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Reviewing advertisements for junior faculty positions, I noticed that it is a relatively frequent occurrence, when there is a requirement (or strong preference) for candidates to provide three working papers, along with other materials. Thinking about that aspect and considering the often lengthy process of reviewing papers in decent enough journals, I am considering a strategy of splitting my short-term future efforts (real efforts, not just on paper!) into three more or less related (perhaps, but not necessarily, adjacent) areas of study and preparing three working papers on topics from my research agenda simultaneously. I realize that due to parallel efforts the progress on each paper will be less than, if I would focus on a single topic, but, again, considering lengthy academic review process, following this strategy would allow me to have at some point three relatively developed working papers, which can be listed in CV, presented at conferences or workshops or to hiring committees and, ultimately, transformed into full-blown research papers.

Question: What do you think about such simultaneous working papers strategy? Please mention advantages, disadvantages as well as other potential considerations of my suggested approach.

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If you work with coauthors, who will all have their own conflicting responsibilities, there will frequently be times when someone cannot work on a paper and the others cannot meaningfully proceed. In such times, you switch your attention to a different paper you are working on (alone or with other colleagues).

So, unless you work alone (not recommended), the "parallel working papers" strategy is less of a choice and more of a necessity. I personally am currently trying to juggle a textbook, two coauthored and one single-authored paper.

The same will apply to grant writing.

And even if you do work alone, there comes a time in a project when it's useful just to take a break and do something else for two or four weeks, then return to your initial project with a fresh mind.

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  • Thank you for fast and nice answer (+1) as well as for encouraging words. Unfortunately, I don't have any co-authors at this time and I'm not sure about how best to approach this problem. I mentioned my desire to collaborate to some limited number of people, but, I guess, my limited experience or somewhat different interests have not sparked a significant interest so far. I plan to continue my efforts, collaboration-focused or alone, but another issue is that I might need to deviate to work in IT industry for some time due to personal situation. – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 9 '15 at 14:59
  • Given that a mix of both single-authored and coauthored papers is probably best for your career, maybe you want to open a new question on how best to find coauthors? – Stephan Kolassa Sep 9 '15 at 15:55
  • Thank you for suggestion. It is a good idea, which I briefly considered. However, then I thought that it is a rather simple question with a most likely and obvious answer to it is simply to intensively network, interact with relevant people and publicize your own ideas, thoughts and projects (in other words, build your academic "brand"). Did I miss anything? – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 10 '15 at 0:46
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    All that does make sense, and once you have done that, people will start approaching you and proposing collaborations. A remaining question would seem to be: having built up some credibility, are there any important points to consider when you want to approach someone for collaboration yourself? Any red flags to look out for? Then again, all answers to this may well just be common sense... – Stephan Kolassa Sep 10 '15 at 6:18
  • Thank you for further clarifying points. It seems that asking the relevant separate question still might be beneficial - will post it shortly. – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 10 '15 at 7:05
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I would consider working on several things at once to be pretty normal. As Stephen Kolassa said, it's good to have different things to think about when you get stuck on one for whatever reason.

However, don't do it purely because you think that's what hiring committees will want. I don't have direct experience, but what I've been told would suggest that a paper in the hand is worth three in the bush.

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  • Thank you for your insights (+1). As I said, one of the problems with achieving the "a paper in the hand" goal is the lengthy academic review process, so you might end up with a single "in review" paper for a long time. Plus, as you and others said, an ability to switch focus mentally is IMHO often a very useful approach. – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 10 '15 at 0:40

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