"Publish or Perish" but where?
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
A recurring topic that comes up in our podcast episodes is the importance of publications. There is nothing surprising about it as we are all familiar with the motto “publish or perish” that is very common in the academic world. Publications are very important and enable us to show that work that we are doing, but also establishing our professional reputation. Academic institutions are ranked according to the amount and prestigious of the publication of their researchers and the amount of citations that such articles receive by others.
There are few main types of publications – journals, blogs, media op-eds and books. In this short piece we will cover the pros and cons for each type, with the purpose to help early career researchers (ECRs) have a better understanding of how to approach the question of where and when to publish, and make their choice accordingly.
Journals are the classic academic way to publish, and they serve as the best meter for many institutions and faculties on the academic level of their research staff. There are many types of journals – some are more general and some are more field specific. While Journal A might be more general than Journal B, but Journal B might be have better prestige within the author’s specific field. In such case Journal B can better suit your purposes because other researchers in your field will look for more relevant articles in Journal B than in Journal A.
So the first tip is to learn where is it best for YOU to publish. One way is to look where have your PIs/supervisors/colleagues published before, and of course consult with your relevant colleagues.
Journals are often ranked themselves and there are “classes” of journals (such as A/B/C) that effect the prestige of the published articles, which can be important if you are trying to get an academic position. High ranked journals are often more read than low ranked journals.
Journal publication might also be a technical requirement to get your PhD approved. Naturally you will prefer to publish in the highest ranked journals, and ensure that your PhD receives proper acknowledgement. However, as we will soon explain, that might cause delays which will only postpone the approval of the PhD.
The process of publishing in an article can be long and frustrating. It takes time from the point of submission and until receiving an answer – positive or negative from the editors of the journal. Moreover, even in the positive option, that the article is accepted for publication there is still a long process of remarks and editing notes. The purpose of such notes is very positive - to improve the article towards publication. However, it usually means that from the point in time that you have finished writing your article to the time it actually gets published, it can be months and months apart. Therefore, if your article is time-relevant to certain developments, publishing in an article might not be your best option.
Blogs are kind of a solution to the speed problem of the journals. They are more immediate and help you get your name out there. Blog posts are shorter than journal articles and they are often focused on recent developments or discoveries in the field. Most blogs also have the option of comments (or talkbacks), which can create a more direct feedback and even lead to strong interaction with your readers.
But where should you publish? A professional blog in your field or should you create your own personal blog?
Professional blogs receive more exposure. They usually have a similar editing process of an article (just faster). We also see blog posts getting more citations in articles, so they are getting more prestigious in that sense. If you publish on a professional blog, you will have more readers, and you will be able to make sure that (almost) everyone in your field will know what you are working on, and get familiar with your name. Some professional blogs even offer the option of a blog symposium, where several experts write and reply to each other, thus creating a very interesting high-level discussion which is available to the entire community, and for further responds and writing.
A professional blog publication is subject to the approval of the blog editors. It means that your submission will be reviewed and edited in a similar process to a journal review and you might receive comments and feedback that will help you improve it prior to publications. On the other hand, it means that not every post you will submit will get published, and some might get rejected.
A personal blog is helpful if you aim to build your own brand on your name. It provides you the freedom to write on whatever you want and whenever you want without any additional approval. However, it also received lower exposure rate (at least at the beginning).
Therefore, our tip is to publish in professional blogs. Even if you have a personal blog, make sure to publish in professional ones occasionally. In fact, if you have a personal blog a good idea would be to combine your publications on both platforms. For example, you can start your writing in the professional blog and have a link to the second part of it leading the readers to your own blog.
Unlike most journal articles, blog posts are short and more to the point and usually are focused on one idea/concept. So if you want to write a blog post for a professional blog, check their style, length etc. Do not be afraid to approach professional blogs. Their screening process is not as strict as journals because they don't have page limits, and the editors often are very welcome and willing to include young voices in their platform.
On our podcast most of our guests chose professional blogs over personal ones and they recommended to other ECRs to do the same in order to "anchor" their ideas and expertise out there.
Popular media op-eds are a great way to communicate your ideas to the general population. This is a science communication (SciComm) tool. Op-eds allow you to improve your brand and your reputation as an expert in your field. Op-eds also allow you to better convey your message to policy maker, stakeholders and the general public, and make you more approachable to people who are interested in your field.
When writing an op-ed you must make sure to keep it short, simple and to the point. Using good examples or analogy in your op ed writing is a recommended tool to easily convey your message. Much like in blogs, do your homework and check the style and length of other op-eds approved by the website or newspaper you are going to approach.
Op-eds is a tool that many academics do not use often enough. Do not be afraid of it. It's a powerful tool. However, remember, that in this day and age, a lot of your readers will have an opinion on what you will write (regardless of their understanding of that field). Do not be discourage by comments and talk-backs, and remember that online traffic is not a bad thing.
Books are probably the most prestigious academic type of publication, but at the same time, the least accessible one. Books are not the first option for publication, but they are still very important and useful.
In one of our first podcast episodes, Prof. Yaniv Roznai talked about the importance of books and said that he believes that in today's competitive job market in the academia, good articles published in high ranked journals are simply not enough. In order to make yourself stand out, you should show that you have at least a book contract. Naturally it is not always easy to be in that stage when you apply, but if you can and it is relevant to your field, it is worth the effort.
So what should you do? Where should you publish?
We recommend you to combine all options. Books are not easy and perhaps the book contract can wait, but building your reputation through journals, professional blogs and op-eds will make it easier for you to get that book contract, because when you approach a publishing house and submit a proposal, and they will google you up, and if they can easily find you on blogs and through op-eds, it will help (even a little) to convince them towards approving your proposal.
What do you think of publications? Do you prefer journals over blogs? Do you agree that a Professional blog is better than a personal blog? Contact us through our twitter account @What2DoWithTHAT.