Mendeley's top time-saver tips for early career researchers.

So you’ve slaved away all year long, passing up pool party and barbecue invitations to feed the needs of the research beast, and you’ve finally got something to show for it. The next question is how do you get it published, where, and what do you do after that so it doesn’t end up with two readers, one of which is your mom? We won’t presume to tell you where, but we do have a few tips for things to consider, which you may have missed because you were slaving away at the bench or in the library like a good student and not reading up on all the cool stuff that’s happened this summer in the exciting world of academic publishing. So here’s our summary of the new (and we presume you’ve already heard the old from your PI).

  1. You have a need for speed.
  2. The days of quiet solitude and study within the Ivory Tower™ have faded away. In these days of tightened federal budgets, research is becoming more collaborative (or competitive) and everyone has picked up the pace in the race to get that grant money. It just won’t do anymore to send off your paper to that journal you aspire/despair to publish in, wait 9 months, send it somewhere else, etc. For someone establishing their career, the sooner you can get that thing published, the sooner it can start accumulating citations and readers. Worse yet, someone could steal your thunder. There are a number of places that place a premium on speed, including our parent organization, but none quite so fast as F1000 Research. They’ve taken the bold step of putting the peer review step, the rate-limiting step, after publication. This is placing an enormous amount of trust the their community of authors and readers, but it’s a gamble they expect to pay off in increased engagement and, most importantly, accelerated research progress. Those of you firing up the keyboard to moan about the pollution of the literature, never fear. The articles are flagged as “awaiting peer review” and aren’t indexed by Pubmed, etc. until the reviews are in, and are approving.

  3. If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing right.
  4. Another way you can get to a result faster is by making sure you’re working with the proper tools. Many an experiment has been foiled by reagents that don’t do what they say they would or by a paper that reports a result quite literally too good to be true. To address this issue, Mendeley has been working with Science Exchange, a startup in Palo Alto, on a little project we call the Reproducibility Initiative. We just got a nice write-up in Nature about our work, which has finally caught the eyes of the people with the biggest purses, the US National Institutes of Health. The outcome of these efforts will be a set of validated reagents which do in the hands of professionals what they say they’ll do, so you know if they don’t work, you screwed … blame the postdoc.

  5. Publishing open access gets your work more widely read (and you can afford it!).
  6. The effect of publishing open access on how widely your work gets cited has been widely debated, but we can say that based on our readership data, biomedical science papers are about twice as likely to be read if they’re published in an open access journal. Some of these readers are practitioners, who don’t write papers and won’t be citing yours, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Increasingly, journals and funders are starting to look at translational impact as well as citations. Our readership stats have been shown to be well-correlated with citations, too, so even if you don’t believe us, the evidence suggests you’ll get more citations, too. You don’t have to have an extra couple thousand laying around, either. PeerJ will publish your paper for $99, F1000 Research will publish your negative data for free through August, and PLOS has been known to waive their fees for the truly needy as well. If you’re still wondering if it’s worth it, each article at the above publishers gives you detailed information about how many times it’s been viewed, downloaded, cited, or mentioned online, so you can see the impact starting to accrue, even before the citations roll in.

    So that’s our top time-saving tips for early-career researchers! What are your tips?

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