I'm currently a postdoc in theoretical computer science. My position will last for about 9 months. I have a good track of publications and enjoy a lot working at academia, in particular I enjoy to solve problems and write papers in my field. But I think that it would take something like 2 to 3 years to get competitive for a lector/tenure track job.

The thing is that I'm married with children, and my wife has a permanent job. So she will not be able to travel with me if I need to do another postdoc elsewhere. Therefore, I'm considering applying for industry jobs. I do believe that some types of jobs in within the industry would also be very enjoyable. But my goal would be to keep publishing and then eventually get back to academia when my CV is competitive enough.

My only problem is: Once I go to the industry, how to keep publishing? I mean I am pretty independent and good at writing papers alone or in collaborating via internet. And I'm also used to write papers in my spare time, during the night and on weekends. So I'm not worried about the time to keep doing research. But I'm afraid that without an academic affiliation, the probability that my papers would be considered for publication in conferences and journals would decrease.

Suppose I work in some enterprise in the automotive industry, or telecommunications industry, or even as a consultant.

Question 1) What affiliation should I put in my papers when submitting to conferences and journals? Should I put the name of the enterprise, even if the research is not being done there?

Question 2) Would an affiliation outside academia decrease the chances that my papers are accepted in theoretical computer science journals and conferences? Of course I know that some affiliations such as google, microsoft, etc do not harm, but I'm considering some jobs in much less well known companies.

Question 3) Is it possible to go back to academia after some years in industry if I keep my publication record high?

6 Answers 6


I am a good example of how it is quite possible to keep up a strong publication record in industry, as long as your job supports it. I submit my Google Scholar profile for evidence: I moved from postdoc to industry in 2008, and though I have contemplated (and been offered) opportunities to move back to academia, to date I have actively chosen to continue in my current position.

Likewise, no healthy scientific community will hold a prejudice against authors from industry, any more than they hold prejudice against authors from less well known universities. Unhealthy communities do sometimes have cliques that make it difficult for anybody outside of a clique to publish.

In certain cases, you can even have an advantage in research when you come from industry, as it is often useful for academics to have "industry partners" who often have a broader perspective are capable of doing things that they are not.

You do, however, need to have a job that supports publication. For that, I recommend looking into research consulting companies, rather than normal "product" companies, where you will typically have little time to publish. If publication can be part of your job, you can keep up publication; if it is a "second job," it will be far harder.

  • If the research is truly after-work pastime, what would you put as affiliation?
    – Raphael
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 17:38
  • @Raphael Depends on the policy of your company: many would actually require that you put the company as your affiliation, even if you're doing it after-work. Some would require that you not do so, in which case I've seen people writing down their personal consulting companies or just something like "Member, ACM."
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 18:02
  • 5
    @Raphael Why do you need an affiliation? Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 4:54

Disclaimer: I'm not in your research area.

Q1: The affiliation under which you conduct your research; whoever pays for your research time is your affiliation on paper. Careful with moonlighting provisions in some contracts--not all companies will allow you to claim "on-the-side" IP creation. Also, keep in mind that in many companies you cannot publish anything related to your work without their legal team giving green light to the manuscript.

Q2: I would think not if the venue is reputable. Double-blind review wouldn't hurt (that's how my research area operates).

Q3: Yes. But you must realize that keeping your publication record high while working for a company is much easier said than done, especially if that company doesn't attach value to publishing. In my experience, pretty much the only reliable way to discern whether publishing is valuable to a company is to look at (recent) past history in the particular division you will be employed at--a publishing culture is not built overnight.

  • 1
    What is this magical land in which publication review is double blind?
    – DanielSank
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 9:43
  • 1
    @DanielSank Plenty of places. 44% of researchers in a 2008 survey had encountered double-blind reviewing as an author (& 42% as a reviewer). It was most common in clinical research & humanities/social science. publishingresearchconsortium.com/index.php/112-prc-projects/… Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 11:48
  • @Andrew, I wasn't being facetious. If only physics did the same.
    – DanielSank
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 11:51
  • @DanielSank ah, apologies :-) You might be interested to see this other study, which splits out opinions by disciplines - a small majority of physicists seem to agree with you, so perhaps there's hope yet! onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/asi.22798/full Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 12:03
  • @Andrew Frankly, I think the journal system rather out of date. We no longer need restrict ourselves to review by one to three individuals who may each have conflicts of interest. If a service like arXiv could figure out a reasonable up/down voting system for freely published works I think we'd all be better off.
    – DanielSank
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 12:12

I am an industrial researcher, and I have published quite a few papers under my company affiliation, some of it was only very remotely related to my work. The managers actually like it, they can show how innovative the department is. All I do is to send the article for approval, add a note that it doesn't contain confidential information as it was done outside of work.

I do this because publications are actually part of my yearly bonus. Now if I came up with something groundbreaking and marketable, I would not publish under the company affiliation, as this could lead the company to claim ownership of my work.

My company is very well-known, so the non-academic affiliation is not a problem at all. Of course, if you work at a New Age Bookstore or a Cannabis Dispensary, publications in scientific or medical journals might raise some eyebrows.

A word of warning from friends' experiences: Just be aware that often the applicant will be the most honest person in a job interview, don't expect them to be honest to you.

If you ask them if you can publish, they will of course tell you sure, but don't be surprised if your job later has nothing to do with research (despite them telling you so and giving you a job title like researcher) and that you will have absolutely no time to publish anything. Publishing might even be seen negatively, because some companies see you as their property and don't want you to do anything but work (and relax during your 2 weeks vacation so you can work more afterwards).

As far as returning to academia. I've seen this happen many times. One thing to note is that contacts are just as (or more) important than publications, and if you leave the community, you will have a very hard time to go back. So you have to continue to go to conferences and try to volunteer on conference committees and similar to stay in touch with people. Also your priorities might change, once I took an industrial job, I lost interest in going back quickly, something that I did not think possible before.

You write that your cv is not competitive enough at the moment. The problem with an industrial position is that you won't have as much time to spend on publications as someone in academia, where your only purpose in life is to publish. So in 3 years, you will compete with people who have been running the publishing treadmill for 3 more years, and of course, they will have more papers than you.

Don't underestimate the time and energy a day job takes. While my job is actually a research job, I personally don't have the energy left to publish as much as I would like to, even though my company supports publications and gives me a bonus for it. Especially as you get older, have family obligations etc., you just won't have the energy to write anything up.

Whatever decision you make, don't be afraid of change. I was terrified before I left academia and thought about the same things you do now, but in the end everything worked out well, and I even get to write a paper now and then.

  • The risk described is real - is there a possibility to publish? But a work environment (industry or academic) is more than an office. Therefore, the important questions are: who will be your future colleagues, and do they publish?
    – MSalters
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 11:25

I'm doing what you are doing: performing a nominally research-oriented job in industry and publishing on the side. This and this earlier answer of mine may be helpful. To your questions:

  1. You should discuss whether you should put your employer's name down as an affiliation. My employer allows this, even on work I do that is utterly non-related to my day job.

  2. You being in industry should not matter. Hopefully. This will depend on your field - in one of my fields (forecasting), it may be a slight plus, in the other one (inferential statistics for psychology), nobody cares, because I'm only one of five co-authors, and never the lead author.

  3. No idea about this.

I'm afraid that industry research positions on theoretical computer science will be extremely rare. Good luck finding and getting one of those!

If you can't get something in theoretical CS, you essentially have two options - either switch fields to something more applied (in which case you will need to both learn the basics of this field and establish a new reputation and network), or continue your theoretical CS work in the evenings. In this case, your employer will likely not pay for you to attend conferences, so you will either have to pay yourself and take vacation time to go, or forego the networking opportunities conferences offer. In addition, I have found that I'm too tired once my kids are in bed to do any scientific work, and I hate spending the time they are awake writing non-work related papers - my kids don't see enough of me as it is. Your mileage may vary.

  • There are many more industrial theoretical CS positions than one might expect, certainly in both the US and Europe. They're still pretty rare, though, and some are not permitted to publish.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 17:01

As others have mentioned, it is feasible to use a company affiliation. The other thing you may consider is seeking an adjunct (unpaid / honorary) appointment with your current university. I used a 'Visiting Research Fellow' affiliation for a few years after my PhD as I was working as a consultant.

My articles were really extensions of my PhD work and related research done on my own time. My consulting work concerned something else entirely.

The research director or similar of your current department might be able to help identify whether you would be eligible for such an appointment and how to apply. In my case, the application was a letter to the department with an outline of the research I was intending to do.


To get a job in industry that allows you to keep up a high rate of publications, high enough to make a move to academia later easy, is probably much harder than getting a job in academia in the first place.

You have to decide if you want to go on doing "mostly pure research", and stay in academia, or do "mostly application", and go to industry.

  • I do not believe that this is true for engineering-type fields or for certain theoretical ones. There are a much lower percentage of "mostly research" jobs in industry, but a very large number of jobs all told.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 10:15

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