Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Scientific Process: My First Publication

It's early June, I'm back in State College for the time being, and I'm back to being a scientist. This time it's all about getting my master's thesis published; and, instead of Russ being my thesis adviser, he is my co-author/collaborator.

This is something that we intending to start on back in JANUARY. It's June, and we've been talking about it and talking about it, and we're finally getting it underway. It's tough. I don't come into the office so much anymore, and Russ is busy with about a thousand different things between being the museum director, working on his own projects, and getting ready to go in the field. I'm getting ready to move in two months, and we need to get as much finished as possible while I'm still around.

At the moment, the text of the article is in Russ's court, so to speak. We set a deadline the other day to get a first draft done by Friday (tomorrow), but now Friday is looking more like Monday. I'm working on supplemental material: tables, detailed methods, things that would take up too much space in the actual article. I'm about 3/4 of the way through this one table I need to make, but I ran into a snag. I'm supposed to be making a table that gives information on the Site Names, Database ID#'s, Collection Ages, and Analysis Units. It's that last thing that has me stumped, so now Russ and I need to find time to sit down and discuss exactly what that last thing IS and what he wants there.

I hate it when I'm chugging along working on something and then I run smack into a brick wall and can't move. That is probably one of the most frustrating things that happens with research. You know there is an answer to a problem, so you can't quit; but, you have to spend an unholy amount of time finding the solution or solutions.

I'm going to switch gears now, and explain to my non-scientist friends and readers why I'm even bothering to publish anything.

Journals are like magazines that contain nothing more than research projects that people have done. Scientists conduct research, write a report, and send it off to a journal to have it reviewed and hopefully published. In academia, journal publications are like currency. A large part of a researcher's value is based upon how much work they have published and the quality/notoriety of the publications. It influences things like the ability to get funding to do more research and being able to land a job. Research institutions only hire people that bring in funding and actually produce publications.

The other reason is credit. I worked hard for three years to produce something new and original, and the only way I can keep someone else from doing it and claiming it as their own is by publishing first. Once I publish my work, if someone wants to talk about it, they will have to reference me and Russ.

This whole publication thing is the reason I probably won't take my husband's last name when I get married. I'll have publications under my current name and (for the sake of simplicity and making sure I get credit where it's due) I'll continue to publish under the same name for consistency. My point of view is: it's hard enough as a female scientist without confusing people with two names, and having different last names doesn't negate marital status.

Hopefully Russ and I can meet up this afternoon to get some issues straightened out, and we can move forward.

1 comment:

  1. Not saying you have to, but you *can* change your name and still publish under your maiden name. It is what Eliza in our department does. I have two publications under my maiden name, but I switched to my married name because it is less common (there already was a very well-established Larson in the geophysics realm)