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Procrastinating perfectionists pledge to publish

(18 Posts)
BuffytheFeminist Thu 24-Sep-15 17:52:09

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murmuration Thu 24-Sep-15 20:45:02

Okay, here's one I really need to work on (I think I mentioned it on an academics chat thread a year or two ago now...): paper with former postdoc, just need to either (1) get him to finish the analysis or (2) go back to first principles, and redo the damn thing. What keeps happening is we communicate, sometimes even have a Skype meeting, and then he sends 50-75% of what he said he'd do a week later. Then nothing - but as he sent something so fast, I'm lulled into thinking it will come any time, and lo and behold 6 months have gone by. Problem with redoing it is it will really take a good 4-5 weeks of my full time effort at least (redoing 3 years of work), and I just don't have that time. But the paper needs to be published, and if 4 years when this had started I had devoted even 2% of my time to redoing it, it'd be done by now!

murmuration Thu 24-Sep-15 20:55:02

Oh, sorry, that looks bad - not that I can do in 5 weeks what he did in 3 years, just that it's the culmination of 3 years of work and I'll have to redo an awful lot of detail so isn't particularly straight-forward.

BuffytheFeminist Fri 25-Sep-15 09:02:10

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murmuration Fri 25-Sep-15 10:59:21

I think he (finally) now has a publication from his new post. But, yes, you'd think you'd want something to show for 3 years work. I completely suck at motivating people to write papers. When I was a PhD student or postdoc, all it took was my supervisor to say, "you could make a paper out of that" for me to present them with a draft a couple weeks later. This fellow I told him several things he had in support of the main project could be written up, but he preferred to concentrate on the main project. I accepted that, but the fact that the main project hasn't yet produced anything (4 years later) is very frustrating. We still don't even know if the main hypothesis of the whole grant has been supported or not, as he keeps managing to not do the appropriate tests, argh!

BuffytheFeminist Fri 25-Sep-15 11:02:48

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NeverEverAnythingEver Fri 25-Sep-15 17:05:57

I never think about the journal when I work on a paper. I have colleagues who would analyse these things. But I find that tiresome. There are plenty of journals around and there'll be one that suits my paper. smile

NeverEverAnythingEver Fri 25-Sep-15 17:07:05

I have come across PhD students whom you seem to have to beg to write papers or their thesis. What's going on!?

jclm Sat 26-Sep-15 20:32:55

It could simply be that the post-doc cannot spare the time. If he has a new job as a research assistant he will probably not have much free time at all. I was an RA and the post finished, but I still wanted to complete an outstanding publication. 15 unpaid days later (I had to pay nearly £1500 for childcare for these 15 days of work) and the publication is still not finished. I can't finish it as I don't have anymore money for childcare...

murmuration Sun 27-Sep-15 08:24:59

Completely understand that, but it's not as if I have free time either! And I've asked repeatedly for an intermediate output that would allow me to complete the analysis from the stage it is at now (which would take me maybe 1 day full time), rather than starting over, but he says he'll finish it instead. I'm already planning that I will do all the writing and figure making and literature search, etc, for the paper. I think I'll make a few more efforts with him and also begin the process of starting from scratch.

And did you have any publications from your RA, jclm? I guess what mystifies me is that I would have really wanted to come away from a 3-year postdoc with at least one publication (or really, 3 or more!), and he didn't seemed motivated even when he was working for me fulltime, when working on it was his job description. I don't know what to say to give someone that drive, as it's just self-evident to me. I've asked several more senior people about how to generate such motivation, and just get shoulder shrugs.

Sotopost Sun 27-Sep-15 08:57:16

This is a really useful thread for me. I've got major confidence issues about academic writing and have just failed to get a permanent post because I haven't managed to publish anything. Well, one exhibition review which the editor virtually had to beg me to write but this was because I didn't feel that what I would write would be good enough. Maybe your PHD student is having the same problems? I'm now trying to work out what to do. Have a lot of teaching work offers and a very small grant to do some pedagogic research but I need to work out how to translate the research I do for my teaching into journal articles. I don't know why I can't make myself do it. It's got a lot to do with my workload but it's not only this.

NeverEverAnythingEver Sun 27-Sep-15 10:56:01

I understand that some PhD students may have confidence issues, but when your supervisor repeatedly offer to help with the writing if only you would just bloody start putting something on paper, and you decline, it's not quite clear what your supervisor could do ...

murmuration Sun 27-Sep-15 11:19:02

I'm not asking him write, just finish the analysis! And while I understand that confidence can be a problem for some, I'm not sure about him. He was a postdoc, not a PhD, and seemed to have the opposite problem (he was very specific about what job he wanted - high-powered research, medical but not associated with a medical school, no teaching, in a particular area of the world, etc, such that only three positions fit his criteria; amazingly he got one of them! with no postdoc publications. It boggles the mind).

Anyway, soto, can you try to think more positively? I don't know if it would help, but when I have crises of confidence I think about all the crap papers out there (you must have read some of them!) and all these massively over-confident people (usually men) who seem to think everything should fall into their lap, and yet never seem to be bothered by thinking they might be overselling themselves at all. I figure I can write at least as good as the crap papers, and I'm surely not so over-confident as some.

BuffytheFeminist Sun 27-Sep-15 12:39:57

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BuffytheFeminist Sun 27-Sep-15 12:41:12

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Sotopost Sun 27-Sep-15 13:26:19

Murmur - I reread your post and realised I'd written 'PHD student' and meant your Postdoc too. You're right, he doesn't sound like he has confidence issues and I'm sure my confidence issues are about being female and older. I'm not a PHD student - that's the other thing I should be doing! I took a huge career break when my children were small and am really paying for it now. I just need a kick up the arse probably. That's such good advice Murmur and Buffy - there are so many crap papers out there and realising you are part of a conversation and not trying to construct a final solution is really important. Jcim - That does sound hard. I don't think you have an option but to work out how to get it finished but it just might take a bit longer than you want it to. Can you

Sotopost Sun 27-Sep-15 13:28:22

...try and work out a way to get some cheaper childcare? Maybe you could trade a skill? Your writing skills for someone's childcare ones? (sorry - posted that last message before it was finished)

jclm Tue 12-Jan-16 20:57:32

Just seen these comments now, sorry for long delay.

To answer your question about publications arising from my last RA post, murmuration, I got one journal article published and this second one nearly completed. There isn't much reason to complete the outstanding article now, as my academic career is over :-( (I am changing career due to not being able to get a job in academia).

Soto - nice idea about skills exchange. My children were aged 1.5 and 3 when I had to pay for the 15 days of childcare to get the paper completed. Here there are many graduates and few jobs, so not sure anyone needs my writing skills. Our childcare is fairly cheap at £10 per hour (2 children), so couldn't get it any cheaper than that.

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