Got your PhD recently? Then you should be publishing your findings ASAP if you haven’t already. There are of course some natural hiccups that early career researchers face in the high-pressure academic publication environment. How you handle these challenges can decide your future research career. Here are a few practical solutions to survive as the fittest in the scientific publishing market.
- Why publish? Publishing is indeed pivotal to establishing a career in scientific research. Those who use your publications, and cite them independently in their own publications, may determine the trajectory of your career. The competitiveness of who has published more papers, whose paper is highly cited, and whom is popular in the scientific industry is currently identified by several social websites/identifiers such as ORCID, Scopus Author ID, Google Scholar, Researcher ID, ResearchGate, Academia, etc. Those who publish more and in top journals do indeed have better job outcomes.
- When to publish: Some universities encourage you to publish in a peer-reviewed journal before submitting the thesis, which makes life easier in the job market rather than to publish later after getting a PhD degree. I agree with universities that encourage students to publish before submitting their actual thesis. Though it sounds like enormous pressure for PhD students, having one or two publications already on your CV is important for the job hunt.
- Journal dilemma: Unfortunately, the “impact factor” monster rules academia now. Journals with a ‘high impact factor’ play a vital part in a scientist’s career path, particularly in the university system. However, a high impact journal doesn’t automatically equate to a scientifically sound publication, and conversely, great scientific literature can be found in any journal. Choosing journals wisely to reach a wider audience should be the goal, and not the journal names. No matter if it is a high or low impact journal, if it has free access or if your university or institution can pay for an open access, then submit your paper without delay. This is especially true for the huge scientific workforce that does not have access to literature from big publication houses; if your work could have implications for companies unlikely to have academic library access, open access journals are a fantastic choice.
- “Game of Review Process”: The anonymous peer-review process is currently the only method to apply quality assurance to scientific publications. Do not be discouraged by the stringent review process, because if peer-review feedback is offered constructively, it will generally improve your work. A recent blog post on 8 rejected scientific papers that eventually won a Nobel Prize puts this into perspective.
- After publishing: Once you secure a job, the publication process should continue, as it will be the key to success in winning grants. The more grants you win, the better opportunities you will likely find in the research market. Moreover, it is always important to maintain a healthy relationship with your previous labs/organizations/mentors, especially if any of your initiated project(s) were taken over by your colleagues to continue to ensure knowledge sharing and research updates.
- Grab grants with a quality CV: As you hunt for grants, you need to upgrade your CV to the standard in current science to garner respect in the scientific community. This can be done by producing quality papers and not focusing on only the quantity of publications.
- Effective grant use: Prioritizing quality over quantity will instill in researchers the skills to most efficiently use their scientific research funds, which is crucial given the reduction of grant opportunities in today’s scientific endeavor.
- Accept the facts: In the present scientific scenario, there is no way other than publishing to survive the ordeal of getting and maintaining tenure, building a credible CV, achieving recognition or even notoriety with experience. You must stay on the roller coaster ride of a career in academia by improving critical thinking and collaborating with well-established researchers.
- Excuse yourself for some downtime: During this great ordeal of PhD/any research that includes data collection, field trips, literature review, data analysis, writing, publication, supervising others, funds, family, food, health and mind, don’t forget to take frequent breaks to do what you like and just relish in some downtime. A rested mind will result in better work.
- Enjoy the moment: No matter whether it is your PhD submission along with published papers, or any other paper publication, it will bring a feeling of ecstasy—this is inevitable.
These thoughts from my personal experience are intended to provide some encouragement to quickly publish quality papers, and to encourage you to use your time and grants in an effective way.
Featured image: The current academic publishing system, by Nikolaus Kriegeskorte. Originally appeared in Kriegeskorte N (2012) Open evaluation: a vision for entirely transparent post-publication peer review and rating for science. Front. Comput. Neurosci. 6:79. doi:10.3389/fncom.2012.00079. Available under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Ioannidis JPA (2014). How to Make More Published Research True. PLoS Med 11(10): e1001747.doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001747
Art Jahnke, BU Today. Who picks up the tab for science? http://www.bu.edu/research/articles/funding-for-scientific-research/
MacDonald (19 August 2016). 8 scientific papers that were rejected before going on to win a Nobel Prize., Science Alert. http://www.sciencealert.com/these-8-papers-were-rejected-before-going-on-to-win-the-nobel-prize
Reich, Science Publishing: the golden club, Nature News, October 10, 2013. http://www.nature.com/news/science-publishing-the-golden-club-1.13951
van Dijk, D., Manor, O., & Carey, L. B. (2014). Publication metrics and success on the academic job market. Current Biology. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.04.039
Web of Science, Thompson Reuters Impact Factor, originally published in print 1994. http://wokinfo.com/essays/impact-factor/