Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Publish or perish

In science, they have a saying, "Publish or perish". Basically, you need to publish papers on your research regularly, otherwise no one will think you're worth anything, your career will die a horrible death, and hungry lions will eat you alive. The number of first (or last) author publications you have can factor into everything, from grant applications, to post-doc positions, to job applications, even to internal reviews. A lot of people dislike the emphasis placed on this cold tangible because it is usually at the expense of important intangibles like personality (crap, what do you do when you don't have either?). A person might be productive on paper, but does he or she know how to connect with people, form meaningful collaborations, or motivate others? But despite a growing disillusionment with the publication measuring stick, it is still the status quo, and as I find myself farther along in my PhD, it is becoming more and more relevant to me.

About two years ago, I started writing a paper about my research. Last August, I finally submitted it. One revision, one reformatting, one data uploading, multiple website debuggings, and one hefty payment (not by me, fortunately) later, it is now published, with the caveat that this is just the "provisional" PDF and they haven't formatted it for print or HTML yet. If you want to read something esoteric and boring, though, have at it! Most importantly, after three and a half years doing who knows what, I can finally add something to my resume.

Speaking of papers, I'm also in the midst of the writing process for two other papers, one that's a review of the method I use, and one that's totally unrelated to anything else I'm doing. The review paper should be ready for submission by the end of the month, hopefully, but I have no idea about the other paper. It involves experimental work in which I was in no way involved, and needs a LOT of revision that I can't do, because of said uninvolvement. Plus, while the guy who did the experiments slaved away over the wet bench and the draft of the paper, the rest of us pretty much ignored him. Now, 6 months later, we have all these questions, concerns, and criticisms. Awkward. Paper writing is definitely not easy, even when you don't have to do any actual "work" for it (work being computation, or experiments, or analysis) and are only doing the writing, especially with multiple authors having an equal stake in it. I guess this is all part of the PhD.

Buuuut, let's assume everything gets resolved - that would mean potentially 3 papers published in one year! Not bad, not bad at all. Nobel prize, here I come!

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