Marek Kwiek has just published a paper in “Scientometrics”: “High Research Productivity in Vertically Undifferentiated Higher Education Systems: Who Are the Top Performers?“.
The growing scholarly interest in research top performers comes from the growing policy interest in research top performance itself. A question emerges: what makes someone a top performer? In this paper, the upper 10% of Polish academics in terms of research productivity are studied, and predictors of entering this class are sought. In the science system (and Poland follows global patterns), a small number of scholars produce most of the works and attract huge numbers of citations. Performance determines rewards, and small differences in talent translate into a disproportionate level of success, leading to inequalities in resources, research outcomes, and rewards. Top performers are studied here through a bivariate analysis of their working time distribution and their academic role orientation, as well as through a model approach. Odds ratio estimates with logistic regression of being highly productive Polish academics are presented. Consistently across major clusters of academic disciplines, the tiny minority of 10% of academics produces about half (44.7%) of all Polish publications (48.0% of publications in English and 57.2% of internationally co-authored publications). The mean research productivity of top performers across major clusters is on average 7.3 times higher than that of the other academics, and in terms of internationally co-authored publications, 12.07 times higher. High inequality was observed: the average research productivity distribution is highly skewed with a long tail on the right not only for all Polish academics but also for top performers. The class of top performers is as internally stratified as that of their lower-performing colleagues. Separate regression models for all academics, science, technology, engineering and mathematics academics, and social sciences and humanities academics are built based on a large national sample (2525 usable observations), and implications are discussed.