Publications: Quantity and Quality


Once you acquire that coveted permanent position, your life will revolve around
teaching, doing research, and publishing your research. Why do we publish? As
scientists we need to communicate the results of our research, a published paper is our
‘product,’ and (like it or not) these papers are a measure of our productivity. Not
publishing your results will result in a remarkably short astronomical career.

The number of papers posted to the astro-ph preprint server has risen steadily since
1992, and this increase shows no sign of abating. One reason for astro-ph’s popularity
is that if you publish only in a journal and do not post your paper online, you may
decrease its citation rate by half.

In 2007, the number of papers posted to astro-ph exceeded 10,000. This translates to
more than 40 new papers each working day! Even if you select only the papers in
your sub-field, it’s still very difficult to keep up. Some astronomers don’t even try to.

With so many papers appearing daily, how do you make other astronomers aware of
your work and get them to cite it? One solution is to tell them what you do by
presenting seminars in their departments and by giving talks/posters at conferences.
You should also give careful thought to the words contained in the paper’s abstract so
your paper is easy to find by someone doing an abstract-based search.

While many funding agencies and employers look only at the quantity of your papers,
the quality of your publications is arguably a much more important measure. Quality
in this context is often taken as the impact of your publication on other astronomers
and for that we use the number of citations to your paper.

Although [ Scopus] and Thomson Scientific track citations, the most
up to date source for astronomers is the
Astrophysical Data Service (ADS), which
gives both raw citations and citations normalized by the number of authors. In 2004
Frazer Pearce compiled the relative distribution of all raw and normalized ADS citations
for astronomers
(“Citation measures and impact within astronomy”) and found that
the top 10% of active astronomers worldwide typically have 382 raw and 74
normalized citations in the previous five years.