Research output: it’s what you know and where you work

Xin Gu and Karen Blackmore from the University of Newcastle have crunched journal data for staff at three representative, but unidentified, Australian universities to find similarities in individuals’ outputs.

The authors sampled author and citation data at a sandstone, a “middle-tier” institution and one which could be a regional.

They find that researchers at the sandstone were most productive from 1974 to 2009, but since performance based funding was introduced output per researcher at all has converged. And they discovered publication data demonstrates that an increase in quantity was not accompanied by a decline in quality. Researchers at all three universities publish 70 per cent of work in the top quarter of journals.

As to influence, from 1974 to 2014 research by academics at the sandstone was more highly cited that that from people at the second-tier institution, except in 1979 and 1988. Researchers there out-cited the third university in all years, bar 1994, 2004 and 2006.

Gu and Blackmore also find that researchers at the sandstone are more likely to publish in teams, while those at “lower-ranked” institutions work alone, or in pairs.

And one especially interesting finding confirms what many assume; “in terms of publication impact, the higher-ranked universities in this study had a higher citation count per publication.”

It’s not just what you know, it’s where you work.