Publishing In Academia

As an academic, I find the publishing process to be both the hardest thing I do and the most rewarding (that is, not counting being a father and a husband).

My seat-of-the-pants estimate is that fewer than 1/10 of the academics in my discipline (finance) ever publish even one article over their career in the top-tier finance journals (Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Journal of Business, and Review of Financial Studies). Fewer than half have more than two publications in respectable second-tier journals. Only a handful have averaged one article a year (even counting third tier journals) over a ten year period.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution gives us some excerpts from a recent talk he gave to graduate students on how to be successful at publishing. I'd say that his two best pieces of advice are "doing first things first", and caring about what we do. As the day goes on, you'll find plenty of non-essential things to waste your time on. If we get the most important things done first, we have the freedom to slack off a bit later. In addition, if we're truly enthused about what we're doing, it's easier to do the little things that make a difference between "almost there", and "done".

Bryan Caplan at Econolog responds adds his $0.02 here. He largely agrees with Tyler, but has the best line of the day:"Referees are on average a useless lot." The line resonated with most of my peers when I ran it past them. In fact, King at SCSU Scholars has a nice piece titled "Send your referee to Gitmo" (remind me not to referee any of his pieces).

Regarding time management and productivity in general, I'd highly recommend "Eat That Frog" by Brian Tracy. The title comes from an old saying, "The first thing you should do every day is eat a live frog. After that, you can rest east that for the rest of the day, nothing else you have to face will be as difficult". Of course, a steady diet of frogs is hard to keep up...