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Help wanted: Highly cited researchers needed for high-ranking positions at research institutions

At a time when great jobs are hard to find, here's good news for the under-qualified: A new article appearing in the FASEB Journal ( shows that being a highly cited researcher may not be a primary qualification for taking on leading management positions at research institutions. This study provides empirical evidence suggesting that a glass ceiling may exist at research institutions where top-cited scientists either do not pursue executive management positions or are not accepted when they apply.

"The participation of highly cited scientists in the top leadership of universities is limited, said John Ioannidis from the Ioannina School of Medicine, Greece, who wrote the report. "This could have implications for the research and overall mission of universities."

Ioannidis drew this conclusion after evaluating whether top highly cited scientists are likely to occupy top university leadership positions (presidents or chancellors in the US; vice-chancellors in the UK). Of the current leaders of 96 U.S. high research activity universities, only 6 presidents or chancellors were found among the 4009 U.S. scientists listed in the database. Of the current leaders of 77 UK universities, only 2 vice-chancellors were found among the 483 UK scientists listed in the same database. In a sample of 100 top-cited clinical medicine scientists and 100 top-cited biology and biochemistry scientists, only 1 and 1, respectively, had served at any time as president of a university. Among the leaders of 25 U.S. universities with the highest citation volumes, only 12 had doctoral degrees in life, natural, physical or computer sciences, and 5 of these 12 had a Hirsch citation index m < 1.0.

"The saying that 'those who cannot do, teach' comes to mind, except in the case of research, it appears that those who cannot do highly cited science, run universities," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. "All jokes aside, this paper is disturbing thatin the broadest sensethe top management of many research universities has had little experience with success in the lab."


Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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