Publication record

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Publication record

Postby Joel Knopf » Sat Feb 05, 2005 1:41 pm

Hi everyone.

In my previous post (institution reputation?), the responses seemed to lead to the fact that your "Publishing record" is pretty much the most important asset showing on your CV. Now, although I completely agree with this, I am a little fuzzy about the term "publishing record" and how it is assesed.

I believe the factors playing in this record are:
1)Mass - the amount of publications
2)Where you are in the author list - first, second etc.
3)The Journal quality - Nature/science/cell Vs. anything else.

I have just finished a fruitful MSc. and have 3 pulications in mudium journals (JBC, Plant physiology and Planta), out of which I am first author only on one, and second and third on the other two.

How important is each factor? do the articles which I am not first author "not count" in my publishing record?

Generally, should I push for more small publications or would it be better to unite the information which could be published in 2-3 articles in a medium journal, to one article in a good journal?

What is more more important quality or quantity, and does this importance vary between industry and academics?
Joel Knopf
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:30 pm

Publication record

Postby David » Sat Feb 05, 2005 2:13 pm

Hi Joel
What an excellent topic. I am sure it will go on and on for pages and may overload the Science site with the interest it stirs (or it should!)
Anyway, 3 publications from a masters is excellent and puts you in a the very top bracket when moving into a PhD program. Since you are such a neophyte then having publications is great and it doesn't matter if two are junior author positions. If you had reached the end of your PhD in the same position then that would be a mark against you as you should be first author on most of your publications. Being a junior author should not be discounted from your PhD record as it shows an ability to collaborate and you can point out your important role on those publications.

About you questions.
Quality always beats quantity. A Nature beats 5 lower impact papers. However, in my opinon and from my perspective (evolutionary ecology of host-parasite interactions) I think that some Nature/Science/PNAS papers achieved by PhD's are more reflective of the quality of the PI. The PI may have put in a lot of work and the PhD arrived at the crest of the wave. Not to say that this should detract too heavily but I would distingush between those PhD students and the truly great ones that get a Nature paper on something one knows is really independent.
So if you don't have Nature Science etc at the end of your PhD (here i am not talking about you but just in general) should you worry. Well that depends on the topic. Some topics are truly new and a lot of basic works needs to be done before the fruits are realised. So sometimes if the person assessing you is a good biologist then can see the importance of your contribution. Dissapointingly, I think people often scan CVs for the Journal names and don't think along those lines.

After the top journals one goes down to high quality journals in your field. Here one can get publications which will be highly respected. It is when one approaches the very low impact journals that people journals start thinking that maybe you are not cutting the mustard.

As a rejoiner let me state that if a person has a lot of diverse publications but none are in high impact, top ranking journals that that does get respect. I have no top ranking journals on my CV but do have 12 publications 18months after finishing a UK phd (which was three and half years start to finish). Now I am not happy to be without something 'big' and am working to amend it....but I was happy with a reviewers comments on a fellowship application which said I had an "excellent and diverse publication record..but not in top ranking journals". So such things as publishing in slightly different fields to your main research, or commentries can help. But of course a Nature publication would be so much better
There have been a number of interesting letters to the editors in Nature in the last year or so (sorry no time to find the links for you) questioning the focus on impact factors and the general conclusion was that as scientists are spending tax payers money we have a duty to publish excellent work in prominent journals rather than low impact journals which few people read. But in that light how does one consider taxonomical publications which almost invariably get into low/non impact journals.

I am sure I will revisit the excellent topic later but now I have the run.

Well done again on your promising start (what is your next step?)

best wishes



Publication record

Postby Madison » Sat Feb 05, 2005 4:40 pm

I agree - quality beats quantity every time. Don't publish in bad journals - do the extra work to get it into a society-level journal (ie JBC, JCB, EMBO).

Yes, I personally believe that second, third, etc author papers don't count when people are sizing you up by your publication record. People want to see what YOU have directed and been responsible for.

Publication record

Postby Kim » Sat Feb 05, 2005 5:38 pm

I would also add that review, conference and abstract papers do not count. They are either (1) recycle of old materials that have already been published in somewhere else or (2) not good enough to publish.

Recently there have been a movement toward "Open Access" publications, especially in the field of computer science, genomics, bioinformatics... PLoS (Public Library of Science) is an exmaple of Open Access journal for life science. These journals do not charge their readers. They believe that science should be free. And I do not believe that they produce a paper version of their journals. Everything is digital.

While in principle, I believe in their philosophy that science should be free to everyone, I would not want my paper to publish in Open Access journals. They are new and have not established their reputation yet. And I am very skeptical that, for example, PLoS will achieve the same status as Cell, Science, Nature, JBC, JACS, Biochemistry...

What are your opinions about Open Access journals?
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Publication record

Postby Andrew » Sat Feb 05, 2005 6:42 pm

The problem with digital or online journals is what happens if the group hosting the website goes away and the website goes down? One of the purposes of publications is a permanent archive of Science. With print journals, they are in libraries everywhere, not just on one server.
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Publication record

Postby David » Sun Feb 06, 2005 6:30 am

Andrew said "With print journals, they are in libraries everywhere, not just on one server"
In fact that is not the case and it is why PLOS exists. Many institutions cannot afford journal subscriptions becuase of a) the huge number of journals now available and b) the monopolization bu such mega-houses as Elsevier. In fact some large US institutions have cancelled many titles becuase of this.
And of course in the developing world scientists do not have access becuase of the price. So the efforts of the PLOS group are to be applauded. As for quality. Well in a few years we will know when the citation index is known.

One interesting way around the monopoly imposed by large publishing houses is everybody putting their own papers on line as pdf. Google will find them and they are then freely available. Most journals allow you to do this...or at least provide a doi link. The recent Google Scholar engine is particularly good here in that it scans only scholarly publications.

As for one day the PLOS going pear-shaped and the journal no longer being accessible. I am not sure but I think there are some libaries which have copies of PLOS..or they should if PLOS ever wants to publish taxanomical papers since this is a requirement for naming new species. And don't say but who the hell cares about taxonomy papers as Nature publishes species descriptions occassionally.

One other point raised above. Are Reviews worthless? They certainly should be a lower priority then your data papers. But if the review is combined with some form of framework erection then that can be seen as a valuable contribution. But certainly one should not be writing reviews in the PhD or early post doc years.
Certainly, conference abstracts/proceedings are worthless and should not be on your publication list. (Conference attendence should be listed though)

best wishes


Publication record

Postby TF » Sun Feb 06, 2005 9:16 am

I think as a predoc or post doc writing research papers and a review article is quite useful. I mean part of the job of a grad student is not just to be a slave to your boss but to see what it's like to have your own lab, being productive in science. Part of being a PI is not just writing papers. It's also giving oral and poster presentations, getting grants, reviewing manuscripts, and yes, even writing reviews.

I'm not saying that writing reviews should be equal to a good research manuscript, but they have an important place in science. No one can refute that, or else they just wouldn't exist. I think people down playing the review article as just a waste of time are very short sighted. It will show a well-roundedness in one's training, especially as a predoc.

Now if all you have are review articles, that's definitely another issue entirely.
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Publication record

Postby Kevin Foley » Sun Feb 06, 2005 1:18 pm

If you have a chance to publish in PLOS Biology, jump at it! I my mind Open Access will increasingly dominate publishing in biomedical research, and this is probably going to be a Cell/Science/Nature-caliber journal.

There are probably not too many on this board that remember the early days of Cell, but Lewin?s standards were much lower when the journal was trying to become established against powerhouses like JMB (!). If you can figure out what the next hot journal is going to be, it is sometimes worth the risk to go for it over a more traditional journal. These days, a Cell paper is a Cell paper on your CV, whether from volume 1 or 120.

Personally, in my areas of interest (mole/cell biology and genetics), JBC should be the very low end of where you are aiming to publish. As Madison said, quality over quantity always wins out. 1 Cell = 4 first author JBC?s (although the latter may actually be a lot more work). A co-author is probably worth 1/4 of a first author. Reviews about the same. Abstracts are worth zero--I don't know why people keep putting these on their CVs. And no matter what, you need first authors. I?ve known people with 40 co-authors and one or two first author papers. Guess what? They work as research associates and do what someone else tells them to do.

I?m just throwing out numbers here?your mileage may vary. But you get the general idea.

4 first author JBC?s will make it very easy to find a postdoc and are a pretty good entrée for an industry job (we care more about what you know than how cool it is). But unfortunately they are not going to impress the faculty search committees at very many top schools, who mostly care about your getting reliable NIH funding. The cold hard truth is that the person with 4 first author JBC?s may very well be a better scientist than the one with 1 Cell paper, but this is the way the game is played, luck and all. Madison?s post from a couple of weeks ago was a great representation of the kind of attitude it takes to even have a chance to really succeed in academic research. You?ve got to approach it like a military campaign, and even then it?s a tough business. If you don?t think you have what it takes to do that for years on end, or just don?t like the low odds, there are plenty of wonderful alternatives for people who love science (as is often pointed out on this board). You might actually be showing more sense than those that plow ahead despite the poor odds!

Don?t let your PI brainwash you into believing tenure-track at Harvard is the only way to be successful and happy. That may be the only route if all that you care about is what that tiny academic old boys/girls network thinks of you. But there?s a big wide world out there. Would you rather spend your life publishing mildly interesting research that no one will care about in 10 years, develop one drug that saves 1000?s of lives or educate a 1000 children? I?m not denigrating academia, but it?s not the only thing that matters.

Kevin Foley
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm
Location: Boston, Massachusetts USA

Publication record

Postby TF » Mon Feb 07, 2005 10:31 am

For some reason this thread has somehow struck a cord with me. It seems very elitest to me. Something that I see alot in science, and frankly I detest more than anything. I think many people are missing a couple of key points which are just being glossed over.

I think a big issue, one that will have relevence to anyone is being scooped. If you work in a hot field and have an amazing discovery, you need to get it out period. If you wait too long, maybe someone else will get the credit. Publishing in Cell or Science many times requires quite a bit of extra experimental data which frankly (at least in my experience) just back up the main finding. There are definite examples where amazing findings were published in lessor journals.

People on this thread are making it seem like unless you want to work at an Ivy you should just give up. That's the general tone I am receiving. In case everyone has been under a rock for the last few years, faculty positions at any research university are hard to come by, period. Regardless of Ivy-league or not. Not getting into a Top 5 or 10 school does not sentence you to a life of no grants and shoddy science. I've seen to many examples to prove this point to me. So really, if you can do the science you want and get funded, why exactly does it matter where you are working? I think it boils down to name recognition and academic snobbery. Just like why many people will drive a BMW over a VW for instance.

Then of course there are plenty of people who just don't want to be part of the academic machine.

There are so many possibilities and permutations of what it mean to be a "successful scientist" than publishing in Science vs JBC. I think many people just plain lose sight of that.

I feel better now.
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Publication record

Postby Doug » Mon Feb 07, 2005 2:50 pm

Here here, TF! Life is more than just how many Nature papers you have (especially if you have none). You mentioned getting scooped, though, an important issue. Isn't it true (correct me if I'm wrong, someone) that the top journals (Nature, Science, Cell, PNAS) have much shorter turnaround times, which is why many try to get into those journals instead of the lower-ranked ones?

I'm not entirely sure I agree with the poster who said to not write review articles, since the Annual Reviews series often have very high impact factors (higher than Cell, even). My impression (and again, comments are welcome) is that if a young PI writes an Annual Reviews article in their area of research, and if that area is fairly hot, it can help get their name out there to a pretty wide audience.



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