After a discussion with a couple of people in my department coffee room yesterday, I thought I'd see what peoples views on here were regarding the value of publications in regards to a science career in academia.

Obviously the universities value publications and so do academics when recruiting postdocs etc. but I was wondering to what extent. If you are going for a job as a postdoc when it comes down to evaluating candiates on publication record, is it simply a case of the candidate with the most papers is regarded as the best? If you have fewer papers in total but are first author on more is that better?

It seems there are a number of things that affect the number of publications you could gain in a PhD aswell as the order names appear on papers I just wonder how much if at all these are taken into account.

For example some groups have very liberal policies as to whose names go on papers. I am aware of a large group who will regularly publish papers with ~10 authors 2 or which have done 80-90% of the work, 2 or 3 have been present in discussions or contributed a little and 5 are listed on the basis that they were part of the group at the time but contributed nothing. These people tend to finish their PhDs with ~12 publications maybe 6 they contributed nothing to (and are listed close to the end), 3 they contributed a little to (middle) and 3 they were the main contributors. You could compare this to someone who was in a group of 3 people and contributed significantly to all but comes out with half the number of publications.


yes, but it really is not JUST about publications. You have to perform in the interview and have something sensible to say for your self..sure publications help, but they are not the be all and end all. I would be suspicious of someone with 12 publications from their PhD!! I think a few first author papers is good enough, this shows you can do work of publishable quality and can write (having a PhD also demonstrates this ...). Having said all that, I think if someone has no papers but heaps of experience and some good ideas, this will make them stand out as a good candidate.


I agree that it's how you put yourself across in the interview and ideas etc have value. But in a fairly competitive job market some candidates won't even get to the interview stage to put these across but the publications list will be seen with the application form and could therefore be one of the (not the only) things used to screen candidates for interview


yes ok I agree that some people won't make it to the interview... which is why I recommend to people to arrange an 'informal' meeting with the interviewer/person that you are applying to go and work with - this way you get to meet them and hopefully impress them, and you can decide if you really do want/think you can work with them... you are also far more likely to be called back for an interview if they can put a face to a name and they remember you.. it works everytime!!


As far as I can see, publications are very important at every stage of a career in academic science and definitely figure very heavily in getting shortlisted for interviews or funding. Everyone understands the business of multi-authored papers and that some labs are more inclusive than others - and people generally factor this into their decisions.


Talking about authorship, it really reminded me a very bad experience. I am personally from a huge group and there are always like 8-10 ppl's name on the authorship list. Remember in the last time, I had like a manuscript written out, with 80% of the work done by myself for almost 15 months, 24/7-barely-no-rest, its my project stuffs, and exactly the contents i had reported to the progress assessment board, so i had no doubt about this fact. The 80% part included most the cellular mechanism stuffs which i thought was core of the subject, and there included also a couple of novel points i integrated from different i was genuinely expecting to throw a celebration party after having it published as my first-authorship manuscript. Yet....the problem wasnt being realized (not even i had amended stuffs for rebuttal) until the pub date that instead of being the leading name of the list, i ended up as the second (though its still titled as a co-first author). My supervisor had made her final adjustment to the name orders without notifying anyone, she had made the one who contributed that 20% as the leading name of the list...whom honestly was my Dr. Advisor (a.k.a. Dr. not-interested-in-research-and-long-working-hours). I sorta consoled myself by telling my mind constantly she was the one who deserved this as she taught me heaps of techniques and crossbred the animal model out (which was important as my signaling study was done with primary tissues from her transgenic mice for attaining sufficient physiological relevance)...but honestly i was still a bit pissed about this fact (even my supervisor explained to me why, and i wouldnt like to mention it here) and yet no complains were to be made as this was definitely not a wise move for the rest of my study (i truely believed)

I really hope that no one here has experienced this as i did, my second first-authorship paper is gonna be submitted soon, i hope nothing like this is gonna happen again.:-s


Publications are incredibly important if you want to have a career in academia.

Some of the things your universities/ teams look for are

- number of publications (more the better)
- The impact factor of the journal it has been published in (higher the better)
- The number of citations it recieves (again more people cite your work the better) - *Possibly the most important factor.
- H index (how much has your research had an impact) you can get your H index from web of science once you start publishing
-Were you first author (main writer) or last writer (project lead). Those two positions are the most prestigious. Also fewer authors the better. If you are buried in a long list of authors it is less impressive and it can seem almost like a cursory acknowledgement more than anything else. I am not really familiar with the concept of "joint-first authorship" or if it is taken seriously by other academics (well not in my field) unless it is a paper with only two authors (where both are normally regarded as contributing significantly).

In addition the following things are also looked at.

- References from your former supervisor about how you got on well in the team.
- Ability to pull in funding/ grants etc
- Your general profile (have you presented at conferences, have you organised events, how "well" you are known in your field).
- Other niche skillsets (technical skills, proficiencies)

The publication track record is a significant component and one that is often underestimated by PhDers. Different teams will take various elements into account, but citation/ impact and H index seem to be increasingly important as universities become wise to having people that publish masses of articles in journals that no one will ever read.

With regards to getting gipped over authorship; this happens all too often and it has happened to me once. My old supervisor said its "Part of paying your dues", but I see it as pure exploitation and backstabbing. Sometimes you have to accept you got played and chalk it up to experience. The real sin is if it keeps happening again and again. If it ever happened to me again I would make it an issue and if necessary contact the editor of the journal to delay/withdraw if necessary. In any case they ask you to usually sign an authors declaration (to sign over copyrights) and you can withhold this if you think you are being shafted.