You know what it means. In academia, achieving tenure, promotions, and obtaining research funding puts a lot of pressure on faculty to publish frequently. Numerous publications are seen as a demonstration that one has made a significant impact on the field.
When I was an assistant professor, my colleagues I and were never able to agree on a definition of ‘frequent,” but we were relatively successful in determining what the “least publishable unit” was. That was the fewest research results that could be described and discussed in six or seven published pages and still getting through peer review unscathed.
Frequent publication is also a way to improve “visibility,” a relatively subjective attribute, that helps advancement in academia (and most other professions). By the way, most of us were published, funded, and visible. One of us did get tenure, but none of us would own up to making “a significant impact.”
I’d ask you to broaden your view beyond the one above. If you are looking into careers other than academia and basic research, then take a more expansive view of publication. First of all, good research simply deserves to be published. Second, other than presentations at congresses, publication is about the only way that others can find out what your research is all about. That goes in any profession where research is a primary activity, and where publication generally has an impact for those colleagues not actually “sitting at the bench.”
Here’s another good reason to publish all study results. The protocols and results of any research conducted in humans must be described on an Internet site that is accessible to the public. Most often, it’s www.clinicaltrials.gov. The catch? There is no provision to interpret the results posted there, but there is a possibility to include a link to a publication reporting on the study, the reasons for doing it, what was already known, and what the results have added. Visibility isn’t just for the researcher, it’s maybe even more important for the research itself and communication of its significance for those it can potentially influence.
Want another indicator of the broader importance of publication? It’s the increasing interest in open access articles and journals where your research can “speak for itself” to others who are interested in addition to those with access to libraries or with paid subscriptions. You can then also “push” people to your publications from any of your blogs or science-related social networks. Your research then becomes as visible as you are and part of your external professional profile.
So how are you doing? Check yourself or anyone else out with “Publish or Perish,” a free app that surfs the Internet to find scholarly publications and attempts to analyze their impact. Here’s the link – http://www.harzing.com/pop.htm. You might be surprised, even pleased at what you find.
Cheers for now.
Clement Weinberger, PhD
The Stylus Medical Communications