“Publish or Perish” is a mantra which will be familiar to many of those working in academia. The pressure to publish your research in order to advance an academic career can be intense. PhD students and early career researchers in particular often find that their career prospects seem to go hand in hand with their publication record. I have heard several colleagues lament, after an unsuccessful interview, that the successful candidate had several first author papers. In the current climate, where funding for research is harder to come by, the competition for research posts is increasing, and having a good publication or two under your belt can be a considerable advantage.
The ultimate aim for a researcher in any field is to publish their research – to have it put out there in the public domain, to share their findings with the rest of the scientific community and to receive well deserved recognition for their research. The format of publication may take a variety of formats, for example journal articles, a book chapter, short news articles, reviews or letters. In Science, my own field, publishing of novel research is most typically in the form of a research paper in a scientific journal. These papers can be the result of many years of work, carried out by a great number of people. Due to an emphasis on collaboration, which is often encouraged by calls for grants involving groups of researchers all over the world to work together on the same project, the resulting research article can be a product of the work of many individuals. Therefore, rather than single or dual authored papers it is common to have several tens of contributing authors on a research article, and this number can grow to hundreds for large consortia, for example the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium which published the sequence of the human genome in 2001. Continue Reading »