Cynthia* sent me a message on Whatsapp to check up on me. We’d both had our viva voce in the same week in April, and keeping in touch had been an uphill task since then.
“How is life post-PhD?” I asked her.
“…not nice without publications, so that’s my focus now” she replied, with an emoticon to back up the frustration.
It’s a struggle deciding whether to focus on churning publications during your PhD, or all-be-damned till you’ve handed in the thesis. Many established academics support the idea of publishing during the PhD. For instance, The Thesis Whisperer says, “…on reflection, I wish I had not taken such a laissez faire attitude to publishing during my PhD. Sure, I got my degree quickly, but the chickens are coming home to roost now…” When you read the post, she does make a strong point.
“Publishing determines which PhD students will become future academics”, says a postgrad.com writer – yeah? Indeed publications are required for a career in academia, but it’s not too late to publish after your PhD I would think. Is it really a matter of perishing, or are we slathering the pressure on a bit too strong.
Interestingly, in this Guardian UK article, 5 Things Successful PhD Students Refuse to Do, Isaiah Hankel is of the opinion that:
Your goal during postgrad study should be to build your knowledge base and your network, nothing else. The truth is you don’t need to publish a Nature paper during your postgrad to get your PhD. You don’t even have to publish a first-author paper to graduate if you don’t want to. Stop chasing this kind of approval and open yourself up to the many opportunities for learning and connecting that are happening all around you.
I quite agree with him as well. It is important to publish, and have at least one paper/publication before the end of the PhD. However, I won’t consider it a “perishing” matter if it doesn’t happen that quickly. Depending on whether you will like to have a career in academia or not, the pressure to publish after PhD varies.
I am now working on getting papers published out of my thesis, especially as my research was on digital media and culture. As you might have guessed, the culture moves on pretty quickly, so I need to drive my publishing stake into the ground as soon as possible.
The pressure to publish is as real today as it was during my PhD, but it’s not the end of the world. I have learnt to embrace the challenge and remember to live a little in the midst of the chaos. Open access publishing is the new kid on the block. We know it’s been sitting on the block for some time now, so perhaps it’s time to check it out.
If you are in my shoes and Cynthia’s right now, facing the deep need to get published, it’s really going to be okay – no one is perishing. We will make it to the Promise Land, one keyboard stroke at a time.
I’m off to Twitter to micro-publish, care to join me? @tomi_ola