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I have a strange request - I am looking for ways to get started on publishing a few papers in a couple of years. Ideally looking to collaborate with researchers/professors to contribute to their work and ideally become co-author in some capacity. Is this a reasonable route ? If yes, where can I look for such opportunities ?

My background

I am a regular software engineer. I currently work at one of the FAANG's at a fairly senior role (IC7) and have 10+ years of experience working on large scale systems & databases. I am self taught and I do not have a research background so a bit confused on how to go about this.

Why am I doing this ?

I am starting a perilous journey working towards building a case for EB1-A visa, I already satisfy few of the criteria and looking to improve my profile over the next few years, it is a long shot but unfortunately this is as good as it gets for me to get a green card in a reasonable period.

Appreciate your help !

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    To be honest, that motivation (as opposed to an interest in some field) sounds much less reasonable than the plan to collaborate with established researchers. Regarding where to look, maybe this question can help. Also note that your employer may or may not be fine with your plan.
    – Anyon
    Jun 6 at 23:23
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    @Anyon can you explain what is wrong with the motivation?
    – Dan Romik
    Jun 7 at 3:29
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    @DanRomik While I can't speak for Anyon, the problem that I see with the motivation is that it is, according to the description in the question, completely extrinsic. I have some doubts whether this is a good foundation for doing research. Jun 7 at 5:37
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    That said, I have to admit that it might be a bit unfair to claim that OP has no intrinsic motivation to do research. After all, I have no way to know whether this is the case - I just find it a bit worrisome that intrinsic motivation is not mentioned at all in the question. Jun 7 at 7:01
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    (1) Do you really need to collaborate with "researchers/professors"? There are forums related to software engineering, complex systems, etc. that might let you publish with less ramp-up then getting involved in academic research. (2) Lots of great papers are published by the FAANGs every year. Have you considered getting some of your time allocated to support such efforts? This seems more reasonable to me than doing a ton of research "in your spare time."
    – cag51
    Jun 7 at 7:13

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Given your career success and credentials, it certainly sounds like you possess a level of talent and professional competence that would make it possible for you to make useful contributions in research. So yes, it sounds absolutely like a reasonable idea. But you are correct that it is an unconventional place to start from. I think the main difficulty would be getting your feet in the door of academia and finding experienced researchers who would have use for your specific skills. I’m convinced that such people exist though.* The labor of a professional software engineer is worth — well, you probably know better than me how much it’s worth — and if you would offer it for free, I’m sure that would be appealing to some people.

Of course, you would also want to get involved in the writing of any publications that would follow from the work. Given your background, you might need a bit of help in that department, but probably only very little, and you should still be quite attractive to the right people as a collaborator.

In terms of where to look for opportunities, I don’t have very specific suggestions, but if you are in the Bay Area (as I’m guessing you may be), there are several world-famous universities around with great activities in computer science, so I’d suggest cold-emailing people at those departments and explaining your situation and interests. You can also probably find people in your current company who have a leg in the academic world and can offer you advice and maybe introductions to relevant people. By reaching out to random (but not completely randomly selected) people and a bit of networking, I think the chances of finding a project you can help with are pretty good.

* Actually I am such a person, although in an unusual sense that may not be exactly the sort of thing you had in mind. You can email me for details though.

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