Academic breeding grounds: Home department conditions and early career performance of academic researchers
This study investigates how research group characteristics relate to the early career success of PhD candidates who are trained in the group. In particular, we study how the citation impact of early-career PhDs is related to the staff composition and the funding of the group. Using data on a cohort of Swedish doctoral graduates in science, engineering, mathematics and medicine, two sets of findings are obtained. First, students who were trained in groups with a lower number of PhD students perform better in terms of academic productivity. From the perspective of research policy, this finding suggests a decreasing return to funding additional PhD student positions allocated to professors already maintaining larger research groups. Second, PhD students trained in groups whose funding for PhD research is conditioned by funder influence over the topic of thesis research are more likely to stay in academia. Controlling for career destination, however, PhDs from such groups have lower than average scientific productivity and citation impact. These results suggest that funders of PhD studies face a trade-off between the two different funding objectives of “getting what they want” in terms of research content and fostering successful scholars.