Dr. Allen S. Lee has what he calls “a scary slide” in his presentation to young assistant professors.
Lee, a highly regarded scholar of information systems who spent 15 years on the editorial board of MIS Quarterly, shows professors who are on the tenure track a slide illustrating just how much time it takes to get published in a top research journal.
To put it simply: If you haven’t submitted a research paper for consideration by the end of your fourth year, you’re not likely to have something published when the review process concludes ahead of your seventh year.
“You have to hit the ground running,” said Lee, a professor of information systems at the School of Business at Virginia Commonwealth University. “The Ph.D. process is exhausting, but you can’t take that first year off.”
Lee brought that message to a group of tenure-track professors at the Howe School, which is putting a heavier emphasis on getting professors published in the top academic journals — with an additional focus on giving younger professors advice on how to get published. It’s all part of the ambitious strategic plan Howe adopted in 2012.
Those professors already know time is tight from the moment they’re hired, but it was helpful to see that timeline laid out for them, said Dr. Ricardo Collado, an assistant professor who joined Stevens in September,
“That’s gold,” he said of the slide. “That should be on the first page of every book we read.”
“It sounds like a lot, six years, but there’s so much that can happen and go wrong,” Collado said. “He was very open about his point of view and experiences, and the importance of making a plan to make sure you get published.”
Lee focused his message on how to get published, using his own experience both in academia and in publishing. One of the biggest considerations, he said, is perspective. Merely working hard on your research won’t guarantee publication, he said.
“You have to consider those editors,” he said. An editor at a journal who isn’t familiar with the kind of research you’re doing “should just be scratched off the list.”
Arranging to meet editors at conferences can help demystify the review process for assistant professors, which can help in packaging research for a journal.
“If you consider reviewers and editors to be your customers,” Lee said, “how do you present your research so they’ll buy it? That’s a critical piece of getting published.”
Failing to do so can be costly.
“Sending a paper to the wrong journal could cost you to lose a year, two years,” Collado said. “It’s all common sense, but it was so helpful to hear it from someone who really matters, whose opinion carries a lot of weight in publishing.”
The Howe School has a number of resources dedicated to helping tenure-track professors get published, including perspective from veterans like Lee and lunches with more experienced Howe professors who’ve been published many times.
“I’m impressed that the dean has set up a system where professors get the mentorship they need to get published,” said Lee, who did a sabbatical at Stevens five years ago.
That isn’t the case at most business schools. Leadership at Howe “knows the business of a business school,” Lee said. “The dean knows you need to make this investment to help professors. They know how to do the research, but that isn’t the same as knowing how to get your research published.”
Collado said he expects all the investment by the Howe School to pay off.
“I’m really impressed by the way they take care of us,” he said.
The ultimate goal for a young researcher is the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, a highly distinguished honor presented by the White House. Collado said it’s a lofty goal, but with a host of new, hungry faculty researchers and support from the top, it’s not out of reach.
“I would expect all this support will pay off in the long term, exponentially,” he said. “The hope is that one of us will get this.”