How Many Publications Are Required To Become a Tenured Professor?

How Many Publications Are Required To Become a Tenured Professor?
There is no doubt that an aspiring academic or scientist must successfully publish sound research to obtain a position as a full tenured professor at a reputable research institution. Exactly how many publications might be required for a particular position varies widely among disciplines, countries, universities and departments, however, so it is impossible to provide specific numbers that will apply generally to all researchers who are working to achieve professorship. The key to success is to learn all you can about the publication expectations for promotion to full professor within your field of study and especially at the universities or other research institutions where you hope to be considered as a candidate. You can then use this information to tailor a constructive publishing strategy that will produce the number and kind of publications necessary to make your CV stand out in a highly competitive job market.
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One aspect of the research-based publications required to become a professor that is virtually universal in its relevance is that quality can and should matter as much as quantity. This is to say that the quality of the papers and other documents you write, the quality of the research behind them and the quality of the journals and presses that publish them will almost certainly be of prime importance to the committee considering your application or promotion. A few or even one significant article reporting and discussing groundbreaking research in clear and relevant ways in a top-tier journal that upholds scholarly editorial and peer review practices will prove much more impressive than several or many articles of a low quality published by unscholarly or predatory journals that do not conduct effective peer reviews. The nature of your contribution to each publication is also vital, with a paper for which you are the sole or first author packing a much larger intellectual punch than one for which your name appears in the middle of a long list of authors. Scholarly collaboration will be particularly important to some committees and institutions, of course, but if you are hoping to become a full professor, being the primary author of a quality multi-authored publication will demonstrate research authority, responsibility and leadership.

Another primary consideration for hiring committees will be the number of citations your publications have earned in the publications of your peers. Although there has been considerable debate about the value of citation counts, they remain a primary means by which many research institutions compare candidates and make decisions about promotions and new hires, so a few highly cited articles will give a more positive impression than many articles that have rarely been cited or even read by other researchers. If those articles appear in high-impact journals, all the better, and dissemination in a high-impact journal will naturally increase your chances of being cited frequently, so obtaining a little of that coveted space in prestigious journals tends to be well worth the effort required to aim so high. Some committees use measures of quality and productivity such as h-indices that are based on both publications and citations. By such measures the successful production of one or two well-cited papers per year is far more valuable than piling up ten or twenty papers that draw little or no attention.
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The point of all such measures is to determine and predict the influence of an academic’s or scientist’s work, and there are ways beyond formal publication to achieve and demonstrate such intellectual influence. The proven ability of a candidate for professor to obtain funding for research projects, for instance, or to establish and manage research groups successfully are extremely valuable in most cases, and at some institutions teaching and supervisory activities as well as innovations in educational material and experience with administrative duties will be particularly appealing. The best policy is therefore to be familiar with exactly what is expected of a candidate for the full professor position that interests you, make the most of your relevant skills and accomplishments when you apply, and have a clear and sophisticated plan in mind for continuing your research and teaching activities, ideally in your new position as full professor.
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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.

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