Do you really count a review article as a publication?

Feb 01 2011 Published by under Grad School, Publishing

So for a while (around a year) I have been writing a dinky little review article for my boss*.  This has been put onto my priority list and taken off several times by my PI, as I'm already up to my ears in experiments and don't have much time for this thing.  The last time I put it down I was halfway through a first draft.  Since today was a slow day in the lab, I decided to rededicate myself to this damn thing.  I honestly just need to get this invited review done so that I can stop feeling like the ancient mariner with an albatross slung around his neck.  My goal is to get a first draft finished in the next week or so and throw the damn thing down on my boss's desk and tell him the ball is in his court.

My question is how do you folks view review articles?  Is it a waste of time, that would rather be better spent in the lab generating work for a "real" publication?  Do you find them worthwhile or are we saturated with too many review articles as it is**?

*This dinky review article will count towards my publication requirements for graduation as well as serve as the introductory chapter in my thesis, so its worth it to get it done and out of the way.
**I find review articles nice for certain fields but with respect to non-coding RNAs there are almost as many review articles as research articles. And damn if there isn't a review article out on a specific pathway in my field every year from the same damn lab. Its enough to drive you batty.

21 responses so far

  • Dr Becca says:

    You need to find a balance, sure, and certainly don't NOT get original research papers out because of it. But I've found review articles to be great to write for several reasons. First, you get to know your field really, really well, and it forces you to synthesize your own thoughts about the state of the field, which is good for future grant writing. Second--citations, dude! Kick that h-factor up a notch or two!

    • That's kind of what I have been doing Becca. Every so often when I get free time I jump back on this. At this point I'm almost done with putting in all the key literature and then its time to craft the key message of the review and what should be focused on in the future for my protein of interest.

  • flutesUD says:

    On the whole, yes I think they're worthwhile though I have been sitting on an invited review myself almost that long (getting 3 other pubs out etc). I had my CV publications sections split out like PIs do (peer-reviewed original publications, invited papers and reviews, book chapters etc), and my PI said that at the early stage of my career (for those who don't know me, a senior grad student), such separation isn't really necessary so I should just list them all together, which makes my publications list look even better. Something to think about since I know that soon you will be pretty competitive for internal fellowships and things like that.

    You say that it will be used as your intro chapter in your thesis - just remember that you'll need to rewrite it sufficiently to get around the anti-plagiarism test that they run theses through. But at least you will have a good handle on the literature, and perhaps even learn a few more things that might have slipped through your regular literature search.

    So yes get it done, but not necessarily at a cost of ruining lab work (failing to take care of cells, running gels off or whatever).

  • Bob O'H says:

    I definitely count review articles: as long as they're published in a peer review journal, they're just like any other paper. And they tend to get cited more too.

  • antipodean says:

    Yes, review articles are worthwhile. But only up to a point.

    Much the same as you sneer at some research group banging out the same review year after year so to will your peers. It gives you a bad rep.

    On the other hand a really good critical review can get cited out of this world when you do a good job. So the trick is to balance it all out. There's probably a ratio of data:review articles that makes you look like you know what your on about rather than being a sideline dilettante. It may be field specific but I think it wouldn't be too far wrong to say that 5:1 might be OK.

    It might be pissing you off right now, but your boss has actually done you a favour in the long run by throwing you a review article to write.

  • Sarah says:

    Review articles can add new content, if you 'synthesize' things in a different way than they have been presented before. As long as you're not basically just summarizing the exact same papers as another review article, people will probably get use out of it. Just for your own benefit, it's also a great way to make sure you've read all the literature out there in your field. Not all fields are over saturated with review articles, some are under saturated. Picture the exact paper that you wish you had when you were starting out but could never find and write that. It'll definitely help someone. Depending on the kind of academic you want to be, a good deal of your efforts could be spent on education/teaching over research, and then review papers are exactly where you want to be devoting your time.

  • Odyssey says:

    In the grand scheme of your career review articles only count if you have a bunch of peer-reviewed research publications.

  • drugmonkey says:

    If it counts for a req for defending then it counts. Academic credit is variable with circumstance and audience. In this case you have a clear reason for writing it.

  • Who, me? says:

    It depends on the review article. Some are just rehashes of the literature. Some contain new insight. In general, if you don't have something new to say, perhaps they aren't worth it. And a good review article will contribute to your h-index later.

    • There has been some potential roles for this protein tossed out in the literature that are not fully vetted and that needs to be cleared up. Also, I think we need to redirect people to what it might really be involved in and how its playing a role in cancer.

      The nice thing is no one has written a review article for this protein before, so I'd get to plant my flag.

  • Bashir says:

    It really depends on the article. Write a good one that both covers the literature well and provides some new insight, and it will be viewed well. I think a good review article can show big picture thinking. I wouldn't make a habit of writing them, though. One is plenty.

    Dinky? My review article was longer than my dissertation, and is arguably in a better journal. We'll see what get's more cites.

  • Dr 29 says:

    I would, but maybe include it on a separate section. I think that's what my ex-boss used to do, modeled on the biosketch.

  • Until you're a PI, unless it's in a high-impact-factor peer-reviewed journal, like an NPG or Cell Press journal or higher, then it's a fucken waste of time compared to publishing real research manuscripts. And don't listen to any of this fucken bullshitte about "it adds to your H factor" or "a paper is a paper" or "they get lots of citations". Those are total fucken lies that people tell themselves to makes themselves feel better about their relative lack of real peer-reviewed research manuscripts, and none of it means jacke fucken dicke to your career advancement.

    • That was my thought process. I just want to knock this shit out and not have to focus on it anymore.

      • Arlenna says:

        CPP is making a fundamental assumption here, though: that you actually already know how to read the literature appropriately, see the gestalt of significant information that comes out of that process, and lay it out in writing to communicate it to other people. For those who don't know how to do that yet, working on a review article can be really good training.

      • Since it will serve as the intro to your dissertation, it's definitely well worth it. May as well have it serve double-duty (Intro/Manuscript) for you.

  • I have had several experiences as a writer-of-review. My first review as a grad student I did because my advisor told me to. It was in a nothing journal and was worthless OTHER than the fact that 1) I learned a whole lot more about the field, and how to search for literature and 2) it was the first paper I wrote, start to finish, and it improved my writing substantially at that stage. Never, under any circumstance, would I write such a review now.

    My reviews as a postdoc are well-cited, but to me, at this stage of my career, I have considered them most worthwhile because they get my name out there. I have met a good number of people at conferences who have introduced themselves with "Oh I read your review on X and it was just so helpful". Name recognition as a trainee who wants an academic career, IMO, is more important than the citations.

    One review won't hurt you. Take the learning experience, and try to say no in the future unless 1) you both need and want the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the review topic or 2) it's for Nature or Science.

  • The Nokia 2600 can be relied upon to deliver good audio quality during voice calls.
    She has always been relatively mature, yet recently she has been behaving like a bratty 14 year
    old at times and an insolent toddler at others. Sophisticated
    it ain't, but if you can stomach the subject matter and the gentle
    nudges towards the in-app purchase store, this is as fine a way to kill a ten minute wait
    as any other.

  • Truly no matter if someone doesn't be aware of
    then its up to other viewers that they will assist, so here
    it happens.

Leave a Reply