The following relates to some recent posts over at DM's blog with regard to an essay penned by Andrew D. Hollenbach in ASBMBTODAY. Dr. Hollenbach makes a point in his essay of running a small laboratory, and this got me thinking about productivity as a function of lab size. It's not my intent here to venture an opinion on the pros and cons of productivity metrics &c, but I'd like to post some preliminary figures I rustled up in which I've attempted to graphically present the two main metrics of productivity as a function of laboratory size for a number of heavy hitting labs in neuroscience and cancer (this is a small sample size at this point, and a not remotely randomized one at that, so... pinch of salt &c). I've included a data point based on the available information about Dr. Hollenbach's lab, in addition to a point representing a model "riff raff" lab with one PI, one postdoc, and an annual productivity of one paper (IF ~3.5), which is shown by the red dot.

I know that these metrics have been measured against lab funding before, but I'm not sure I've seen them measured against laboratory labor force directly. Laboratory sizes were ascertained purely based on lab websites and include only grad students, postdocs and postdoc-like research staff (no lab managers, techs, or IT staff*). Clearly, there's no telling what kind of turnover has been going on year by year over the period of analysis, so I'm taking the lazy approach of assuming lab sizes are not changing in absolute number and composition over this time frame (but, again, salty, salty, pinchy, pinchy &c). Only senior/corresponding author publications are counted. 5-year journal Impact Factors were used where possible, with 2013 numbers used when a 5-yr average was not available.

I restricted my analysis to relatively recent productivity over a 3 yr period between the beginning of 2012 and the end of 2014**.

Here it all is...

* One can argue for the inclusion of these, but for this preliminary analysis at least, I've chosen to exclude them

** Why only 3 yrs, why not 5? - I'll certainly bulk out the numbers in terms of years and laboratories covered later, in the meantime this whole exercise was really just a quick break from end of semester marking.

*** This chart was updated after a facepalm moment over the original cell equation. I think this is more informative.