Are You Overprotective of Your Research?

The love between an author and her research is… complicated, often frustrating, hopefully rewarding, and probably pending review- because in the world of scholarly writing “pending review” is a legitimate relationship status. Regardless of the hurdles of academia, you probably love your research. In fact, you may be loving it more than is good for your professional development.

Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
– Dalai Lama

What good is your best idea if you keep it under lock and key (or in the documents folder of your desktop)? You wrote the paper because you know the hypothesis does no good in your head. Why is keeping the paper to yourself any different?

To those of you who like to email the document to a few people and asked what they think: That’s a start. You probably already know that you could be doing so much more to prepare your research for the next step whether that be dissemination, another draft, or publication. We have this simple piece of advice. Share your research! Share it with a wide audience. Share it across disciplines. Let your research be free (cue inspiring music).

So, are you smothering your research by avoiding the public? Know the signs and symptoms of overprotective researching. If you fall into any of these categories, it may be time for you to share your preprint:

  1. You’ve thought about presenting it at a conference, but every time your see a call for papers you think “not yet”.
  2. When someone asks you what you are working on you freeze up and describe your carefully-thought-out hypothesis in the vaguest terms you can manage.
  3. Ten pages into writing the paper you worry that you are working on the wrong paper. You put everything on hold while trying to figure out if you should continue with this project or start another.
  4. You worry about dealing with the changes you will have to make once you receive a review, when you know you should embrace early feedback.
  5. You sleep with your laptop next to your bed in case you think of something new in the middle of the night. We actually can’t help you with this. We just know the struggle.

Even if your latest paper is in the first stages of development ask yourself who you help in keeping it under wraps. That answer is probably the colleagues who are taking the initiative to start promoting their papers. If you’re concerned about future drafts you needn’t be, at least you don’t need to be if you are using SSRN. We group papers so that you can post updated drafts and keep them organized so the newest one is always the first to display. Other reasons for not sharing just yet? We’ve probably already thought of those too.

The important thing to keep in mind is that sharing papers gives you results. Results that you can measure are always preferable to anything that starts with the phrases “I think” or “I just feel that”.

Back to you:

How do you share early stage research OR why do you avoid it? Do you consider yourself overprotective of your research? Comment below or with @SSRN on Twitter.

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