Understanding and predicting future research impact at different career stages—A social network perspective

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

12 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-472
Journal / PublicationJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number4
Online published29 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


Performance assessment is ubiquitous and crucial in people analytics. Scientific impact, particularly, plays a significant role in the academia. This paper attempts to understand researchers' career trajectories by considering the research community as a social network, where individuals build ties with each other via coauthorship. The resulting linkage facilitates information flow and affects researchers' future impact. Consequently, we systematically investigate the career trajectories of researchers with respect to research impact using the social capital theory as our theoretical foundation. Specifically, for early-stage and mid-career academics, we find that connections with prominent researchers associate with greater impact. Brokerage positions, in addition, are beneficial to a researcher's research impact in the long run. For senior researchers, however, the only social network feature that significantly affects their future impact is the reputation of their recently built ties. Finally, we build predictive models on future research impact which can be leveraged by both organizations and individuals. This paper provides empirical evidence for how social networks provide signals on researchers' career dynamics guided by social capital theory. Our findings have implications for individual researchers to strategically plan and promote their careers and for research institutions to better evaluate current as well as prospective employees.