Publishing

I recently submitted a paper to a conference. It’ll be about a month and half before the reviews are in, and another couple of weeks after that until I get the final decision. Of course it’ll feel like 4 months. However, the waiting period for conferences is actually quite short in comparison to journals, where reviews may take 4+ months, and a final decision even longer. From submission to publication in a journal can take upwards of a year. The entire process for a conference usually takes about 4-5 months.

It seems to be that the longer it takes from review to acceptance at a conference somewhat corresponds to how prestigious the conference. The more prestigious, the more submissions, therefore it takes longer to get them all reviewed and final decisions made.

Publishing is a required part of grad school. It’s necessary if you want to move further with academia. Even if you don’t, it’s the way you share what you’ve done with the rest of the academic community (and possibly industry as well).

Papers (or manuscripts, depending on your area) usually have two main venues for getting published. Either in conference or in a journal. The ‘prestige’ factor of each of these depends a lot of on the discipline. Fields where developments move more slowly usually focus on journals. Fields where ideas are changing quickly (like CS), often have conferences that are as prestigious if not more so than journals in the field. (Conferences are also cool because they mean you get to travel. Most of the time, in order to have a conference publish your paper, one of the authors must register and attend the conference.)

As a professor, your ability to get tenure and pay raises will often depend on your publication record. Calculations like the h-Index have been created as a way to judge how good your publication record is. The h-index is the highest number of your papers with x citations. So, an h-index of 24 is 24 papers that have been cited at least 24 times each. Depending on your field, an h-index of 20 may be considered really high or really low. Obviously, how long you’ve been in your field will also affect your h-index. When you start out, you’ll have very few (or no) papers and therefore a very low h-value. The value of the h-index has been debated by many. It was recently mentioned by FemaleScienceProfessor here.

Anyway, now that I have a paper in, I have to just continue on and try not to think about it. Should I get accepted, it will mean another referreed contribution for my CV. If I don’t, then I will need to find another venue to try to submit to. Most (if not all) conferences and journals require that any work you submit to them be unique – as in not published elsewhere, and not being considered for publication elsewhere. This means, it can take a long time to get an idea published if it gets turned down by the first place you submit. In the case of the paper I have submitted right now, I’d love to get it published because it’s from work I did more than a year ago. Being published means people can see what I’m working on. Also, we’re currently building on the work in the paper, so I would be nice to have the original idea published before we get to a point where we can start publishing on our current work.

When should you publish?

  1. You’ve found a journal/conference where your topic fits in perfectly.
  2. Your idea is original/novel.
  3. Your topic is important to your field (and others agree with you).
  4. There are survey papers (also known as lit reviews) that get published. But in these cases, your paper needs to be absolutely awesome before it’ll even be considered.
  5. You have a complete idea to share with the community. You’ve made a prototype and/or have results to share.

Maybe you only meet a few of the criteria above. That’s okay. Conferences often ask for poster submissions as well. Posters are a chance to share a formulated (but not complete) topic with the community. It gives you a chance to explain your ideas, network and get feedback from other academics. However, it’s important to note, that some supervisors are unwilling to support travel for posters, so you’d need to finance it on your own. It’s still worth going, if you can swing it. (Remember: network, network, network.)

Refereed vs Non-refereed papers

Just like there are conferences and journals, not all acceptances are created equally. A refereed paper has been reviewed by others knowledgeable in the community. These people are usually other professors or grad students, but may also include people from industry. Your paper acceptance depends on these people (and the journal editor or conference chair) deciding your paper is worth publishing. A non-refereed paper is one where the topic is either not formally reviewed by others or the review process has no bearing on whether you get accepted or not.

Just remember, a paper rejection is just that. A rejection of the paper. Not a rejection of you. Of course, this may require a few days to sink in. Hopefully you’ll get well written reviews and you can use them to decide where to submit in the future and how to improve your paper.

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