Why students should write

Isn't it obvious that graduate advisors should expect their students to publish research papers, and write often? T. Ryan Gregory (now on the blogroll) writes some of the reasons. Here's number 5:

It is a given at this point that having publications is necessary for students to be competitive for future graduate student positions, postdocs, scholarships, fellowships, and eventually jobs. It makes little sense to wait until the end of one stage to publish (e.g., writing up all one's data from one's PhD as a postdoc), and it is far more beneficial to have established at least something of a CV before one starts looking for the next position. Advisors who care about their students' futures will therefore keep the pressure on for them to do high quality work and to put in the effort to publish before they leave the lab.

Well, number 5 is quite enough for me! But all ten are true. These apply mainly to lab sciences, and particularly to molecular biology.

For those who may be just starting graduate school this term, you may recognize that anthropology is different in many ways. For one thing, research projects may take years to get to the point where a single publication is possible. Also, students undertaking field work tend to be (but naturally are not always) more independent of their advisors.

Students in lab sciences who complain about their advisors pressuring them to publish may wish they were in a field where nothing was expected from them for several years! Still, it's ultimately self-direction that leads to success or failure, and mentoring should foster this research independence.

Most of my best papers have been published an average of 18 months after I submitted them. Certainly, it doesn't always take that long, but it's good to get an early start on them. Dissertation work is not enough to get a job any more. You will be well-served to find a publishable project in your first or second year.

For me, Gregory's reason number 8 inspires some thought about research in paleoanthropology and archaeology:

If data are not published, they might as well not exist as far as the pool of human knowledge is concerned.

I can tell you, there are a lot of data out there living in a Schroedinger's-cat-like-limbo. Fossils that are simultaneously in the lab and in the ground.... Still, since we work in a field where original artifacts and specimens cannot be replicated independently, at least other people aren't wasting their time redundantly producing them. Of course, the main effect is that bright and talented students don't study some of the most central evidence. But that's always the effect of scientific rent-seeking, isn't it?