Today, I invite you to explore with me a confusing phenomenon that call "magic of the first paper". This term summarizes the magic things that happen when you publish a paper that employs a method you have never used before or that investigates a question from a field you are new to.
First of all, publishing that very first paper can be extremely difficult and the resistance can assume quite grotesque shape. We once had a paper rejected (and eventually published in that journal after a successful appeal) with the argument that the thalamo-cortical system is understood and that there are no new and interesting question to answer (seriously!). Needless to say, this was the first time we were bold enough to venture beyond our usual turf, the neocortex. However, once you publish this first paper, things suddenly and magically get much easier. What - I am an expert after just one paper? Suddenly, people in that field actually want to talk with me? Well, this abrupt change in reception has been puzzling me for a long time.
Finally, I think I found the answer. One paper in a new field seems to be enough today to get inundated with requests to review papers in that field. I have been asked to review so many papers on creativity despite we published a single paper, which was much more of a brain stimulation paper than a creativity paper. So in other words, people feel obliged to be nice to you since you may be the reviewer of their next submission...
I think this is simply human and I have no trouble with this. As you are planning your career (transition), I recommend you keep this mechanism in mind as you plot our your publication strategy. Or perhaps you have another explanation for this interesting phenomenon? I would be curious to know, please post as a comment below.
As we are approaching Thanksgiving, I would like to say thank you to the editors and reviewers who have helped us publish our "first" papers. I am working hard to return the favor as a reviewer...
Today's workplace can be incredibly demanding and stressful. Time flies by, emails pile up, and that all important paper or report is still not written. Sounds familiar? Over the years, I have assembled some quite common and also less common tools to ensure I maximize my productivity at work. Over the next few weeks, I will introduce my preferred tools. I am going to start with a controversial one, a big (read: giant), super-bright LCD clock. It sits on my office desk and is the perfect eye catcher. Every single person who enters my office for the first time comments on it.
Why do I have such a monster on my desk?
Here is the one I got:
As an ongoing little project, I am trying to identify where time gets lost. It is quite impressive, how easily hours get squandered away without doing much or getting accomplished anything to write home about.
Here are some things I have found:
Besides grant submissions (fun!), I spent quite some time reading about leadership the last few weeks. Most books I looked at were written for the business world, and yes, there are fundamental differences to academia, but still I found my reading surprisingly helpful.
My interest was triggered by my repeated observation that students and postdocs can struggle quite a bit to take initiative and see a project through. On many days, it felt like that I am the hub of our research enterprise and that everything needs my input. This observation caused me to reflect on my leadership style. What I have learned in my reading is that I need to focus more on teaching my trainees how to be leaders themselves. Only If I teach and demonstrate how to be a good leader, and foster and reward leadership, we will truly excel. Technical knowledge can be documented, learned from peers and collaborators, gobbled up in excellent courses and summer schools, however, the one unique thing that I can bring to the table is my experience of building and developing research groups and companies. I can share and teach the lessons I have learned when I was trying to get projects off the ground, steer projects through difficult periods, and get projects completed. There are many aspects of excellent leadership from the very practical (how to organize your day, how to plan projects) to the almost philosophical (how to energize your team). My theory is that if I can teach these skills, my trainees will feel more in charge, require less hand-holding for the daily business of science, be more successful and own their success, and ultimately be much better prepared for whatever comes as a next step in their career.
Clearly, I have a lot to learn myself as I am working on growing and improving as a leader. I will keep you posted on our progress here, hopefully at a more regular interval than the last few hectic months. I hope my observations inspire you to grow and develop. Once we stop questioning who we are and how we can do our job better, life gets very boring!