23 August 2015

You published a paper! What happened next?

Caitlin Vander Weele asked on Twitter:

Is a CNS (Cell, Nature, or Science - ZF) paper in PhD that beneficial long-term? Other than securing (post-doc)?

What this question speaks to is the typical way of evaluating research by number of papers and where they are published. Increasingly, I think this is the wrong way to tackle the question.

I would like to see a lot more emphasis placed on the aftermath of publication. Publishing papers is great, but did other people find it useful? Did people talk about it? Did it make a dent in the field?

This may hard to show in the short term, but the question is specifically about the long-term benefits of a paper in Cell or Nature or Science. If you’re lucky enough to be given that prominent a platform, and you can’t show that things changed because of your paper, the paper will give you little benefit, career wise.

But there are obviously papers that light a fire under other people, who get to work expanding the results, using them, or drive people to try to prove you wrong. In the long term, that should be the benefit of publishing in those high profile venues, and that should be the thing that you are looking to demonstrate to hiring committees.

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