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Access to labor modulates research output across universities

A recent article in Science Advances employed the Academic Analytics database (via special permission through AARC) to explore some of the factors that contribute to why faculty at elite universities tend to be more productive in terms of research output than their counterparts at non-elite institutions. In their article “Labor advantages drive the greater productivity of faculty at elite universities,” Zhang and colleagues analyzed data on faculty productivity at over 200 universities in the United States. They found that faculty at elite universities had significantly higher rates of publication and citations compared to those at non-elite institutions.

Upon further analysis, they found that this difference in research output was largely due to the labor advantages that faculty at elite universities enjoy - advantages such as smaller teaching loads, access to more resources, and more support staff. The authors also found that labor advantages were more pronounced in fields where research is more labor-intensive, such as the sciences. This suggests that differences in productivity between elite and non-elite universities may be even greater in these fields.

This article has significant implications for the academic world and beyond. It confirms that differences in research output are not due to differences inherent to the faculty at elite and non-elite institutions themselves, but rather differences in the resources and support they have at their disposal.

This research highlights the need for all universities to invest in their faculty to provide the resources and support they need to be productive and successful. It also suggests that policy makers and funding agencies should consider the role that labor advantages play in determining faculty productivity when allocating resources and setting priorities. Overall, this study provides valuable insights into the factors that drive research output productivity in Academia and has important implications for the future of higher education.

Citation to the original article:

Zhang S, Wapman KH, Larremore DB, Clauset A. 2022. Labor advantages drive the greater productivity of faculty at elite universities. Science Advances. DOI 10.1126/sciadv.abq7056

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