The mantra ‘publish or perish’ is drilled into every early-career scientist — and for good reason, a computer model suggests. The most important predictor of success for a young biomedical scientist is the number of first-author papers published in journals with high impact factors early in a researcher’s career, according to the formula.

The model, created by computer scientist Lucas Carey, at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, and his collaborators, also found that, even correcting for publication records, working at a highly ranked university — and being male — are predictors of academic success.

The results appear today in Current Biology, and the team has built a website, pipredictor.com, which tells early-career scientists whether their publication records are ahead of the norm.