If you don’t publish, you are invisible.

I’ve frantically been writing a grant proposal for a small internal grant competition, due later this week. Basically, I am proposing to update some work I was involved with ~10 years ago. This work was presented at a few meetings, but never published.*

When we were doing the work 10 years ago, it was really innovative. Other people working int he field area were surprised by our results and our literature review didn’t reveal a lot of similar work in other places.

But now there is a reasonably well-established worldwide literature. And, more disturbingly, bits and pieces of our work (in our field area) have been redone — and published.

Maybe the investigators got their ideas from our conference talks, or maybe not. I have no evidence, other than that they were some of the people interested in our results. I don’t think they did anything wrong by collecting their own data and duplicating our results. But in the annals of science, they’ll get all the credit. And our work, because it was never published, might as well not have existed. If you don’t publish, you are invisible. But it’s not all bad, no one had the chance to peer review our data and methodology, and our work wasn’t findable in any database.

Given all this backstory, why am I writing the proposal this week?

Fortunately, in -ology history matters. I still have our 10-year old dataset and some older ones yet. Datasets that span decades are incredibly hard to get, because the typical funding cycle limits projects to 1-3 years of data collection. So the long dataset gives me an important edge. The work is no longer ground-breaking, but it is definitely still original research, and I know it will net me publishable results. The budget constraints of this RFP are so tight that almost anything else I propose would be much riskier in terms of the changes of generating a publication. So, given my untenured status, I think it is pretty important to stop being invisible.

* We had a reasonable excuse. I was a young undergraduate and the PI was very close to retirement and no longer cared about publications.


  1. #1 ecogeofemme
    September 25, 2007

    I have a similar dataset for similar reasons. A decades-long series of data can be so powerful. In my -ology people are always swapping space for time, so it’s wonderful to eliminate that and the assumptions that go with it. I’m starting to write a paper about it now. Very exciting.

    I hope you get the money!

  2. #2 Sandra Porter
    September 25, 2007

    Good luck with the proposal SW! and welcome to ScienceBlogs!

  3. #3 ScienceWoman
    September 25, 2007

    Yep, space for time substitutions are very handy, but there are occasions when they just don’t work, and my proposal hits on one of them. You either have the historical data or you don’t. And I do. So I am hopeful.

  4. #4 ecogeofemme
    September 25, 2007

    We must do somewhat similar work. :)

  5. #5 saxifraga
    September 26, 2007

    I’m sort of in the same boat, trying to publish some 10 yrs old research right now. Nothing has been done on this topic in my particular area since this study, but focus and interests of the scientific community have definitely changed. I hope you get your grant and good choice picking up previous work you know will generate publications. I’m learning the hard way right now that publications are everything.

  6. #6 Amelie
    September 27, 2007

    That sounds exciting. I don’t think history matters in my field, at least not in that sense. So it may be a challenge for a new project, but it also is a chance, like now for you. Good luck!

  7. #7 LM
    September 27, 2007

    Hey, I know the feeling! Back in 2001 when I was still an undergrad, I landed a 10 week research internship at a big university. The study I did was good and original, but we never published the paper. Six years later, my mentor decided to unearth the thing and submit it. It’s being published this January! :D

  8. #8 2017
    October 5, 2007

    It is good that you know the strong points of your old dataset, otherwise someone may have simply put off the idea of writing a new grant and finding the essence of that data. So now your data will be able to have a concrete finding for the scientific databases and other researchers in the field to build upon.

    I feel that a scientist never goes without recognition. Although to publish a result earlier than anybody else gets you ahead in the race for funding for your ideas and work, and academic positions. No matter how old your data is, but if you have a new dimension to the current questions in your field than it is still worth it.