“What I would do differently if I were an early career researcher again”

Elsevier editors draw on their wealth of experience to reveal their top tips for early career researchers

They say that hindsight has 20:20 vision. In this 2 part series, let these editors lend you their glasses as they look back over their careers and offer the advice they wish they could have given themselves back when they were starting out.

What advice would you offer your younger self?

This article was inspired by a conversation that started on LinkedIn. You can see below how the editors who joined in all agreed that ‘publish’ was high on their lists.

Dr. Mark J. Costello“I would offer myself three top tips:

  1. Publish in more widely read (higher impact factor) journals
  2. Actively initiate collaboration and co-authorships
  3. Foster collaboration with leaders in the field so you can learn from them”

Dr. Mark J. Costello, University of Auckland and Editor of Biological Conservation.

Dr. Jean-Luc Wybo“I fully agree with Mark! I was hired in a new laboratory and our goal was to start studies. Publishing was not a priority so most of our early results were never published in journals. We had no "old" supervisor to guide us in that direction.

My advice for young supervisors: train and motivate your students to publish...”

Dr. Jean-Luc Wybo, SNCF, ANR and Editor-in-Chief of Safety Science.

Dr. Udo Schumacher“I can think of two pieces of advice that I would offer my younger self: Focus, Focus, Focus and Publish, Publish, Publish.

I would encourage those starting their research career path to even try and publish findings which they cannot fully understand. And if that means in a “minor” journal, so be it. A few years later you might gain completely new insight. Technology and knowledge are always advancing...”

Dr. Udo Schumacher, University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf and Managing Editor of Progress in Histochemistry and Cytochemistry.

Being told to publish is all well and good, but how do you get your research to the point of publication?

Dr. Susan ElliottSusan Elliott, the Editor of Social Science & Medicine, would give her younger self these 4 pieces of advice:

  1. "Always make time to read; it’s the first thing that can go to the bottom of the priority list when we’re busy with other obligations. But it is one of the highest priorities - even if it’s just 20 minutes per day!
  2. Make time to write. Find out what works for you and be diligent about it. Talk to others and see what they do. One of my colleagues sets aside one day a week; another colleague sets aside one hour per day; yet another one doesn’t leave the house in the morning until he has written at least 50 words.  There’s a model for everyone - find out what yours is and stick to it!
  3. Don't spend time on things for which there is no heading in your resume, unless they are very important! For example, you might spend over 100 hours developing an amazing website to profile your research and teaching activities. That’s 100 hours that could have been spent writing. Which is more important to your career? Alternatively, you might spend 100 hours building a relationship in the community with a research partner – while there may be no place for that on your resume either, that relationship building is important for your future research program and essential knowledge translation/community engagement.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!  Ask anyone, anything.  When in doubt about whether to publish in this journal or that, or to publish papers or a book, or to spend all that time building relationships with community partners, ask your Chair, your Dean, your colleagues. In the end, you have to make up your own mind, but when I was younger I was too intimidated to ask questions - I wish I hadn’t been…”

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Would you like hear more advice from editors? Part 2 of this story will come out in a few weeks. If you haven’t already signed up to receive our email alerts, you can do so here >>

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