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Quite often authors indicate that they will carry out some more work to complete /extend the project in the future work / discussion section.

E.g.:

We need to automatically create new entities; this is work in progress.

or:

In the future, we plan to deploy more sophisticated copy detection mechanisms, such as those in [10].

I have a high respect for the paper I used as an example, but I have first-hand witnessed other authors who write strong commitments like "We will do X in a future work" without any intent to do so.

Hence my question: Is there any research/study/survey that looked at how often authors actually perform and publish the work they indicate as the future work they plan to undertake in a publication?

I am fully aware that some formulations seem to indicate a strong commitment, while some are more suggestive ("some ideas thrown in the air").

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    An aside on "We will do X in a future work" -- The purpose of such a statement can be actually twofold: on one side, it allows authors to keep an article focused on a specific topic without enlarging the discussion too much; on the other, it allows authors to publish quickly. In the latter case, however, it can backfire: the reviewers might reject the article with the motivation: "well, do X, first". In any case, the future of a certain work might not go as it was planned for various reasons, that is, shit happens ;-)
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Nov 10 '14 at 20:51
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    The statement can also a highlight a future application of the presented method or put the method in a larger context without obligation to do it. The goal is not to commit, but rather to reinforce the utility of the paper.
    – afaust
    Nov 10 '14 at 21:47
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    I have witnessed a few times where 'we will do x later' is honestly their goal, but their mindset is to call an academic 'dibs' on that later work. Meaning, we know this project can go in x direction, and we want to take it there, but it might take some time, please dont do it before us. Nov 11 '14 at 2:12
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    Having the ambition to do something and having the possibility to actually do it are two different things.Funding is not the only reason one might not achieve a research goal, or even the most significant reason. If you already know that something will work, doing it isn't research.
    – JeffE
    Nov 11 '14 at 21:24
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    I don't think there is any data on this, so answers will be no more than anecdotes and opinions. Dec 3 '14 at 8:47
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+100

It depends on two factors: how well the researchers are organized and funding. I would say less than half of the research groups I know in Computer Science manage to follow their future work plans. The ones that do manage to follow their plans, have clear areas in which they are active and write their projects after half the work was done :)

Funding has repercussions on what you do at work: most of the time you will have to do the tasks related to your funding as opposed to what you would like to do (future work of your favorite article). The problem is funding stops at some point and then you take another project without getting to the future work from your previous article.

If you had worked well in a field, had some articles, there is no reason to abandon that work just because the funding ended, but you will have to follow it between the funded tasks and in your free time.

There is also the alternative that you write a follow-up research project and get to do a part of this future work in the second project.

I have gone through all these phases:

  • I have future work that was never done
  • I have future work that was done in the follow-up project (precisely a sequel project)
  • I have future work that was done in projects that were not related
  • I have also seen future work from some of our articles implemented as commercial project at a start-up by some of the co-authors of the papers

If you work around the clock and if you like the field you're working in, you will definitely find a way to integrate your long-term research goals with the current project goals or with the next project goals.

EDIT: At least in CS there is no survey/study/article about such a thing, as far as I know. There are though articles that look at how often a certain technology gets into a new company.

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    I recommend you reread the question, especially the paragraph that starts with "Hence my question: Is there any research/study/survey..." Is your "answer" to the question "Is there X?" Yes or No? Dec 3 '14 at 8:36
  • Please can you explain the basis on whch you say there are no studies of this in CS? What literature search did you do: what databases, what search terms?
    – 410 gone
    Dec 5 '14 at 23:10
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    @EnergyNumbers Here is why I can say these: I have kept detailed records of the activity of several of the top research groups/universities in several fields like Semantic Web, NLP, IR, ML, InfoVis, and Logic. I know this does not apply to all fields. I have then looked through what the history of their publications and overall narratives say, as well as at Google Scholar, IEEE, ACM, Springer and DBLP. Scholar offers top publications for each field, for example, DBLP shows citation graphs, etc. You can use as keywords the hot topics in each field, and you will get to the bottom of it.
    – paxRoman
    Dec 8 '14 at 11:29
  • @EnergyNumbers Please keep in mind that projects dictate what the future work is, and sometimes the future work sections are written with the knowledge of what the next phase of the project will need. In that case typically future work is done, because the project requires it, but otherwise, one of the things I have mentioned in the answer will happen.
    – paxRoman
    Dec 8 '14 at 11:32

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