To what extent, if any, are individuals penalized for uncited or poorly cited publications during hiring and promotion decisions? Specifically, if two candidates have the same h-index, and similar credentials, but candidate A has a bunch of uncited or poorly cited papers and candidate B has few such papers, which one would be preferred?
Date: 16 Jul 2013 21:53
Number of posts: 11
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Well, if they have the same h index but one has a bunch of uncited/poorly cited papers, then that person has more publications. So, that person would still have an advantage. In general, I think people count number of pubs more than citations, at least when hiring. Both number of pubs and number of citations seems to matter more at tenure though…
Thanks anonbanon. I always wondered whether committees ever considered average number of citations per article, which would obviously penalize the candidate A above. It seems that you are saying that such a metric is not really used in hiring/tenure decisions, which I find interesting.
Part of the reason it is not often used in hiring decisions (at least at the assistant professor level) is that most newer phd's will have low citation counts because their articles will have been recent publications. At that level, it's more important to have quality first author pubs in good journals…I would emphasize both "first author" and "good journals."
Also, citation rates can easily be manipulated (particularly if you cite yourself a lot) and don't have much meaning early on in a career.
I did say it seems to matter more for tenure…. And I agree with anon4321 that it's because most junior people are not heavily cited anyway.
I'm actually up for tenure at the moment and part of my dossier must include a list of every publication that's cited each of my publications. Seems like a fairly silly task, but I suppose it matters to someone, or they wouldn't ask for it (ok, that's me being optimistic; I've been told by numerous people that this document I've spent the last two months working on "will not be read by many of your external reviewers and will not be read by most of the tenured dept faculty who get to vote on you"…. lovely!).
Citation counts are not very informative for junior scholars. For a new hire, such data, even if they are high, are probably more about coauthors than the person. It takes a long time to accumulate a high h. Moreover, if a person publishes in a relatively small area, the work might be extraordinarily important even if it is only cited a few times. Anon4321 you seem to think that citation counts are somehow a really great standard for good science but that's not necessarily true, anymore than the quantity of papers is. A really effective way to get a high number of citations would be to simply spend all your time constructing scales. Those types of papers are cited an astronomical number of times. But we really don't need a bunch of new scales. For hiring and promotion committees there is really no one way to tell if someone is producing good science. You read the person's work and look at the vita. You look at the citation counts. And you read external evaluations of the science the person has produced. And you decide.
Okay, got it. So in the scenario depicted above, it seems the candidate with more publications would be at an advantage during the initial hiring decision, but that the other candidate might be equally preferred or even more preferred when tenure decisions are made. I was assuming that the poorly cited publications are in less prestigious (mid-tier) journals, which I should've noted.
BeenThere—I take the point about citation counts for hiring decisions and that seems to echo what dude says above. In the scenario that I sketched above, I noted that these two candidates have similar overall credentials (and not just h's) so I did not mean to imply that citations should be the only metric (or even the main metric). In the scenario I'm envisioning, both candidates produce good science, but one candidate *also* produces work that is deemed less important or impactive (however you want to measure it). Candidate B is more productive in the sense of publishing more, but candidate A has more impact/article. Who wins?
Above, I was assuming that h provides a reasonable measure of impact, but this assumption is actually not important for the question.
anon4321, my best recommendation for you is to not worry about these hypothetical situations. Your time is much better off spent writing. There are numerous factors that go into hiring decisions…many of which may be unknown until the actual evaluation process. The first focus is always (at least at R1s) whether or not your research is strong and you've shown you can independently publish (at least by being first author). If you can't make it to that point then there is often little need to concern yourself beyond that point. Then, if you've shown you are a productive research there are a multiplicity of factors that go into the decision…who is a better fit research-wise, who can fill in certain gaps teaching, who fits the departments long-term vision, who is more likely to stay long-term (particularly for schools in less desirable places), who knows whose advisors, who shows more in progress or under review work..etc. Also, once you make it to the interview stage it's more about the interview than anything else (you've already shown you are capable of looking good on paper, now can you show it in person). So once again, my advice is just focus on making yourself as strong a candidate as possible…you can't control anything else.
This hypothetical scenario is just not very close to reality in terms of what most promotion decisions are like. It is rarely the case that two cases can be compared. Most of them are apples and oranges, based on things like the size of a person's subfield, a specific fields conventions about citing work, outlets that are considered of the highest quality, etc. Many papers that are considered quite important (or even seminal) to a very small area of researchers might not be cited all that much. Moreover, it is not at all unusual for anyone at any stage to have some papers that are not cited very much and some that are. In terms of what it all means at hiring and tenure time, it is basically all about the whole picture of a person's accomplishments. In terms of hiring, it is good to see high quality work in the context of some minimum of quantity. And in some 20 years of serving on promotion committees, I have never been in a situation of comparing (in any direct way) two colleagues in this way. As an external referee on tenure cases, I have not really encountered a dossier for which quantity would be held against a person, unless occurs in the context of low impact or clearly low quality. There is no harm to be done to someone (in my view) if he or she has some papers that do not get a lot of citations. Of course, if those papers are in journals that suggest a lack of judgment (in my field that would be mostly publishing for pay) then that's another can of worms.