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Good productivity benchmarks for a strong research advisor?


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I'm trying to assess potential research mentors at some of the schools I'm interested in, and particularly how competitive I would be for top postdocs (and eventually, fairly strong faculty jobs) if I excelled with them (I don't have a good benchmark for "excelled", but let's say it's at a level of some of their best 5 or 10 students [depending on professor age], but not necessarily at the level of their best student).  Let's say, for argument's sake, that I really wanted my first tenure-track job to be professor at a statistics or biostatistics department ranked in the USNews top 60 (combined).  To achieve this, would you want your advisor to have, say, 1 publication per year in JASA/JRSS-B/AAS/JRSS-C/Biometrika (similar level conference proceedings)?  How about 2?  3?  If h-index would even be useful (which I'm dubious of, particularly for people who consult on medical papers a lot) what would be a reasonable value over the past 5 years -- 15?  20?  If they are indeed a biostatistician and collaborate on a lot of medical papers, should that be more like 30, if any benchmark is useful?  Perhaps you have a favorite pet metric from the Publish or Perish software package, or else something better to look at (say, number of active grants/active NSF or NIH grants)?

How would these benchmarks increase if you wanted to teach at, say, a statistics department in the top couple tiers (e.g. Stanford through Duke, UPenn, and Columbia)?  A biostatistics department in the top couple tiers (e.g. Harvard/JHU/UDub through Berkeley and Minnesota)?  

If this question is just way too abstract and devoid of context to be able to answer, I'll note that I'm really asking this so I can figure out for myself how "deep" Duke statistics, UNC biostatistics, and Wisconsin statistics are in terms of their numbers of pretty strong and really strong advisors, respectively, so while I'll obviously entertain literally any response to this rambling monstrosity of a topic, I'd especially appreciate any speaking to that.

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Outside of a few super-star researchers who are constantly publishing in top journals and conference venues (e.g. Tony Cai, Michael Jordan, Jianqing Fan, etc.), most potential PhD advisors will probably not be publishing more than one article a year in JASA/Annals/Biometrika/JRSS-B (one every 1-3 years seems more common). It's probably important that they *have* published in these venues in the past, so they know what level of quality/novelty is expected for publication in these venues. But I wouldn't say it is essential to have a PhD advisor who has 1-2 publications in top journals *every* year.

To land a *really* good postdoc, I would say that nearing graduation, the PhD student should have either: a) 1 publication accepted/in revision in a top-tier journal like the ones you mentioned or a top-tier conference (ICML, NIPS, AISTATS), or b) 2 publications accepted/in revision in relatively good journals (say, top 10 like Statistica Sinica, Journal of Multivariate Analysis, etc.). And there should be at least one other work in preparation on top of that.

Any postdoc or PhD student who has 2 publications in JASA/Annals/Biometrika/JRSS/Biometrics will most likely be able to land an R1 job at a department in the USNWR top 80 (say).  Of course, if you want to get a job at Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia, etc., you'll probably need more than that, with the most competitive job candidates having like, 4-5 in top venues. The people who tend to get the jobs at the most prestigious departments also tend to be graduates of similarly  ranked prestigious programs, so it seems difficult to "move up" significantly if your PhD is from a lower ranked institution (although a former PhD student of my advisor was able to get a faculty position at Duke, and our program is ranked a couple tiers below Duke -- in this case, the postdoc at a top 10 program most likely helped).

I myself am personally okay with going to a department in the top 80, but not necessarily the very top-tier, so I am working on getting two publications in very top venues at the moment.

Edited by Stat PhD Now Postdoc
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