Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Publishing Pressure

Since I talk to academic writers every day, I get a good sense of the pressures that they work under. In general, I support the idea that academics should publish their results and, even more generally, that they should open their thinking to "public" comment. Although I think the most important forum for the dissemination of results (at least in terms of long-term social consequences) is the classroom, the journal literature is a way of improving the quality of the ideas that are taught. It is therefore fair to demand that even very good teachers publish their ideas in peer-reviewed forums as well.

But there have to be limits to this pressure. A research manager (often a research group director or a department head) will have to be sensitive to the mood in which publication is talked about. Are researchers enjoying the craft of shaping their thoughts for peer-review? Does the question of what one's peers think (or, sometimes, who one's peer might be) interest the writer? Or has publishing become an unwanted chore?

Academics do many things. And while they should be reading, thinking, and writing almost all the time, (pretty much every day), there are times when it is less than constructive for them to approach these tasks as a public matter. There may be times when you should write, but not "for publication". Just write. This may give you the energy and desire you need to write for your anonymous peers again in the future.

In fact, my usual suggestion for planning your writing process includes periods of fixation on publishing and periods that are not so fixated.

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