“Publish or perish” is a familiar saying among academics. More often than not, their advancement depends on publishing new research in their field.
But veteran engineer and educator Harry T. Roman believes that technical professionals who are not college or university professors can also enhance their careers when they publish.
What’s more, he says it doesn’t matter whether it’s a technical paper or an article in an industry publication. Both get noticed.
Roman, who has had hundreds of his own scientific papers, articles, monographs and books published over his long career, has now written the IEEE-USA E-BOOK, Publish Your Work. The book is a helpful resource for almost any engineer, especially those beginning their careers, or with just a few years of professional experience. IEEE-USA is introducing the volume this month for $1.99 for members and $3.99 for non-members.
Drawing on his personal experiences, the author offers valuable insights into publishing both formal papers and industry articles. Formal papers, which carry more of what he calls “intellectual weight,” usually require a special format; have a strict timeline for submission to allow for peer review in time for publication; and may be returned with required changes. In addition, some conferences may classify papers as full papers and publish them in their conference proceedings. Other conferences may post papers on bulletin boards, or as an abstract, or a limited summary.
On the other hand, articles in industry publications are usually published faster and more easily — and are not subject to a peer review, or a juried review. Roman notes, “A magazine arrives on someone’s desk probably every month, and the articles themselves are a kind of conversation. Never minimize the power of a well-crafted magazine article.”
“Sometimes, someone in your organization may ask a staff writer to contact you, or a reporter may hear you speak at a conference,” he adds. “Articles are great advertising for you and your company. Just make sure you have the permission of your management to have the article published.”
The author offers precautions for technical professionals who may be interviewed. He points out that, unlike speaking with industry reporters who are familiar with the jargon and technology, newspaper reporters usually are not. “Make sure you speak accurately,” he warns, “as you will not get to review what was written before it’s published.”
Despite the necessary precautions, Roman believes being published brings many benefits to an author.
“Whether you publish a formal paper for a conference or an article in an industry magazine or similar forum, you’re acting like a professional and enriching the literature of your specialty,” he writes. “Also, the industry now knows what you are doing and who you work for — in essence, you are noted on the ‘industry map.’”
He notes that another important benefit to publishing includes the potential to present at significant technical gatherings — where many companies send representatives to both identify individuals performing interesting work, and to look for potential new partnerships or working arrangements. He says this benefit is especially true of trade shows, where conference papers are often presented adjacent to important hardware and software demonstrations.
Roman believes that publishing provides important growth opportunities — for the writer, who hones his or her own written and oral presentation skills, and also to those who will read and review what you have written before submitting it for publication.
Knowingly, the author devotes a chapter to key principles that any would-be author must follow, when developing an article or paper. These include following company procedures for obtaining formal permission to publish in the first place.
“Obtaining formal permission can vary among companies,” he writes, “but every company has established procedures. The approval procedures are there to protect you — and the company.”
He strongly advises having at least one other person double-check your work for such details as the quality and accuracy of the data, as well as your conclusions and comments. He adds the critical importance of ensuring whatever you discuss won’t affect your company’s intellectual property. “PR and free advertising are no match for preserving a company’s intellectual property rights and future potential patent validity,” he emphasizes.
To illustrate the value of writing both industry articles and formal papers, the author discusses how, while managing a mobile service robotics program at New Jersey’s PSE&G, he had written articles and presented formal technical paper presentations about it. As one result, he was able to form lucrative partnerships with various manufacturers that ultimately returned more than $650,000 in hardware royalty revenues to the company. Other utility companies heard about these partnerships and formed their own; the effort ultimately became a 500+ member, global electric utilities and manufacturers robotics users group.
“My original corporate mentors — all eventual IEEE Fellows — liked to remind us young engineers that if you worked had to develop something, you should sign your name to it and present it,” Roman says. “Be proud of your work!”
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.