Monday, February 25, 2008

The quest for papers - by the numbers

So i finally, finally submitted one of the papers I have talking about since forever. It has been in my sidebar for so long, that I think it has changed both its title and its content several times, since I put it there, and I have been so frustrated by the slow progress, I haven't even bothered to update the ticker.

As an experiment I have been counting all the hours spent working on the most recent reincarnation of this paper and reached 160 hours when I hit the "submit" button last night. Quite enlightening I'd say, because I've never had any real idea of how long the individual steps of writing a paper are supposed to take, and as I said in the post below, I suck at estimating time.

The 160 hours are however just the tip of the iceberg, covering a major revision of a diss chapter from splitting the original manuscript in two, some major reorganisation and rewriting and creating about 2/3s of the figures from scratch (some seriously detailed graphics work involved in what I do) and adding some new analysis.

The real journey from idea to submission looks more like this:

2001: Idea developing as part of dissertation proposal

2003: Start playing around with software supposed to help analyse data (spent about 6 full months on this and it never worked) and gave first talk based on this idea (a reincarnation of one of the figures is still in the present manuscript)

2005: First draft of paper written and revised into dissertation shape, gave first international conference presentation on this topic (didn't go well, because there were still some serious flaws in the way I interpreted the data and I didn't quite know why), defended dissertation

2006: Another conference presentation on the same data (still some issues with interpretation)

Early spring 2007: Began revising the dissertation chapter manuscript into something publishable. Got stuck at issues with interpretation and realized the manuscript had to be split into two, but didn't know exactly how to split them (spent about a month on this).

Late spring 2007: Wrote an abstract for a conference I'd been invited to speak at and realized that the abstract content was the aim of the second paper (insert lightbulb here).

Late fall 2007 - 2008: Revising the manuscript I left behind in spring 2007 to its present form.

If I had known from the beginning that this process would take 7 years I'm not sure I would have started. It's no wonder my publication rate is slow to nonexistent, and then I haven't even gotten the verdict from the journal yet. I've sent it to one of the better journals in the field. Not a top of the line one, because it's not that kind of research, but probably the best for this kind of papers. So while I'm waiting, I'm going to start writing the second paper.


At 7:47 PM, Blogger Dr. Shellie said...

Do you know about Slimtimer? It's a free web-based time-tracker that is really great. It has helped me get a much better idea of how much time I am spending on what-- which makes my expectations more realistic.

At 2:37 AM, Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

Good for you for submitting the paper!

At 8:28 AM, Blogger saxifraga said...

Ecogeofemme: thanks

Dr. Shellie: No, I hadn't heard about it, but I just checked it out and maybe it would work for me too. So far I just down on a piece of paper how long I work on something and don't measure the time I spend on reading blogs or taking other breaks. Anyway, the whole idea about getting some numbers on how long it takes to finish a task is really helpful for me.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Wilhelm said...

Congrats on submitting the paper, and good luck with the review process!

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Wayfarer Scientista said...

Congratulations on the submission & good luck with the rest of it!

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Mad Hatter said...

Congrats on the submission. I agree that the whole process of getting data published takes a ridiculously long time. So much so that what ought to be really exciting--getting one's findings published--actually turns out to be rather anti-climactic because the data are so old by the time the paper appears.


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