Last night, a twitter fight erupted on where one should encourage trainees to publish. Specifically, whether it was appropriate to encourage trainees to publish in a trendy but untested open access journal, given that publication venues counts in hiring and promotions. Proflikesubstance wrote a thoughtful response (read the comments, for once).
I am very invested in this conversation. I am a postdoc in neurophysiology with two publications. Not two publications from my postdoc. Two publications period. One is in PLoS ONE, one is a decent society journal from my old field, vertebrate palaeontology. Here's the thing, my old field doesn't have high impact journals. I'm trying to get a third paper in what vertebrate palaeontology considers a high impact journal. The IF is less than five. My decent society journal is less than 2. In my new field, that shit don't fly. Compared to the neuroscientist I share a department with, my publication record is a joke.
Now, here's where I get annoyed. There are people in my field who would, and have told me, that I am already at a huge disadvantage compared to my peers. People who would tell me to seriously look at alternative careers. People I respect who've tweeted such advice. I am aware of this. I am not playing games anymore. I need to know what I need to do to restack the deck in my favour. So I am tired of people, well intentioned people whose advice on many things I trust, pussy footing around the issue of where I should publish.
Whenever the topic of open access comes up, proponents argue that they have placed postdocs into faculty positions without glam pubs. Detractors then darkly mutter about the selection committees' expectations and promotions and tenure requirements. Yet when it comes to specifics, nada. No one is willing to say HOW they whittle down those three hundred applications to a shortlist of five. I've yet to see anyone go on the record and say "yup, I chucked everyone who didn't have a CNS paper" or conversely "I looked up the candidates' H index and ranked them that way". Or, "our process is opaque, and I'm not sure how I came up with shortlist, but looking back on it, yes most had a CNS paper". Or "actually, it was the K99/R00 that did it".
Our department has NSF type comparative primatology people as well as neuroscientists in it. Recently, we had a seminar speaker meet the postdocs. He was a neuroscientist. The anthropology postdocs on NSF money talked about how, after two years, they were heading onto the job market. The neuro postdocs, and the speaker, all did a double take, as for them, no one was job market ready with less than five years of postdoc and at least a dozen papers, not even considering journal impact. This is the complex quagmire of tacit expectations a postdoc is supposed to navigate as they gauge where to publish and how much.
I'm currently awkwardly straddling paleontology, physiology and neurology, and I'm competitive for anatomy teaching positions. I know what the standards in many different fields are, and they change a lot. As I mentioned, in my old field, it's almost impossible to reach the kind of impact that neuroscientists get. And NIH money is out of the question. So I know for a fact that paleontologists have very different publication profiles to neuroscientists. As a trainee, I need you, as senior people who have been on hiring committees and tenure and promotion committees to level with me. Tell me what I need, what you expect in terms of publication. Spell it out by field, by university, by department. Tell me how you deal with people from radically different background when you do broad searches (like a ecology and evolutionary biology position, for example). Stop it with the dark hints.