As my week for reading and writing papers (A step back gives a wider view) starts to fade into the background of a busy final few weeks in my current job, I am faced with finding the best way to keep half-a-dozen papers that I’m involved with ticking along until I can devote time to them more freely.
As I scrabble about to find twenty minutes here and there to reply to emails and further discussion and preparation of drafts with a number of collaborators, I start to have more empathy with our past PhD students who left, intending to write up the papers, but somehow never quite found the time.
One of my current co-authors is a former PhD student from my group who is trying to finish off a couple of papers based on their thesis work while in the first few months of a new job outside of academia. I’m very grateful to them for doing so and greatly admire the sheer enthusiasm and energy for the task that they are showing.
I have long since accepted that some students will receive teaching and support but never produce publications as they leave science after writing their thesis but before publishing the work. Even for those who leave with good intentions, the pressures on time in a new job in a different field can make getting the papers out a really challenging task. A great deal of commitment to former research is needed and sadly this makes the student I’ve described above the exception rather than the rule.
Another graduating student recently benefitted at this stage from receiving an EPSRC Doctoral Prize. The scheme, originally launched as PhD Plus, gave up to 12 months of postdoctoral funding to increase the impact of EPSRC supported PhDs in terms of publications, knowledge transfer and outreach with the aim of helping top students to move into research careers. The latest version of the Doctoral Prize has now been extended to provide posts of up to two years in duration.
Our student really made the most of the six months they received under the scheme and produced papers at a rate, unprecedented in our group, of one per month of additional funding. The EPSRC scheme has clearly been great here for the individuals connected with the award, and also for the UK taxpayer in the sense of having greatly increased the impact of the research for quite limited additional expenditure. Are there other ways though that we could make such a productive post-thesis publication spell less of an exceptional occurrence?