If scientists who produce many publications become very successful and mentor other students to become successful scientists, then shouldn’t Darwinian selection have produced current generations of students with stellar writing and publishing skills? Like a publishing cheetah! No—I know that’s not how evolution works anyway and writing is more of a nature vs. nurture issue anyway.
It’s in my nature to think about the writing and publishing aspect of research as very tangential to scientific discoveries. Publishing is not strictly required to answer our questions experimentally. As I see it, this is why there is such a large “activation energy” for students, like myself, to initiate the writing process. Why should I put my research projects on hold, step away from the microscope, and write about what I already determined experimentally? Shouldn’t I proceed to answering the next question? I still default to this way of thinking despite the importance of publishing for success in obtaining grants and career positions.
Through my training in graduate school, I’ve had to learn to think about the publishing process differently in order to incorporate and nurture the writing process into my research. First, I have to acknowledge the work published by generations of scientists without which I could not have built the hypotheses that I am currently testing. Continuous contribution of studies to a community of researchers allows the field as a whole to advance more quickly. Secondly, I have to think about the peer-review process one of the last checks on my methodologies and conclusions: having a fresh set of eyes look for any confounding variables or assumptions that may have not been addressed in the study. In this way, both the publishing researchers and readers can be more confident in incorporating the results of a study into their models. Lastly, there’s nothing more motivating to publish than being able to use my manuscripts as evidence of research success when applying for opportunities to do more research! Ultimately, I have come to realize that publishing is a very important cog firmly embedded in the research cycle, despite how difficult it seems initially to cease experimentation to write up my results.
In this particularly hot summer, I’ll be nurturing a grant proposal in the comfort of my air-conditioned lab. I’m sure I’ll need some more inspiration and convincing as the deadline approaches—so, how do you stay motivated to write (comment in Facebook)?
About the Author
Katherine Lelito, Ph.D. Student, Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology
Published in: Student Voices