During my professor career at WVU my name appeared on one of those recurring theme papers of Most Productive Researchers. The authors simply defined a universe of journals, a time span, accumulated all the names in those journals, then counted how many publications each name had. Every field does something like this (with variations) and they occur every five or ten years. If your name appears on a list like that, you’ve got advertising money cannot buy. An external source with a hard count says you are doing pretty pretty good at something and they say it in print. Helps to include that paper in your promotion or tenure file.
But, then Other Guys start asking you about why your name is on the list. What’s the secret? The trick? The jazz? As I’ve mentioned before, when I was a doc student, I wrangled one of these Most Productive Researcher things for a professional conference and then chaired two panels of the top 10 guys who thanked their parents, talked publicly about their current success, then told stories about doing research and getting published. Several of them recounted their early careers before they made The List and recalled reading a paper about or listening to a panel of the then Most Productive Researchers. They noted what those Old Guys said, then proceeded to repeat pretty much the same story.
Be smart. Read everything. Think. Never quit. Solicit feedback even when it hurts. In other words, just grind it out day after day, doing the job of research. That’s the story in cognitive and behavioral research at least going back to the 1950s. And, from my limited experience with physical and math sciences, that pretty much the story for them, too. There is no secret, trick, or jazz to productivity. You know the field and think about what is needed or implied or unique, then attack it until you get published.
But, you’ll recall our recent look at an environmental scientist writing in the journal, Science, asserting that the above is not enough and may even be secondary. Consider a re-quote from this advisor.
But there is much more. The first step is describing your brand succinctly on your research homepage. The second, and more active step, is promoting it through a set of activities directed at your peers. You might write a journal commentary, perspective paper, or review linked to your brand. You might guest edit a journal special issue or edit a research text. Or you could organize a conference session or a boutique research conference focused on your theme. The idea is not to do just one of these things but to do as many as you can.
I strongly criticized this advice in that post, noting the obvious persuasion preference over the grind of science and the perils that produces: more persuasion means less science which contradicts why you got into the field in the first place. While this temptation has always been present, the iSmart Age with apps ‘n iGizmos makes it too easy, like walking through that district in Amsterdam where drugs and prostitution are legal and keeping your money in your pocket and your clothes on your back. The iTechnologies of the iSmart Age are vices and beckon the lesser angels of our nature. Worse still: They don’t work.
Speaking sincerely as Professor Poopypants, persuasion and science do not mix.