Contrary to assertions that senior faculty tend to be less productive, Inside Higher Ed reports that a new study of academic productivity says that older professors publish as much as their younger colleagues.

These senior scholars do tend to publish fewer conference papers than younger colleagues but keep pace with them in terms of published articles, the paper says. Crucially, senior professors publish more chapters and books than their younger counterparts, reflecting the valuable synthesis of knowledge and insight gathered over the course of a career.

The study also looked for differences between disciplines, dividing the faculty members’ fields into six broad categories: biological and biomedical sciences, business, engineering, humanities, physical sciences and math, and social and behavioral sciences.

  • Among STEM fields, senior scholars publish more journal articles than expected while in non-STEM fields (Business, Engineering, Humanities, and Social and Behavioral Sciences), senior scholars publish between 1 and 3% fewer articles than expected.
  • Across all fields, senior scholars publish fewer conference proceedings than expected.
  • However, senior faculty publish many more books and book chapters than expected, sometimes as much as 25% more.

According to study authors:

Our analysis demonstrates that age alone does not determine overall publishing productivity, but age does infuence the mode of publication. Senior scholars publish more books and book chapters than their younger colleagues, suggesting a shift towards integrating new research into the accumulated knowledge of a long career and away from fasterpaced original works such as conference proceedings.

Hat tip to TaxProf Blog