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This is a frustrated rant:

Academics keep saying that graduate students and faculty need to show "academic productivity".

Well, what on earth does "academic productivity" even mean? What is the benchmark?

*orange turtle wobbles off with her heavy shell while foaming at the mouth*

I know it is different for different fields. Forget other fields, I can't even figure out my own! Gah!

*orange turtle buries her head inside her heavy shell still foaming at the mouth*

2 hours later: *orange turtle falls asleep inside shell; it is cosy in here*

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Yes, this is probably different in every department, but in general could mean:

1. Progression in courses aligned with their internal timetable (if you're a full-time student, taking a full-time load of classes that progress you in your degree)
2. Conference Attendance and Presentations
3. Publications
4. Passing the comprehensive exams
5. Sticking to your timeline (with room for variability) for your dissertation so you are defending on time
6. Some mix of these and other factors (including grades, for instance)

Also, just looked back and saw this is a rant, so if you don't want this information, feel free to ignore. I decided to post anyways in case anyone else stumbled across the post and did want it. :) 

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I don't think I've ever heard anyone use the term "academic productivity" but if I had to guess, I'd say for faculty it means publishing and bringing in grant money. For students it would mean making good progress in one's program and working toward presenting/publishing/getting grants. As with everything else in academia, there isn't going to be some magic number to beat, more like vague estimates, and those depend on field and department so there's no use for me guessing what those would be for you. This is what you have advisors and mentors for (and as a student, perhaps, also the graduate handbook for your department). 

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Maybe it's a depends-on-field thing? I hear "academic productivity" a lot. It's not often used as that phrase because I only hear "academic productivity" when the speaker needs to distinguish it from other productivity, like what a business may produce. Within academia, we often hear of "productivity", or "we expect you to produce X papers per year". There are even synonyms to the productivity theme, e.g. a faculty member who writes lots of papers per year might be "prolific" (as if they are fruit trees and papers are apples or something).

I would also note that this is very closely related to the "publish or perish" model of thinking, which many people think is unhealthy (me included) but the reality may be that it is the truth. Few people want these metrics to be the way academics are evaluated but yet here we are. So I'll attempt to define what I think people mean below, but I do think this is a flawed way to evaluate each other.

Ultimately, in this definition, productivity means academic "products" that are valued by the community and are useful to the community. So first and foremost, it means peer-reviewed journal papers. The ones with more citations are worth more. Another product would be conference proceedings. In many STEM fields, papers are valued higher than proceedings but it's the opposite in others. Some metrics used to evaluate these products might be things like h-index, total number of citations, total number of papers, etc.

Note that in the above definition, I used "and". Currently, in my field, there are lots of products that are useful to the community but are valued at a much lower level. For example, creating computer code that is useful for others and building instruments don't seem to be worth as much to my field. Null results are also very useful but valued less.

I would say that things like successful grants are valued but they may not be considered "academic productivity". Instead, academic productivity shows that you are a competent and deserving researcher, which earn you grants to do more research. So someone with many grants is likely very productive, but the grants themselves aren't these "products".

Also, in this definition, the only things that count are successful final results. Productivity doesn't include progress markers, such as advancing in your degree, grades, passing exams etc. It doesn't include having already completed 90% of the work for a very large survey/paper. If it's not a submitted or accepted paper, it doesn't generally count.

Finally, the most frustrating part of all of this is the benchmark question. There isn't a benchmark. How much is enough depends on who else is competing for the same thing. No one can really say "3 papers will get you a postdoc" since if everyone else applying for the same position as you had 5 papers each, then that's the new benchmark. Same for grants, faculty positions etc. This is why I didn't really define a different version for students and faculty---everyone is looking for the same thing, but as a student, you'd be compared to other students etc.

This comic sums it up well: http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1995


This sucks. I think it's a very unhealthy way to measure the success of a researcher as it basically reduces us to science-producing machines. It also creates high pressure and stressful work environments. It encourages competition in the bad way, not in the "let's all do our best work and improve ourselves" way. It's bad for our mental health (as evident by these rants!) It doesn't take into account life circumstances that affect our ability to do research. It doesn't factor in differences between fields and sub-fields (e.g. some people in my field work on mini-projects that "produce" a short paper after 6-9 months of hard work, while others need to collect data for 3 years to write a large survey paper). And it's a vague criteria, allowing the evaluator to insert whatever biases they might have and causes the student/postdoc/faculty to constantly doubt whether they are doing enough.

Anyways, my advice would be to not worry about this too much. Know that although it's not ideal, the academic world will generally want to see these "products" from you but try to not get too worried about what it means and end up overworking, stressing out, and hurting your mental health. This is much easier said than done and there are many periods of time during grad school and during my postdoc where I felt the "academic FOMO" in the comic and/or felt like I was not producing enough. I don't have a cure-all, but my advice is to take time to think about the big picture. We are more than just researchers and our success or "productivity" in the research world does not reflect on ourselves as persons. We're not bad people if we don't get that paper in. In addition, I'd focus more on the process than the end result. Celebrate the progress milestones as you complete steps towards your degree or the next paper. You don't have to wait until the very end before you're allowed to feel proud of your work. Recognize that research happens from the constant, continual work towards the solution, it doesn't happen in leaps of "genius" that sudden solve things! Ultimately, we do have to be realistic and ensure that we meet academia's demands for "productivity" but don't let it consume you!

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I believe when saying "academic productivity" people mean how many papers you generate per amount of time. My classmate in 3 weeks had submitted a total of 2 journal manuscripts (two in Spanish, one in English), 1 conference paper (in English), 1 book chapter (in Spanish) and one co-authored grant proposal (in English). In addition,  she has about 8 manuscripts at various stages of development (for the most part, almost completed). She's been writing for a minimum of 2 hours every day and her calendar is covered with deadlines. She'a moster.

As for me, I have about 8 hours per week for this so I'm a returning visitor at the reviews of best essay services on [redacted essay review site]

Have to say they are good!

Edited by rising_star
to remove link

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I agree with everything that was said before, but I also think that academic productivity entails leadership and extracurricular activities done prior to your Ph.D program that are not necessarily linked to school in a direct manner. Especially for scholarships, it shows that you're a "whole" future researcher kind of. But it's true that this type of pressure to excel at so many levels is bad for people's mental health. 

Edited by Adelaide9216

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