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I hate publishing

  1. Mar 29, 2013 #1
    I hate writing papers! Especially the intro! Writing intros is like selling hair product or knives. I had to buy the product and now I'm stuck selling it, and no one else wants to buy it. I didn't write the proposal. I don't even think the subject is that exciting. But I got the results they want.

    If I had my way, my introduction would go like this. Subject X is important b/c some dude got money to study x, and he's now paying me to study it. Now I have money too. Yay!

    If my colleagues writing this with me manage to give non vague advice, it goes something like "insert x". And then next revision the same person says "why did you insert x? It doesn't belong there?" It's driving me bat guano cuckoo!
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 29, 2013 #2
    You don't need to be excited about something to introduce it and put it into context.
     
  4. Mar 29, 2013 #3

    marcusl

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    Find a job that doesn't involve writing.
     
  5. Mar 29, 2013 #4
    I hated grant applications more than publishing. But now that I've left physics for finance, I must say I miss publishing (I have about 600 pages of LaTeX'ed work that I think is better than any of my physics publications, but none of it will be published).
     
  6. Apr 1, 2013 #5

    cgk

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    OP, you are not the only one who dislikes writing papers. But you have to do it, there is no way around it.
    However, if the act of writing and publishing is a major obstacle to your research (it certainly is for me), there is a way to reduce it: Write few papers, but make sure that the few you write are very very good, that everyone knows them, and that they get massive amounts of citations. You'll feel better about the selling knives issue if you know that what you write is actually true, and the paper *is* an important contribution to your field that everyone should know.
     
  7. Apr 1, 2013 #6

    epenguin

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    What is achieved by research that is not published? It might as well never have been done!

    Edit: You may have been told there are these two elements on which Science is based: experiment and theory. No! - there are three! - and the third is making the first two available to the rest of the community (by various means but at the end of the day formal publication is essential) for critical assessment and eventual use and to build on. The alchemists had the first two, not the third - that was the difference between them and Science. Publication was in a way the essential discovery of the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, Royal Society etc. it was the way scientists could release their work and in some sense remain owners and beneficiaries.

    Oh and if this is your first experience you can expect worse, the first draft is the nicest and easiest part, a dozen revisions especially if there are collaborators, chasing references, conforming to journals' house rules and style requirements and conventions,... And then when it comes back with referees demands...

    Better see the point.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  8. Apr 2, 2013 #7

    cgk

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    Yes. But imo, a very large percentage of published research could just as well never have been done and the only consequence of this would be that there would be less clutter in the journals such that relevant articles were easier to find. Even research whose's only real result is "we shouldn't have done it like this" is published, and other research which could be valuable material in one article, is actually split into 10.

    Presentation is very important. But writing lots of articles is a sure way to arrive at a poor presentation due to missing substance.
     
  9. Apr 2, 2013 #8

    ZapperZ

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    A practicing scientist hating publishing is like a chef hating using a knife.

    Zz.
     
  10. Apr 2, 2013 #9

    f95toli

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    I don't think thats fair.

    It is not the "scientific" part of writing a paper that is the problem, this can be very useful since it forces you to think hard about what you have actually done. And everyone agrees that communicating your results is important.

    The boring bit is going over draft after draft incorporating comments from the other co-athors, Then you have to double-check your references, make sure the formatting of figures agrees with guidelines, sorting out the copyright transfer etc. This can take a VERY long time (my student must have spent over a week doing this for our last paper)
    Also, don't forget dealing with bad referees that haven't actually read the manuscript (or -as was the case in a paper I just publised - are just wrong).

    I don't know of anyone who enjoys this. It is not something you can avoid, but that does not mean that you have to be able to enjoy it.
     
  11. Apr 2, 2013 #10

    ZapperZ

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    I didn't make the analogy of it having to be enjoyable. I made the analogy of it being a necessary tool or process. One may have some chance to avoid it, but that would be extremely detrimental and highly inconvenient.

    Zz.
     
  12. Apr 2, 2013 #11

    arildno

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    Well..ZapperZ.
    Isn't it a better analogy with the chef hating the dish-washing part of his job, rather than using a knife during his actual work?
    :smile:
     
  13. Apr 2, 2013 #12

    ZapperZ

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    Chefs don't do dish-washing.

    Zz.
     
  14. Apr 2, 2013 #13
    A better analogy would be a chef hating to chop vegetables, which definitely can be a boring and tedious part of cooking.
     
  15. Apr 2, 2013 #14

    ZapperZ

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    I was trying to tie the analogy to a "tool" or "methodology". To me, publishing is a means or a tool to establish one's reputation and expertise. Thus, I chose a knife. What that knife is used for is besides the point.

    Zz.
     
  16. Apr 2, 2013 #15

    AlephZero

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    If you have a smart student, they should be figuring out how to do it quicker next time, rather than whining about how long it takes.

    If it really takes somebody a full working week (say 40 hours) to "edit" a 10 page paper, there is something horribly inefficient going on. It might well take a week of elapsed time, but that's not the same thing (unless your student hasn't learned how to multitask yet).
     
  17. Apr 2, 2013 #16

    f95toli

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    He is not whining...I am...I'd prefered it if he'd spent most of that time in the lab.
    But no, I did not mean 40 hours, so perhaps I exaggerated a bit. And it is a 4 page paper.

    However, it did take quite a lot of time. This time it was a bit worse than usual, partly because of some Latex issues (the editor was asking us to re-number the references so that the numbers in the main article and the supplemental information agreed, it is NOT obvious how to do that with Bibtex).
    I also ended up spending a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to handle the updated APS rules for copyright transfer, which involved dealing with our legal team (where I work we retain Crown copyright).

    That said, I don't think spending 40 hours in total edititing a paper would be strange. The paper that is actually published is usually something like version 20 or so, and will include all the comments from all co-authors, referees (3 of them this time) and the editor.
    My guess is that writing the first draft usually only accounts for something like 20-25% of the total time spent writing a manuscript. The most difficult parts of a paper (abstract and introduction) tend to be re-written four or five times.

    Note that this only applies to "proper" papers, I can write a 4-page conference contribution in a day and a half; partly because I then usually have a clear idea of what I want to say (and I can't be bothered to go over every sentence ten times).

    I've also found that writing long papers often takes less time than writing letters, I've written a couple of long (10 pages+) PRB articles and that wasn't too bad.
     
  18. Apr 4, 2013 #17
    Sounds like science may not be for you. You do understand that writing papers *is* the product of a scientist, right? You may as well be a car salesman saying "I hate selling cars!". If you like technical work but hate writing papers maybe applied work or engineering would be better for you. Keep in mind you will still have to write documents to communicate technical information.

    As for the revision merry-go-round that is just human nature. You'll find that in *any* job, as most professional jobs require writing documents as a key job function.
     
  19. Apr 4, 2013 #18

    cgk

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    One would guess that the primary goal of science is the production and communication of valuable knowledge. While writing papers certainly is a way of communicating knowledge (valuable or not), there clearly are other ways of doing that... for example, talking to people.

    Also, there are fields where even the primary outcome or research is not communicated in the form of papers, but by some other means. For example, in my field the primary outcome is computer programs. We still have to write papers (because that's what we are measured by and programs cannot be cited!), but compared to the progams themselves, they only have a minor impact on other researchers. I would guess that 95% of my citations result from people who have never read the papers they are citing (the other 5% are people building other programs). And I doubt that this situation is that rare in science.

    While I agree that writing papers is important in practical terms, I doubt that it is really *the* core qualification of a scientist as you describe, and disliking it is perfectly legitimate.
     
  20. Apr 4, 2013 #19
    Well it sounds like you aren't working in an organization based on the tenure system. If you were you would know what I'm talking about. In virtually all tenure-based organizations if you didn't publish it, it didn't happen.

    Are you serious? That borders on malpractice. You seriously think that people in your field don't actually read the papers they're citing? Really? If you're talking about people using your code in their projects that is engineering reuse, a very good thing, but not science. Otherwise, wow. I'm speechless.

    Of course disliking paper writing is legitimate. I never said publishing is the core qualification of a scientist. It isn't. It is, however, the main way in which scientists are evaluated. Unfairly or not, a scientist is judged by the quality of his or her papers.

    Regarding the OP's flip attitude (particularly regarding funding) I'm hoping it's just hubris because otherwise he or she won't go far.
     
  21. Apr 4, 2013 #20

    Dale

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    You probably should not be looking for a job in research then.
     
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