Should I stay longer and make sure the paper gets published?

Question from a PhD student:

I want to transition to industry as a research scientist. 

I have one protocol paper accepted, one second-author paper, and one first-author paper that is not yet submitted.

I am worried as my advisor wants to add more data to the first-author paper before submitting, and it keeps getting delayed. 

Now he wants me to stay as a postdoc to finish it.

My advisor knows I want to transition to industry.

Should I stay longer and make sure the first-author paper gets published?

oindree banerjee at phd graduation pic for blog how to phd should I stay longer and make sure the paper gets published
This is at my graduation, but I think I could pass as an agony aunt here

How to PhD response:

Your situation sounds to me like your advisor wants to keep you forever. 

Because you are good!

It is a tricky business to be good at your job.

He knows you are going to industry - HE has nothing to lose if you give more of your time to this paper.   

If you lined up an academic job, I bet he would be much less inclined to keep you longer. 

You see, YOU are the only one in a position to lose from staying longer.

In this situation, do what you need to do to graduate with your degree.

And, ONLY that. 

Your advisor could want many things - but YOU need to do what will get you out ASAP. 

That is likely NOT working more and more on the paper. 

Write your thesis, finish up whatever is going into your thesis.

The document that will get you out with your degree is your thesis, not the paper.

Sometimes getting a paper accepted by a journal is a requirement to graduate but that is clearly not the case here as he wants you to stay as a postdoc to finish the paper.

In my experience, waiting for a paper to happen is a mistake. 

This is from someone that LOVES writing and publishing. 

Papers have a life of their own. 

If you wait for the paper - well you might be waiting forever. 

Waiting for anything is tricky - it could never happen! 

Continue with your industry job search regardless of the actual publishing of the paper.

You could put a draft of the paper on arXiv - do you guys ever do that?

Then point to the arXiv version during your interviews.

You don’t need more publications.

You do need to explain whatever relevant things you have done so far whether finally published OR NOT and make them sound like the best thing to happen after sliced bread. 

Don’t bring up anything about a paper needing more work at the interview. 

If it comes up, don't lie either.

You can say you have a draft and it is pending submission. 


Should you stay longer and make sure your paper gets published?  

My short answer: NO     

If you have trouble graduating due to advisor problems, then read this. 

This is one of my papers on arXiv - it is not finally published yet but you bet it is on my resume with the arXiv link. 

arXiv is free - no paywall! 

In physics, it is common to give out arXiv links even when the paper is published in a journal because it is free to access. 

Confidently speak about the paper at your interviews if it is relevant.

Own it.

At what time it actually gets published is not important.

It's the work you have done and the relevant experience you have obtained that will be of interest to the company.

So focus on that.

Good luck!


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