Data from this study provides MLS academics with benchmarks for the research track record required at each level of appointment. A predictive model as shown below explained more than 50% of variation in level of appointment. Academics wishing to calculate their own expected level of appointment based on research track record can use the following predictive equation.
Academic level (where associate lecturer = 0 to professor = 4) = 0.381 + (-0.288 * works at a regional university [yes = 1, no = 0]) + (0.572 * cubic root of number of publications)
Interestingly, working at a regional university negatively impacted on the level of appointment relative to research track record. This contrasts with the field of occupational therapy, where working in a regional university tended to elevate the level of appointment . The impact of regional status on MLS academics is contrary to typical principles of providing regional incentives for employment. This is worth further exploration by the profession, as the current treatment of regional academics may be inequitable. When the influence of regional employment was removed from the linear regression model, the equation suggests that the number of publications expected for each academic level would be; Associate Lecturer 0 papers, Lecturer 0 to 9, Senior Lecturer 9 to 55, Associate Professor 55 to 167, and Professor 167 and over.
The benchmarks and predictive algorithm in this study were different to that of similar samples of Australian occupational therapy and dietetic academics [4,5]. At the lecturer level, the median number of publications for MLS academics (10) was higher than occupational therapy (2) and dietetic (6) academics, while at the professorial level the median number of publications for MLS academics (82) was between occupational therapy (69) and dietetic (96) academics. Similar to the dietetics profession, the MLS predictive algorithm included number of publications, but no reference to reach (e.g., citations or h-index), which suggests that publication quantity is currently key to academic advancement. In contrast to occupational therapy, MLS academics working at a regional university had a negative rather than positive effect on level of appointment. Possible reasons for this variation may be due to greater access to research funding in MLS compared with allied health fields, or less emphasis on clinical backgrounds or practical experience and more emphasis on research background. There is a need to focus future research on investigating whether this variance is justified. Further research into these differences could also consider funding sources and amounts, as well as the diversity of collaborators and composition of research teams.
Holding a doctorate denotes a level of recognition or credibility for research in a specific field. Like other disciplines [4,5], holding a PhD in this sample was an important milestone for establishing a research track record, confirming the use of a doctorate in benchmarking employment in a teaching and research academic position above associate lecturer. Interestingly, higher education qualifications in Australia are subject to stringent regulatory standards that require teaching academics to hold higher degree qualifications. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), the national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training contains the Higher Education Standards Framework 2015  which includes the requirement that the learning outcomes of all higher education qualifications must be consistent with the level of the program. The standards specify that “academic teaching staff must be qualified to at least one level of qualification (AQF level or equivalent) higher than the course of study being taught, or have equivalent relevant academic or professional or practice-based experience and expertise” . This means that to fulfil the AQF+1 rule an academic teaching in a MLS bachelor’s degree must hold a qualification above bachelor’s degree such as a Masters or PhD. So not only is holding a higher degree by research (Masters or PhD) relevant for research success but is also required to meet teaching standards in Australia.
Diversity in MLS research is lacking. Large gaps still remain in knowledge and in practice of science fields, and racial/ethnic and indigenous minorities continue to have higher rates in diseases, disabilities and premature deaths than non-minorities . In contrast, molecular biology research has undergone explosive growth in publications and elevated citation frequency in the past decade . Editorial preference in major biomedical science journals have moved away from basic science research in preference for clinical epidemiology, clinical trials and more recently the emphasis on quality of care, medical education, health systems, and ethics . This appeared to be true for academic research in MLS with molecular biology ranked the highest major research interest at 17.7% followed closely by microbiology (11.3%), education (8.9%) and cancer (8.9%) rounding out the top research interests for MLS academics. Institution was a determining factor for h-index with higher scores achieved at metropolitan institutes predominantly by male academics with a research interest in molecular biology. Researching popular fields may result in elevated citation rates and h-index, with more papers in the field offering potential citations. While education ranked in the top research interests for MLS academics the mean h-index of these academics was low at 3 (range 0-10), compared to research interest in molecular biology with a mean h-index at 15 (range 3-25) and endocrinology with a mean h-index at 26 (range 17-48). As citations contribute directly to a journals impact factor, this may reflect editorial preference for clinical, translational or molecular research over basic science or education related research . As was observed in a US study that the top 10% of CLS academics produced almost 50% of the scholarly activities  in Australia 20% of MLS academics produce approximately 50% of the total publications.
Individual academics and university departments are evaluated and ranked according to research activity and performance. An accurate and reliable system of assessment and ranking, that is equitable to variances between disciplines is needed . University-wide expectations of research performance are often applied to promotion without considering intricacies and variances between disciplines. For example, for academics publishing high quality research of value to society in less populous fields (e.g., medical education), it may be prudent to accept lower citation rates when judging against benchmarks. Given the variance in research productivity of MLS academics compared with other allied health academics (occupational therapy and dietetics), an understanding of benchmarks for each discipline is warranted.
While the h-index does not account for first author and has minor flaws, the h-index is accepted as a measure of both quality and quantity in research publications and has been used previously to evaluate academic departments . Review articles can have significant citation impact and may be increasingly preferred by journals as they attempt to increase their impact factor . Original research articles, in comparison to review articles, may be a better reflection of the scientific performance of an individual, however they are generally cited less frequently thus negatively influencing an individual’s citation profile . Further investigation of the type of research publications would provide insight into the depth and diversity of research published in the MLS field. The authors are mindful that Scopus does not account for career break or change in career, further exploration of career journey would provide a better understanding of the influences on personal research productivity.