A bibliometric analysis of Quebec’s PhD students’ contribution to the advancement of knowledge

Graduate students are an important part of the academic workforce. However, little is known on their overall contribution to science. Using the participation in Web of Science indexed peer-reviewed publications of the complete population of doctoral students in Quebec over the 2000-2007 period (N=27,393), this thesis achieves three main contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the fields of information science, sociology of the scientific community and sociology of higher education.

The first contribution is a technical one and involves the creation of an algorithm that allows the automatic attribution of a large proportion of individual researchers’ papers. Indeed, using the patterns found in Quebec university researchers’ use of keywords, cited references and discipline of publication, the algorithm automatically attributes or rejects at least one scientific paper to 88% of doctoral students.

The second contribution is to provide a large-scale analysis of doctoral students’ socialization to research, using the percentage of doctoral students who have published at least one paper during their program as an indicator. It shows that this integration varies greatly among disciplines, with students in the natural and medical sciences being more integrated into research than their colleagues of the social sciences and humanities. Collaboration is an important component of this socialization: disciplines in which student-faculty collaboration are higher are also those in which doctoral students are the most integrated into research. Access to research funds also influences doctoral students participation in peer-reviewed papers, as specialties where professors receive greater research funds are also those where students are the most likely to publish. Although the papers to which doctoral students contribute are most often written in collaboration, they are less likely to be the result of international collaboration. Such socialization to research is also positively linked with students’ degree completion and the likelihood of a subsequent career in research.

Finally, the third contribution of this thesis is to measure the percentage of the research output of the research system produced by doctoral students. It provides evidence that, for all disciplines combined, PhD students account for 33% of the publication output of the province, a percentage that is considerably higher than that of Quebec hospital researchers taken together and more than 5 times higher than that of federal and industrial researchers of the province. In terms of scientific impact, papers to which doctoral students have contributed obtain significantly lower citation rates than other Quebec papers to which they have not contributed, although the average impact factor of the journals in which they publish is significantly higher. This suggests that the scientific impact of doctoral students’ papers may suffer from a Matthew Effect, the sociological phenomenon observed by which recognition for discoveries is more easily attributed to well known scientists than to others less known.

Overall, this interdisciplinary thesis provides a significant insight into the extent, the context and the effect of socialization to research in the PhD curriculum, as well as a better understanding of the importance of doctoral students’ scientific contributions within Quebec’s research system. These findings should be of great interest to university administrators as well as for research councils and the science policy community in general.

Keywords: bibliometrics; scientometrics; doctorate; PhD; students; higher education;
universities; Quebec; Ca

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 24 mars 2017 à 6 h 36 min.