Evaluating my semester

This semester I’ve had a teaching leave. Fifteen weeks to focus on research and getting papers out and research done. I had lofty ambitions for this semester, and slightly unrealistic expectations for how much I could do.

The plan
The cut down version of my plan (after planning my semester with far more, realizing that was not going to happen and re-planning with less) was to get 2 papers written and submitted, with one of those resubmitted. Another paper drafted, and one major grant submitted.
My softer goals were to spend more time in the lab at the bench, attend 3 conferences and speaking at two of them (lined up well before the semester), and increase the time I spent reading broadly and thinking about the future of projects happening in the lab.

So how did I do?

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Self confidence and the publication cycle

The publication cycle in my field is slow. Very slow. “Fast” journals proud themselves on 3-month rounds of reviews. An average round takes 6-9 months, with 12 months not being unheard of. Papers almost always go through 2, occasionally 3, rounds of review before acceptance.* On top of that, an additional 1 year can easily go by between acceptance and publication. This means that the papers I’ve had in press this year are ones that I did the work for and presented at conferences around 2010-2011, as a shiny new graduate student.

I’ve been thinking recently about how this delayed feedback loop has affected my self-confidence as an early career researcher. These days I am starting my second year as a postdoc, in a place where I am pretty much left on my own. I started a few new projects when I got here, and have been writing up some results over the summer. It’ll soon be time to finalize a couple of papers and decide where to submit them. I’ve been able to present this work locally and get some feedback from colleagues, but my schedule has made it impossible for me to travel to present the work at conferences. This means that I am going to be submitting this work semi-blind, and that’s made me wonder: how do I know if it’s any good? I don’t even have feedback yet on the work leading up to this research, aka my dissertation research, because of how slow the publication cycle is.

So, where do I go from here? Continue reading