Assume you have already completed your undergrad and have been working for a number of years. Does one need to be part of a university or a learning institution to publish papers?

10 Answers 10

up vote 75 down vote accepted

Absolutely not. Affiliations do not matter; what matters is the value and the fit of the contribution to the journal or the conference to which you are submitting.

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    It's probably best to add something like. You don't need to, but it helps a lot because it is the norm. – mac389 Aug 28 '12 at 12:02
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    This is very true. I know of an IBM employee who publishes about star formation in astronomy journals; he's not associated with a university. – Geremia Apr 19 '14 at 0:49
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    @mac389 I'd say it depends on the venue. If the review is double blind, for instance, there is absolutely no benefit in having a certain affiliation. – Marc Claesen Feb 5 '15 at 18:45
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    @mac389 why would being the norm be useful in the context of research? Isn't quality more important than any factor? – 190290000 Ruble Man Oct 21 '15 at 17:20
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    @190290000RubleMan In theory quality is paramount. We can't read every paper that is published. We use, instead, heuristics like 'norms' to identify papers that are likely to be substantive. – mac389 Oct 23 '15 at 21:05

While it is not true that you should be in academia to publish papers, I'll give my two cents on what I learned so far:

  1. If you work in industry and you write technical papers, your contributions are well-accepted, although they're typically more focused on certain practical aspects.

  2. Authors writing by themselves are welcome, but they somehow are not very common because they lack the ability of writing an academic paper: they do not lack the message or the content of a paper, but just the structure, and that's something that you learn in an academic environment.

  3. The reviewing process is not everywhere "double-blinded", so as a reviewer you do see the affiliation of who wrote the article, while they do not know you as a reviewer. I know that it's frowned upon, but I've read comments in the afterwards discussion (before the formal decisions) where reviewers pointed at the lack of a proper affiliation, or the "Who's this guy? where's s/he coming from?" sort of questions.

So all in all, there's no need to be an academic. But if you're not, stress enough your industry affiliation!

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    Interesting points ElCid. However I am currently doing my honours level at the moment and I am doing modules that focus' on research and how to go about it, how to structure it, how to do reviews of papers etc.. But perhaps I should have mentioned that I was thinking about once my studies are completed, if i could contribute then. – Eminem Aug 28 '12 at 11:12
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    @Maurice: I can think of the PhD students I supervised and who are now working outside academia. We always say that we should get together and write some more... but I can honestly say that this is possible only if your job is somewhat related to writing papers, otherwise there's not enough motivation for it. Again, my experience :) – ElCid Aug 28 '12 at 11:47
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    What if you point your company as affiliation which is not really research publishing company or industry related? – maximus Aug 8 '17 at 18:22

Technically, Maurice is right. You really don't have to be in academia to publish (even in academic journals). One famous example is Paul Erdos ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Erd%C5%91s#Career ), who I believe had no affiliation (at least in practice) for much of his life. However, most cultures have certain standard ways of doing things. Academia, and in particular the part of it that you want publish in, is no exception.

One thing you can do to help get your ideas accepted is to learn to write and talk in the language common to your research area. Specifically, find some papers in your area that you really like (even better if they are widely cited) and study how they are written. When you write your own papers, make a conscious effort to copy the writing style of the papers you like. One key part of this is to thoroughly know the relevant literature (previous work on the problem) and to mention it in your introduction and explain how your work relates to it. For each research area, there are numerous other hurdles you should jump. For example, if you're writing a math paper, do it in LaTeX. If you don't know LaTeX, learn it (ask Google, if you need help), since using it will make your paper more readily accepted. For a list of other criteria often used by mathematicians to quickly judge a paper, read http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=304 .

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    I guess that all the disciplines have got a standard structure (abstract/intro/related/methods/ etc), so I would try and learn that structure as the writing style, otherwise it's very simple to shoot down a paper just because "it's missing the discussion&implications part" or whathever else – ElCid Aug 29 '12 at 14:19
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    @ElCid Yes, most disciplines do have a standard structure, but even more subtle things (how long should your bibliography be; how do you phrase certain things) will differ from one area to another. If you are outside academia, but writing for academic journals, I strongly recommend that you get a few people inside academia (possibly professors that you've had) to read your paper and give you feedback before you submit it to a journal. – Dan C Aug 29 '12 at 14:42
  • good points. The immense challenge then becomes to stay on top of the related work even when not being part of a group that circulates such knowledge – ElCid Aug 29 '12 at 14:50
  • Technically yes, all scientific disciplines have got the same paper structure, based on the OHERIC methodology, itself based on the Médecine Expérimentale by Claude Bernard (which is in fact the author of the modern scientific methodology): fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/OHERIC – gaborous Nov 18 '14 at 13:49
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    This answer by Dan is extremely good. I like how it motions toward first principles reasoning and emulation of similar successful implementations. I think a person should be able to publish based on those simple quests and the final result content, assuming the paper is of substance. There should be a delineator somewhere that makes credentials of rapidly diminishing importance. For example, if new math or logic is revealed -- not theorized, revealed. – a25bedc5-3d09-41b8-82fb-ea6c353d75ae Apr 19 at 3:46

The Ronin Institute aims to facilitate precisely this type of independent scholarship. Its members include a number of very accomplished scholars who not do have university appointments yet publish regularly in top journals. Doubtless this is not the easiest route, but it clearly is not impossible either.

That said, the original question suggests that the researcher in question a bachelor's degree but no PhD. In general, publishing from this position would be more difficult than for a PhD who has left academia, because one would not have had the extensive immersion in academic culture and the experience in scholarly writing that comes with it.

Similar institutes are listed here .

Theoretically yes not but this is generally difficult, as requirements for the article will be higher and chances to prepare it really well are lower.

I would suggest to cooperate with some scientific institution that may also give good ideas how to improve the article. Maybe some extra experiments could be done using resources of that university. Or, if you represent a company, maybe a shared grant can be written getting more money for your project.

Also, unless you have experience in writing the scientific paper, it is very difficult to put everything into required structure, provide reasonable introduction with all necessary references and the like. A university professor can do this much easier as he does all the time.

Not necessarily. You can publish with your name only. In fact the value of the work is judged mainly by the readers who are the end users, and if you believe you can add something meaningful to the knowledge then go for it.

From my own experience, some universities take advantage of having their name thrown in while they provide little support to the work produced. Go for it and best of luck

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    I was going to up-vote this answer when I read the first paragraph. Then I want to down-vote this answer when I read the second paragraph. I ended up with doing nothing. – scaaahu Aug 5 '16 at 12:41
  • @scaaahu why so? if work is good, and university helps publishing it by being affiliate, whats the problem? just want to understand your point – maximus Aug 8 '17 at 18:31
  • @maximus I have no problem with if work is good, and university helps publishing it by being affiliate at all. But, the second paragraph of this answer "some universities take advantage of having their name thrown in" sounds negative. – scaaahu Aug 9 '17 at 5:42
  • I agree with @scaaahu there. Not exactly because it sounds negative, but because it is (i) irrelevant to the question, (ii) mostly nonsense. On (ii) one should not conflate the universities with their staff. Some individuals may unfairly benefit from their institution/lab names showing but nonetheless the institution itself ought to be acknowledged if it was the host. – Scientist Jun 17 at 18:22

In theory, no. There's though a practical implication that you will have to pay the publication costs from your own money. For example, if your paper is accepted to a conference, you'll have to pay the participation fee and then actually travel there.

In principle no, but...

In my field of study, you do have to declare some affiliation as an author. Publishers are claiming their submission system needs some official affiliation. A friend of mine was a senior co-author on one of my papers, and yet he holds no official degree (a renowned part-time investigator working as an architect). He opted to declare an institution within which he had many friends, and the editor was happy enough.

I believe however any official institution will do, even if not academic (e.g. Ministry for Environment, some private company).

Does one need to be part of a university or a learning institution to publish papers?

No, one doesn't. If your company is unrelated to your submission, it might be even wrong to put its name on it. However there is a practical aspect: providing the editor or the PC with the affiliation tells them a potential source of the conflicts of interest (COI). In other words, finding a reviewer without COI might get easier for them if the affiliation is listed. It is in your interest to support their work.

Interesting question. You do not have to be affiliated to a university to publish papers, however, your paper will most likely be reviewed by (early) academics. They will judge your work according to their academic standards.

I am currently doing a PhD next to my work in public-private sector. I use a university affiliation when I publish. The interesting part is that often reviewers consider my (generalised) research questions and case studies to be unrealistic or non-relevant, while in fact they are directly obtained from my work and relevant.

On the other hand, if I stress the practical part (applied science), reviewers tend to judge my work as not novel (or should be well known) while my contributions are a novel application of scientific methods in practice.

In my modest experience it is difficult to bridge a gap between science and practice in publishing. Of course it also depends on the type of journal and its reviewers. It is not impossible. I am making progress.

In one of the answers is suggested to stress your industry affiliation. The author may be right. Reviewers may use different standards, or an editor may select reviewers with industry experience. I have not yet tried that approach.

protected by Alexandros Jan 20 at 20:49

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