The misleading narrative of the canonical faculty productivity trajectory

Scholarly productivity impacts nearly every aspect of a researcher’s career, from their initial placement as faculty to funding and tenure decisions. Historically, expectations for individuals rely on 60 years of research on aggregate trends, which suggest that productivity rises rapidly to an early-career peak and then gradually declines. Here we show, using comprehensive data on the publication and employment histories of an entire field of research, that the canonical narrative of “rapid rise, gradual decline” describes only about one-fifth of individual faculty, and the remaining four-fifths exhibit a rich diversity of productivity patterns. This suggests existing models and expectations for faculty productivity require revision, as they capture only one of many ways to have a successful career in science.


The misleading narrative of the canonical faculty productivity trajectory
Samuel F. Way, Allison C. Morgan, Aaron Clauset, and Daniel B. Larremore