To be a researcher, publishing is really important for PhD students

Go to the profile of Hongsheng WANG
Oct 15, 2019
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From my experience and perspective, publishing papers is very significant for doctoral students and young researchers, and maybe it is the only way to exhibit their creativity and capability to their potential employer and other fellows, unless they have known them before.

When I was a doctoral student, I came up with a novel idea, which can separate products efficiently in a chemical reaction, and it could also contribute to decreasing the reaction temperature. This proposal has been experimentally verified by my research, and it could be utilized in lots of reactions, such as water splitting, methane reforming, etc. I thought I could publish a few papers with this innovative work and find a good faculty job, however, it was withheld by my supervisor as he wanted to perfect the experiment and published it in the top journal. I accept and respect his plan, and I just graduated with only one SCI journal paper. The most important scientific results in my doctoral period have not been published until now, though it has been about five years since it was first proposed under the guidance of my supervisor.

When I looked for a job, I found it was quite difficult for me to find a suitable faculty job. About hundreds of emails for inquiry about a postdoc position have been sent, but none of them has been replied. At last, I returned to my undergraduate alma mater, and the professors there recognized my abilities as I graduated from there with professional first grade, so I am fortunate to get a postdoctoral job. While, if I could publish all of the results in my doctoral period, I believe it would be much easier for me to find a suitable employment.

Now that I have received a Ph.D. for two years, the number of journal papers of mine is not much compared to my peers. I feel very anxious and stressed. First of all, it is difficult for me to compete with others who have more papers than me in various fund applications. Secondly, there are requirements for the number of papers in the evaluation of professional titles and tenure. I must try to write as much as possible for the opportunity to participate in the evaluation. In the end, even in academic activities such as applying for scholarly exchanges, everyone will refer to the quantity and quality of the journal papers. The people with fewer papers will have fewer opportunities. This has formed the Matthew effect, and the strong are always strong.

In fact, I agree and respect the rules in the academic field, because there are no additional quantifiable indicators to evaluate a scholar's research ability, besides the quantity and quality (impact factor) of papers. Even the experimental skills of a scholar can also be reflected in the papers published. If the supervisor is a celebrated scholar in the academic field, perhaps they can also get the favor of the employer through the recommendation letter, but this kind of opportunity is rare. More often, most of the Ph.D. students could obtain their recommendation letters, and the contents of them seem to be similar, so it does not lead to obvious advantages. For employers, the number and quality of papers are the most intuitive and convenient indicator of the ability of young scholars. This approach also saves on recruitment costs and recruitment time, although it may not be scientific and perfect.

For young people, it seems that they can only work hard to publish high-level papers, improve the quantity and quality of papers, and make them have a certain reputation in the academic circle. Only in this way can they win more resources for themselves and make themselves better in the future. At the same time, I also hope that the famous researchers, especially the doctoral tutors, can consider the development of young people, try to help and promote young people with development potential, and can guide, encourage and support young people to publish academic achievements. By this way, more people are coming to the fore, and more young people are willing to join in the research, which would form a virtuous circle for scientific research.

Go to the profile of Hongsheng WANG

Hongsheng WANG

Postdoctoral Fellow, Wuhan University

I major in Engineering Science, especially in solar thermochemistry and methane conversion.

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