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Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards: Benchmarking this year’s results

With the recent release of successful DE22 fellows and the upcoming opening of DE23 applications we thought it timely to provide some benchmarking data on DECRA applicants. In this, the first in a series of three blogs, we examine the publication metrics of successful DE22 fellows.

One question we are often asked by early career researchers is whether their publication record is good enough for them to be competitive in a scheme. So, on the day results were announced, we scoured Google Scholar and Scopus to get the metrics for every successful awardee. Obviously this has some limitations. First, we were getting the metrics 9-10 months after the applications were put in. So the numbers we were able to collect were most likely slightly lower than when they applied. Secondly, we were not able to get the data for every successful applicant – not everyone had public Google Scholar profiles and obviously Scopus does not cover all research fields. Nevertheless, we think the data gives worthwhile insight into the nature of DECRA applicants.

What does this tell us? From the 198 successful DECRAs we were able to find Google Scholar profiles for 182. While the mean number of publications for this group of DE22 fellows is 44, this average hides a lot of diversity. The number of publications ranges from 8 to 215, the middle value (median) is 35 and the most frequent number of publications (mode) is 18. Similarly, while the mean h-index is 13 this ranges from 1 to 50. We can see the diversity even more in the total number of citations, while the mean is 1232 the median is 500, a reflection of the large range – the minimum number of total citations was 3 and the maximum is 50,360.

There is similar diversity in the smaller sample we were able to find in Scopus (172 of 198 fellows), as shown in Table 2.

Here are some scatter plots for those who find them more useful:

While interesting, what can we say to someone with a total of eight publications and an h-index 1? While we can say there was one successful DECRA recipient with similar statistics, it is not terribly reassuring to be so far below the mean of 44 or the median of 35. Given it is well known that publication metrics vary widely across disciplines, we thought it was worth looking at discipline specific distribution of these statistics. However, the sample size for some areas was small (e.g. there was only one DECRA recipient in the area of Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences this year) so we decided to group it instead by the panel the applications were most likely to be assessed in, using the ARC’s metrics ( We suggest you examine the data for your area in order to gain some more insight into the characteristics of the average successful candidate in your area.

Want to know more? Contact us for information about our OnTrack career coaching services or to arrange a review of your application. We will be happy to send you a brochure of our services or arrange a call to chat further. Email us at


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