Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lessons from the Buff

Last Thursday, I had a really busy day but I had to squeeze in a talk into my schedule because we were asked by our mentor to attend the talk that discussed how to get your work published. I attended because of three reasons, I was asked, I really wanted to know what else I needed to know to get published and lastly, this was a talk by the youngest full professor, university fellow and on top of all that, someone who reminded me of Marc Nelson because of his physique and his accent. This was the second time that I was going to hear him talk. The last time was during an orientation, I was the emcee and he was the speaker.

Anyway, I did not swoon the entire time (surprisingly) but rather I found myself taking down notes because I thought it was a talk that I really needed to hear. Here are the points that I took note of.

According to him, there are many reasons why you should want to get published:

  • Publish because this is a basic element in an academic or scientific career

  • Knowledge is meaningless unless shared

  • Scientific progress is incremental in nature

He also mentioned that conferences (what I have always gunned for) publish (and he said this was a very loose definition too of publish *eep!*) papers with pretty raw results. Journals on the other hand are peer-reviewed, updated and state of the art. (Though in my head I was arguing how this can be updated if it takes so long for a journal to get published, turnaround time normally is one year and this is almost best case)

He also mentioned that there are different metrics: number of papers published and number of papers that cited your work. Scopus should be able to tell you these things. He mentioned that your productivity is average if your number of articles in Scopus is more or less your age in years. He has 52 and well... I do not think he is beyond 40 so hmm.... This also told me that I am lagging far, far behind. *darn!*

He said that there are a lot of myths in publishing in journals:

  • Publishing in journals is expensive

  • This was funny because it IS expensive but he said it is well worth it.

  • Publishing in journals is difficult

  • Actually it also IS. But he said it is not impossible.

  • Publishing does not have immediate benefit.

  • Actually it also DOES NOT. But in the future, whatever we publish may be useful. He mentioned how lasers were invented in the 50's and back then it was nothing but basic research but now it is used EVERYWHERE!

  • My English is poor

  • Okay...

Of course for me to write something I need to have a good material that should be:

  • Well-conceived

  • Well-executed

  • Well-documented

A journal can be an extension of a conference paper or it could also be a major component of a PhD thesis. He said that if we are going to become serious researchers, we need to really invest time in reading journal articles regularly. He says he reads 10 (TEN!!!) articles form journals every weekend (How does he find time to go to the gym?!) so that he can use these articles for benchmarking purposes and to keep himself abreast in the technology.

He also said that we should know the people, their techniques, their findings and the gaps in the current knowledge. Most importantly he said, know how your work fits into the picture!

There are different types of journal papers it could be a full paper 5-25 pages long or review of related literature that are 15-100 pages ong or it could be as short as 2-15 pages. He said the Nash Equilibrium of John Nash (from the movie A Beautiful Mind) that won a Noble Prize is just one page short!

He also gave us criteria on how to choose a journal:

  • Has the journal published works similar to yours in the past 2-3 years?

  • Does the journal's name appear often in your reference list?

  • Does the journal description scope match your work?

  • Does the journal have a track record of timely review? (Find out via hearsay)

He went on to explain the review process and the documents that must be submitted to journals like a cover letter and the actual manuscript. He also said we should suggest people who should review our journals.

He said when you receive the reviews:

  • Take comments liek a pro.

  • Revise as they suggest

  • Revise along similar lines as their suggestions

He also mentioned keys to success:

  • Invest time in research

  • Recognize the value of novelty

  • Integrate publishing in your research cycle

  • Develop productive collaborations

  • Specialize but do not overspecialize

Finally, he said that we should make research idea-driven rather than activity-driven.

My take away from this session? You can look good and publish too! *wahahah!!!* No, seriously, this inspired me. I do not know about the journal part because I do not think I have the materials yet but at least it got me off my butt. :) I am now in the process of writing conference articles again after a loohong time. :)

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