Confessions of an early career scientist

kudos to Erin for this bold and courageous post

Erin C. McKiernan

Confession 1: No, I do not have publications in Cell, Science, or Nature. In fact, I’ve never submitted to any of those journals. And I don’t plan on it. Why? Because they’re not open access and the publishers don’t have a good history of supporting open science. Are there more nuanced reasons? Sure, but plus or minus details, that’s pretty much it. Of course, I realize not having publications in these journals puts me at a competitive disadvantage. Am I worried? Yes, but mostly because it speaks to how incredibly flawed our current system of evaluating scientists really is.  It’s a symptom of a far bigger problem. But I refuse to be part of that problem, even if it costs me.

Confession 2: No, I do not have publications in any high Impact Factor journals. None of my published articles has appeared in a journal with an Impact Factor much above 3…

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One comment

  1. I’m not a fan of the glossies, but I think it is possible to publish there as long as you hold yourself to publishing full papers elsewhere (it’s good even just to get your thoughts straight). The “good specialty journals” are a reasonable place to publish. Not sketchy (under reviewed), but not hype either.

    Not that hard to get through, especially if you are honest and a good writer in English (is this a small Venn diagram intersection with the circle of working scientists? ;)) I’m a fan of datapoint science, of being candid about the limits of experiments. Katzoff (NASA research report pub) and E Bright Wilson classic 1950s book have good advice on this philosophically. Lot of people would be surprised how much easier it is to get things published if just being descriptive, of being frank about the limits of the research.

    My first couple of papers (in decent journals) were accepted without revisions. I had to argue with my advisor to even send them in. He thought they would be rejected outright. And then he said out of 150 papers as an author and 300 as an editor, he’d never seen just “accepted”, with no fixes from the reviewers. Like he didn’t know what his next step was. I’m like…no next step, dude. Just wait for the proofs. But it was nothing stunning like discovering gold. Really, the science was NOT earth shattering.

    Just do basic synthesis and measurements and graph the freaking outcome. And even a little soft, discussion on possible microscopic rationale for the response is OK. But keep it simple and emphasize the more likely things first. More to just make it interesting for the reader and “relevant” or to show things that might be obvious to you, but not to others. And not to pump self up as some super grant-slut.

    Helps to just be honest and blunt and not try to act all fancy and all. That and writing with clear English and even just following the Notice to Authors. Like print it and then check the paper that you have followed every restriction. Just make it easy on everyone, including yourself to read the paper.

    I’m also a fan of LPUs and of publishing everything. Don’t be a slut in terms of saying you did something you didn’t, but DO share everything and in detail. It’s a waste of grant dollars otherwise. Plus, it is helpful for careers, especially if not discovering something stunning…and it drives synthesis of thinking.

    So I do think a paper a year in PLOS is likely underproduction from the young lady. Now, if you are John Nash, fine. But how many scientists really are? Really??? Make some little bricks. Make them sturdy and true and then put them on the wall.


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