Research output of Irish Institutions 1980-2009

I thought it would be interesting to compare some Irish institutions by examining their research output over the last three decades. This is first measured by number of publications, and then by considering the relevance of these citations to the community.

Number of Publications

In the decade 1980 – 1989, DCU and UL were the NIHE Dublin and Limerick respectively. DIT was formed as an entity in 1992.

In the first decade, NIHE Dublin’s total number of publications was 232. After formation of DCU, the following decade, this increased to 1331, and in the decade 2000-2009, this increased hugely, to 3016. Limerick followed a similar trend; establishment of a decent base in its first decade as a university, followed by a huge increase in publications following the decade of investment in research.

Comparing this to two older universities, TCD’s output has increased from 3371 to 5817 over the three decades. Maynooth has increased from a mere 267 in the decade 1980-1989, to 2034 in the last decade. This analysis of course is unfair to these universities, as much of the output in the arts and humanities is not included in this analysis. DIT’s output in 2000-2009 was 1193, almost double that of Waterford, with 663.

Research Impact

A more interesting analysis is to consider the value of this research to the research community. When a paper is of use, a later author will cite it, and therefore the number of citations gives an indication of the value of the paper. There’s a million caveats to this, but the h-index, a measure of the number of papers that have achieved a certain number of citations, is often used to measure research impact. A h-index of 10 would mean that 10 papers have received a citation more than 10 times.

The graph below shows the h-index of these institutions over the three decades. Trinity’s h-index in the last decade was 141; 141 of the papers published were cited more than 141 times – a phenomenal number.  Obviously the higher a h-index, the harder it is for it to increase. Interestingly, although DCU’s output increased from 1331 to 3016, its h-index remained unchanged over this period.


I think these numbers are interesting, as it demonstrates that the gamble taken with DCU and Limerick in 1989, when their research output was quite low, paid off (the plan was to turn them into technological universities, ironically enough). I can’t explain the lack of increase in h-index for DCU over the last decade, but it does suggest that while there was an enormous increase in the number of publications, these did not gain traction with the research community globally. In addition, I think that this argument also shows that university status considerations for Waterford would be a political decision, not an academic one, at least from a research perspective. While DIT has a smaller research base, the research output has a similar h-index to the other Irish “universities of the middling kind” (to paraphrase Maurice Craig).


Data taken from Web of Science. Addresses used were:

  • NIHE DUBLIN OR (Natl Inst Higher Educ and Dublin)
  • NIHE Limerick OR (Natl Inst Higher Educ and Limerick)
  • Maynooth
  • Dublin Inst Technol or Dublin Inst Tech
  • Waterford.

4 thoughts on “Research output of Irish Institutions 1980-2009

  1. I’d like a proviso that science publications output does not equate research output: research in some areas of engineering, informatics and other areas are automatically excluded for example.

  2. Really interesting data. I think your conclusions go a little beyond your data. In the absence of looking at the relative budgets or academic headcount of the institutions your comparison is partial. Of course budgets are a purely political issue, it’s worth looking at the recent HEA document “Towards a Performance Evaluation Framework” for more data on this. I am pleasantly surprised that WIT has done so well (I should note that I work in WIT) as we do 18 hours of lectures a week and have almost no administrative support.

    Just comparing DIT and WIT reveals that academically WIT shades DIT a little- DIT has 1,740 staff (of which 1,020 are academics) and a budget of €191m whereas Waterford has 756 staff (of which 501 are academics) and a budget of €86m- 43% of the staff/49% of the academics and 45% of the budget; and 55% of the number of papers.

  3. Thanks all for comments.

    Tim – not so dim: fair point re staff numbers/budgets. I suppose my main conclusion was that a little autonomy goes a long way. You’re spot on about the 18 hours contracts; I don’t think the reality of that hits home with the non IoT sector. I admit I was surprised with WIT even before your point about staff numbers. Maynooth also impressive given that a lot of its output isn’t accounted for here? (humanities etc).



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