Candid Engineer recently posted on the local publication culture and how this has shifted internal frames of reference to covet GlamourMag publications.
When the hell did I get so obsessed with Glamour Mags?!?!?!! It is seriously not a particularly healthy behavior.
I got obsessed with Glamour Mags because my lab is obsessed with Glamour Mags. It's all people seem to read, all people seem to want to talk about, all people want to publish in.
I was further struck by this observation, which underlines my occasional soapboxing on the issue:
I need to remind myself that I don't need this kind of publication to succeed. I need to remind myself about one of my labmates, who has numerous impact factor 4-5 papers from her stint as a postdoc, got 9 interviews at top-20 schools and something like 5 or 6 offers. She's starting her TT-position at Stanford in the fall. And I guess Stanford is nothing to sneeze at.
Exactly. The CNS-laden CV is not a prerequisite for a career. Singing my song.
But I have some additional thoughts.
As I have observed before, it is a mistake to rely on easy, generic prescriptions for career success.
What is critical is that you do the research for your own anticipated career directions (this was originally motivated by this post from Dr. Shellie).
My suggestion is, if you expect to have a career you had better have a good idea of what the standards are. So do the research. Do compare your CV with those of other scientists. What are the minimum criteria for getting a job / grant / promotion / tenure in your area? What are you going to do about it? What can you do about it? Don't misunderstand me- nobody is going to hand you a job / grant / etc just because you hit the modal publication numbers. But it will be very easy for you to be pushed out of the running if you do NOT hit the expected values. So do what you can to keep your CV as competitive as possible.
Candid Engineer's experience points to how difficult the calculation can be. The lab is having good success with GlamourPubs at the moment but, obviously, at least one prior trainee got a job at a good school without those GlamorPubs. Perhaps this is because the lab has changed directions or hit on some kewl hot science...or perhaps they have just started trying to chase GlamourPubs. Whichever.
The important part is that CE's co-trainee got hired with pubs in journals of Impact Factor 4-5 which is actually several tiers down from Glamour status. Hired at a very respectable institution indeed.
I would suggest that anyone in a similar situation should think very long and hard about the hows and whys of these situations. Why did the prior individual get hired? Was it despite not having GlamourPubs? Do all the other new hires around the country in the same year, in related areas of science also "only" have a string of IF 4-5 publications? Is this the exception or the expectation?
Is the laboratory's current success in getting the high-profile publications a jump forward in profile within the field? or are they playing catch-up? Is it a well-established, respected and highly productive lab that simply did not bother to play the publication games until recently? The answer to these types of questions will help one to assess whether one needs to keep on keepin on or make some strategic changes in one's research directions/ambitions.
To get as specific as possible about CE's pondering, the question is what the current and immediate future expectations are likely to be within the field in question. Not to mention personal assessment of the CV. Suppose CE already has a string of IF 4-5 pubs (including many first-author!) on the CV and has (or expects) at least a couple from the current training posting. It makes perfect sense at this point to sacrifice additional pubs by trying to work towards a GlamourPub. OTOH, if CE has a CV that is on the thin side it could very well be that the best approach is to work for the standard of "numerous impact factor 4-5 papers" that was set by the recently-transitioned colleague.
Look, it is not important to focus on whether your CV does/does not have particular characteristics. Careers are what they are and grad students/postdocs have been captive to their training environments. The presence or absence of a particular type or quantity of papers is a simple fact. The question is, where do you go from there? What do you need to change or shore up? What can you change. How can you move forward to attain your goals of a continued career in scientific research?
The only legitimate knock on you is if you blunder along without explicitly considering effects of publication choices on your career.
[ PhysioProf has a few thoughts on the matter. ]