The slogan “publish or perish” is certainly appropriate in the sense that, in most countries and universities, becoming a professor is impossible unless the respective candidate has published. This slogan does not tell us, however, how many publications of what type are required to make it into and survive in academia. There are, of course, no absolute standards. As in any competitive situation, how good is good enough depends on how good your competitors are. Fair enough. But can we really compare in any meaningful way political scientist A with political scientist B or any given peer group of A? Can we compare political science department A with department B? Can we compare academics and institutions in country A with those in country B, strongly differing national academic traditions, requirements, and capacities notwithstanding?
YES – as long as we establish full transparency of whom and what we are comparing, how we are comparing, and for what purpose we are doing it. A relatively low-cost approach that meets these criteria is bibliometric analysis with data from Google Scholar and the Web of Science. Fabrizio Gilardi and I have just published the first analysis of this kind for Swiss political science. We think that not only the results are interesting, but also the ways in which we have constructed the sample and indicators and examined the data. Hence we believe that our paper could also serve as a template for similar studies in other countries and ultimately also improved comparisons across countries.
The most important table in our study is, in my view, the following (click to enlarge). This information could serve as a benchmark in hiring and promotion decisions – of course on the assumption that publication performance is a necessary but by no means a sufficient condition.