I have no academic (peer-reviewed) publications to my credit but close to 6 years of industry-based experience. I have just completed a PhD in sociology.

Does my work in industry carry any weight in academia?

My work in industry included activities such as developing codes and operational manuals in a particular field to be used by operators in that field (e.g., a health and safety manual).


Weight in academia is carried mostly by peer-reviewed research publications, published in academically reputable venues such as research journals, conferences, books with reputable publishers, reputable preprint servers, ... If you get these publications from industry research, you get academic weight. A famous example for prominent research in electrical engineering done in industry are the Bell laboratories.

Codes and operational manuals are not academic publications, and typically carry little weight. In order to get that, you have to publish academic papers about the codes and manuals, or publish papers about research results obtained with them.

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    It's not academic publications, it is peer-reviewed publications. In my field, industry researchers publish almost as much as academics, in the same journals/conferences. – D.W. Jan 18 '13 at 1:30
  • @D.W. true, I added peer-reviewed. – silvado Jan 18 '13 at 7:41
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    Thanks for your note! I guess I would still take issue with the statement that "Weight in academia is carried mostly by peer-reviewed academic publications." I believe a more accurate statement is "Weight in academia is carried mostly by peer-reviewed publications." Whether the publication is from an academic or not is irrelevant. (The fact that a paper appears in a peer-reviewed journal/conference does not make it an academic publication; I know plenty of industry researchers who publish great research in the same places that academics publish.) Sorry if this sounds overly nitpicky! – D.W. Jan 18 '13 at 7:48
  • P.S. Another way to think about it: try defining what you mean by an "academic publication". (I suspect you'll find that the modifier "academic" is either redundant or overly restrictive, depending upon what you mean by it.) – D.W. Jan 18 '13 at 7:49
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    @Silvado: I think the phrase you're looking for is research publications. I'd also add "publicly-available" to exclude company-internal and classified research reports, which may be peer-reviewed but are not available to the outside world. – JeffE Jan 18 '13 at 16:48

Does industry research carry any weight in academia? It varies. It varies by subject, by institution, by the individuals doing the hiring.

Are there subjects, places, people where industry research can get you a post even with no journal papers? Yes. Are such appointments common? Not anywhere I know of.

A good employer (those are the ones you want, right?) will be able to look past the traditional indicators of a good researcher (PhD, journal papers, career in academia), and look at other, non-traditional ones. But that takes time and effort, and hiring can be a drain on those as it is, so you'd need to give a potential employer some really good reasons up front why they should put the effort in to establishing your abilities.

A personal recommendation from a senior academic, or from a retired senior academic - one who's already trusted and respected by the employer you're targetting - is the sort of thing that can help open doors for you.


The problem here is with your use of the phrase "industry research". Writing codes and manuals isn't actually research.

Research is research: if it is good research, it counts and definitely carries weight in academia. Research is evaluated by its merit (e.g., intellectual depth, correctness, importance) and its impact (how has it changed practice? how has it changed the course of research done by other researchers?). The names or affiliations of who did the research is irrelevant. It doesn't matter whether the work was done in a university or in a company. It doesn't matter whether the affiliation on the title is a university or a company. What matters is the content of the paper.

If it's good research, it carries weight with academia. It also carries weight with industry research labs.

However, writing health and safety manuals is not research. You shouldn't call it "industry research". You should call it "writing health and safety manuals". And if it's not research, it doesn't count towards your research record and doesn't carry weight.

A good indicator of research is that it is (a) novel, and (b) published in a highly regarded, (c) peer-reviewed forum.

(The question gets more interesting if we are talking about people who do novel, scientific research that could have been published in a peer-reviewed forum, but isn't, because the company wants to keep the results secret. This kind of research is harder for academics to evaluate, and thus might not carry as much weight with academia, because it isn't published. In that case, it's not that the research was performed in industry so much as that the research was never published. In any case, it sounds like that's relevant to you, based upon what you've told us here. Writing health and safety manuals is most likely not something that could have been published in a peer-reviewed conference or journal.)

  • Unsure why industry research is not research. It involves the same skills but at a different, perhaps more practical level. – Javeer Baker Jan 19 '13 at 4:51
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    @JaveerBaker, I can understand why you find this puzzling. The problem is that by using the phrase "industry research" to describe the activity of "writing health and safety manuals", you begged the question: you made an implicit assumption that this activity is research, when actually it probably isn't really research. To help you avoid this self-inflicted confusion, I suggest that you try removing the phrase "industry research" from your lexicon and re-ask your question, elaborating if necessary on the activities you were doing and whether they carry weight as research experience. – D.W. Jan 19 '13 at 5:10
  • @D.W. - This answer is misleading. There is a very important distinction between industry and academic research; academic research is all public, lots of industry research is private. Because of this, it can be very hard to gauge a researcher's skill when working in industry, as he may have no collaborations, no publications, no public speaking engagements, and no name recognition. – eykanal Mar 7 '13 at 21:03
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    @eykanal, thanks, those are good points. I've revised my answer based upon your comments. Here's why I think my answer is not misleading. Based upon the description in the question, what the OP is doing isn't research in the first place, so we don't even reach the issue you raise. While I agree there is a lot of non-published industry research that is real research, I don't think that's the core issue here. I think the core issue is that writing health and safety manuals probably isn't research in the first place. – D.W. Mar 8 '13 at 2:49
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    @eykanal woah, what!? I think you are totally misinterpreting me. I did not call industry research "writing codes and manuals". I never said that! What I'm saying is that "writing codes and manuals" is not industry research. I'm a big fan of research from industry labs; in my field, there's outstanding research coming out of research labs. But go re-read the original question: the OP says he was "developing codes and operational manuals". That's not research! – D.W. Mar 8 '13 at 8:27

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