can't see how a hiring committee can see the fractional value of collaborators contribution to a paper: all one can see is whether you are or not the first author, and how many citations the paper attracted. The rest is word of mouth (or call it informal reputation, in contrast to the "formal" reputation made by your visible contributions). – famargar May 3 '17 at 8:29
  • @famargar The authors' names might be in an alphabetical order. In that case, I am very lucky if my surname starts with an A? – padawan May 3 '17 at 8:32
  • @padawan a hiring committee is typically capable of recognizing whether the author list is sorted alphabetically or not. That being said, I seem to remember some scientific piece of work finding that authors whose last name starts with "A" or even better with "Aa" to enjoy statistically better reputation. – famargar May 3 '17 at 8:41
  • @famargar That reputation bonus is maybe not only based on their publication, but also on the fact that the applications sent to the hiring committee tend to be sorted by something that is supposed to not disclose the order they were provided, so is quite often alphabetic. And people tend to be more positive while reading application 1 compared to dragging yourself through application 49. – skymningen May 4 '17 at 8:36
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Being first author, or the most significant author in case it is simply alphabetical, is more important than the number of collaborators. And the impact of the papers is crucial. I'd take someone who is the key author in top venues over someone who had just their advisor, say, but was less important in impact.

One key question is how the recruiting committee knows the impact of the student on the publications. That's where reference letters come in.

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