Development of research excellence: Insights from modes of work of high-achieving early-career researchers

Keywords: early-career researchers, research output, creative ideation, performance-based research-funding, research management


When early-career researchers show promise to become the next generation of leading researchers, it is in the best interest of their employers to nurture their careers. This objective requires adequate understanding and support, at both institutional and policy level, of the modes of work of these early-career achievers. Our in-depth, qualitative investigation constructs a rich account of the creative ideation, writing and communication strategies of several high-performing early-career researchers. These researchers, who have already produced a high volume of quality research, are shown to employ modes of work that maintain this output, sometimes in spite of, and not because of, performance-based research-funding incentives and other managerial tools aimed at encouraging quality research output. Our interpretation of these results against the background of relevant empirical and theoretical literature leads us to present findings that we anticipate would be of significant interest to other early-career researchers, as well as to research managers and policymakers.

Author Biographies

C.H. Albertyn, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and STI Policy, Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology,
H. Prozesky, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and STI Policy, Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology,


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How to Cite
Albertyn, C.H., and H. Prozesky. 2021. “Development of Research Excellence: Insights from Modes of Work of High-Achieving Early-Career Researchers”. South African Journal of Higher Education 35 (2), 4-20.
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