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I am half-way through a Masters degree in Logic and Philosophy of Science following a BSc in Astrophysics. Although I've dreamed for years about getting a paper published, I still haven't submitted anything for publication. The reason why I hadn't submitted anything was very clear to me as an undergraduate: I chose to pursue theory over experiment right off the bat and, although I got to fiddle around with very ground-breaking mathematical techniques, I quickly realized that my knowledge of modern physics was not up to par with the foundational work I was pursuing. I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in theoretical physics focusing on quantum gravity and want to wait until I have taken the relevant courses in particle physics and general relativity before putting my old research results in the context of the current consensus view.

In the meantime, I pursued a detour into the philosophy of science because I am fascinated by and very passionate about the foundations of physics. My experience in philosophy has been remarkably different. Besides my application essay, I have written two term papers that I am very proud of. I deem them to be of publishable quality because I went beyond the mere expectation of "meeting the examiner's criteria" and actually took a deep dive into the literature to produce novel research. I think they are ready for the peer-review process, but am hesitant about what to do with these drafts.

I first came across ResearchGate, and later Academia.edu, while doing literature searches, but quickly realized that a number of my current and former professors are active in these sites. I've been seriously considering uploading my drafts namely because I feel that I've been too secretive of my ideas for too long and it's time to get them out. I do, however, have some reservations. These lead to my question:

  • Would uploading my papers to "social media sites for academics" interfere with the peer-review process of reputable publishers? (e.g. Elsevier, Springer) I understand the purpose of these sites is to share ideas with as broad of an audience as possible, but they do not carry the weight towards career advancement that a publication in a "good journal" gets.

There is also a related follow-up question:

  • Is there a right time to get out a first publication? I used to be intimidated by people who published one or two papers during their undergrads, but these were mostly collaborations with an established research group. Conversely, I have friends who didn't publish their first paper until they completed their P.h.D.

Am I overthinking all of this?

Thank you so much for your time.

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    Be aware that in some fields, journals won't consider your paper for publication if it has appeared elsewhere. In others, that isn't a problem and authors are actually encouraged to upload preprints to, for example arXiv. So, investigate the journals in which you might want to publish eventually. Since you seem to be on the boundary between fields, it might make a difference. – Buffy Sep 15 '19 at 14:46
  • Good question. In some fields like mathematics and cs there is no problem AFAIK to publish papers that are on arxiv. Also in physics I think it is fine. – Dilworth Sep 15 '19 at 21:54
  • Thanks. I guess I should treat it as on a per-journal basis. The journal that seems best suited to two of my papers is "Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics." I should check in with their copyright policy before I upload anything anywhere! – starseed_trooper Sep 17 '19 at 10:00
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    Minor remark: don't assume that people who have a page on academia.edu or ResearchGate are actually active on these sites: they might not even be registered, these sites collect publications automatically to give the impression that many academics are there. – Erwan Sep 17 '19 at 21:25
  • Would uploading my papers to "social media sites for academics" interfere with the peer-review process of reputable publishers? No. (This question has been answered already, try searching this site.) – user2768 Oct 16 '19 at 7:37
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In my view, you're overthinking all of this.

Unless you've got strong mentors collaborating, your first papers are likely to be terrible. Your work might be wonderful, but writing scientific papers is a specialized skill, and you haven't really practiced that skill yet if you haven't had a paper go through scientific peer review. So if you want to publish, you should start submitting and start building those skills.

My strongest advice here would be to try to start working with one of your professors as a mentor (and likely co-author). They are likely to be much better able to assess what is needed to make a good publication out of your work. If you've actually accomplished something interesting, they are more likely to offer such mentorship.

If you have a very strong ability to withstand rejection, you could also go ahead and just submit your papers to what you believe is an appropriate journal (make sure it's actually reputable, and not a predatory piece of junk!).

Finally, the biggest red flag to me in what you've written is talking about being secretive about your work. Even if you're onto something wonderful, you should be thinking about this as not as your magnum opus but as just the first in a very long series of publications that you will make over the course of your career. Being secretive is often a trap, which causes people to think their work is more important than it is because they aren't getting outside feedback on it.

Let go of the fear, find a mentor co-author or send in your manuscripts yourself, and learn from the (likely harsh) feedback that comes from the reviewers.

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