Barriers to publication = barriers to getting hired.
I commented on this post over at Drugmonkey regarding the Research Plan part of job applications.
I can understand why, in a job application, you should have publications to demonstrate your experience, contributions, etc.
However, the most interesting part of this post to me was the mention that if your future research plans are not already supported by PUBLICATIONS, no one will look at you seriously.
I find this kind of bizarre for two major reasons, so I figured hey, that's why I have a blog. To continue to ask WHY?????
1. The Research Plan is supposed to be sort of like your first grant application.
- Rationale: In an actual grant application, you get to show preliminary data, much of which is not published.
- Results: True or false? I think this is true, but only for first-time applications. For renewals, yes, your "progress and preliminary results" should be (almost all) published already.
- Possible pitfalls: Does it make sense, then, to require that all the preliminary data for a job application be published? Isn't this more of the same hypocrazy we see throughout science? The complete lack of consistency and transparency?
2. As Comrade PhysioProf wrote (and I'm paraphrasing here), if you can't publish as a postdoc, you can't publish as a PI.This is false logic.
So this got me thinking, maybe I need to spell out why it's so much harder to publish as a postdoc.
1. Sucky reviews.There are lots of variables that go into this issue. Which journal you choose is a major one.
I think a lot of us can agree that the quality of reviews depends somewhat on the journal, and you can be ridiculously demanding if the paper was submitted to a Top Tier Journal.
Therefore, some people will tell you that the quality of the reviews goes DOWN as the reputation of the journal goes UP.
Addressing sucky reviews? You've got two choices. a) Do the ridiculous things they ask or b) go somewhere else. If you're lucky and you have an argumentative PI, you might argue your way out of some of the ridiculous things, but nobody can argue their way out of all of them.
2. The insistence on Top Tier papers to get a jobIf we think that #1 is worse for top tier journals, and there's more pressure to publish in a top tier journal as a postdoc, then you're setting yourself up for a world of hurt.
I know plenty of PIs who NEVER AGAIN published in a top tier journal after they got hired as faculty, and yet they continue to receive RO1s.
So the top tier publication rule is really more important, I think (?), for getting a job than for getting funding. Publishing early and often is more important for funding.
Publishing early and often in anything other than a top-tier journal? Is much, much easier.
3. Your PI is the corresponding author, not you.Yeah, you know, and I know it. This person is supposed to be your biggest help, but not always. And they're often my biggest hurdle.
My PI is busy. Is traveling. Is sexist. Is procrastinating. Expects me to be a mind-reader. Is not all that invested in seeing my succeed. Might actually prefer not to have me as a future competitor (!).
And so on and so forth.
Will you EVER have someone like this standing in your way again, once you are a faculty member?
Not really, not for publishing, not this directly.
So I can't really see how dealing with a PI as a postdoc really translates directly into your future publication prospects.
4. Your competitors (aka our corrupt anonymous "peer review" system).Okay, so this will be a problem again and always, so long as we have this "system."
It isn't any better as a postdoc than as a PI, but it might actually be worse.
Case in point: I know for a fact that there are lots of people who hate, and/or compete with, my PI.
Most of these people don't know who I am, and they don't care.
Whose name do you think draws more fire when we submit a paper together?
Will I have this problem later, when I'm no longer directly associated with this PI? Probably not. At least, not for a while (until I've built up my own well-earned hatred).
So, kids, what did we learn today? That getting a job depends on illogical bullshit spouted by review committees?
Oh wait, we knew that already.