What is a highly cited paper worth? About £10,000 a year
Publishing a highly cited research paper can increase an academic’s salary by as much as $13,500 a year (£9,742), a study suggests.
By linking publicly available information on pay in three of the US’ largest state university systems to citation data, researchers were able to track how changes in a scholar’s h-index caused by a new paper affected their annual income.
According to the study, published in Scientometrics, an economics professor in the state of Illinois could expect to see their income increase by 8.9 per cent on average – or $13,500 in real terms – if a paper improved their h-index by a one-half standard deviation.
In Florida, an economics professor’s pay was likely to rise by 4.6 per cent – or $6,800 – following a highly cited paper, while in California the increase was almost $4,000, or 2.8 per cent.
Quantifying the value of a highly cited paper to an individual was important because it showed that academics’ focus on securing such publications went beyond “narcissistic concerns” or a mere “desire to establish a kind of academic pecking order among an isolated group of very competitive individuals”, explains the paper.
While the results focused tightly on senior staff in economics – where mean incomes for professors were $140,000 to $152,000 – one of the paper’s co-authors, Franklin Mixon, director of Columbus State University’s Center for Economic Education in Georgia, told Times Higher Education that they were “indicative of academia in general” and “particularly so for those disciplines whose faculty engage in traditional forms of research such as peer-reviewed journal publication”.
Professor Mixon, who wrote the paper with Florida Atlantic University economist João Ricardo Faria, said he hoped the study would help to highlight the consequences of “gaming tactics sometimes used to improve citation scores”, he added.
The study suggests that the impact of a highly cited paper on an academic’s pay may be higher than other studies have indicated; a 2012 study focused on economics professors at 43 research-intensive universities pay found that a 10 per cent increase in citations led to a 0.9 per cent rise in faculty salaries, mirroring a 2010 study at the University of California that put the increase in pay at 0.8 per cent if citations rose by 10 per cent.