Assembled Chaos

Working together to accelerate innovation in the life sciences

Is publishing fast and often your best strategy as a medical researcher?

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"You don't get a quick return creating value for the world. You get a quick return doing something that does not matter. If you are going to make a difference in society changing the world for the better you had better be prepared for a long journey."

Ed Zschau on the Tim Ferriss Show podcast 

It is very easy to be dazzled by the prospect of a quick return, but the long journey of making a real difference with ambitious research is more fulfilling than a string of quick returns.
It may seem that publishing fast, and publishing a lot is the best strategy for your career, but it may not be.
The alternative is to focus on more ambitious projects. Ambitious projects require more collaborators - a consortium.
Your concern may be that working in a consortium means that there are fewer first of last author positions to go around.
It depends on the type of consortium. 
Some consortia are more or less a collection of silos, and there are consortia which are highly interactive.


The compounding effect of highly interactive consortia

When you are pursuing an ambitious project in a highly interactive consortium, the opportunities for you as a researcher multiply.
In a highly interactive consortium, you have lots of different types of opportunities.
You have the opportunity to build relationships. There is no better way to build relationships than working as a close-knit team trying to deliver an ambitious project.
You have the opportunity to learn how others solve real-life problems in research. That is a type of knowledge you cannot easily learn anywhere else.
There are opportunities to step into leadership roles.
There are opportunities for new projects, new collaborations and more funding.
There are opportunities to combine know-how and resources to elevate the level of science well beyond what you could do on your own.
If you are focused only on publish fast and often and spurn getting engaged in ambitious projects, you miss many of those opportunities and be less productive over the long term.

Making a real difference

There will come the point in your career when more papers, and more funding isn't as important to you as being able to make a real difference.
If you have not taken the time to build up some ambitious projects, your ability to make a real difference in your field will be hampered.
Do more than just adding to a sea of incremental publications.