Monday, September 28, 2015

Peer Review Week - How to Find Industrial Researchers [*]

Today is the start of international "Peer Review Week", a time to celebrate all the good that comes from peer review and to make sure that it receives its proper recognition as playing a key role in publishing research and awarding research grants. Blame it on my grey hairs for being jaded and cynical, but I expect all the commentary to focus on academic researchers performing peer review and either giving industrial researchers short shrift or no shrift at all.

Being until recently a non-academic researcher, (being an adjunct professor I am no longer so pure and pristine, but as I only lecture 3.5 hours a week, I spend far more time being non-academic than academic and so still relate more closely to non-academics), it goads me to no end to be ignored and otherwise taken for granted. Just this year alone I've already reviewed 14 manuscripts, and have not submitted any for review during that time (0 submissions is very common output for industrial researchers). You can't even take a proper ratio on that, but clearly as an industrial, non-academic researcher, I am contributing to the system greatly in excess of what I get out. Even if I had only completed 1 review, since I didn't submit a paper for submission, the system still would record me as a positive contributor. And that is how most industrial researchers are. We very seldom contribute manuscripts for publication, so we don't tax the system highly. Even for those researchers that do submit a manuscript or two a year, it wouldn't take much for them to pay the system back.

All of which is background to this: I got into a snit this morning on Twitter when someone tweeted about how valuable industrial researchers are to peer review, but they are "...more difficult to find (email/position only seldom listed in www)". So here are my suggestions to editors everywhere on finding industrial researchers that can help with peer review.
  1. Start with LinkedIn. It's like Facebook, but for professionals. There are countless professionals (about 200 million give or take) from all fields on it, they can be easily searched and emails/websites are readily available. Even if they aren't explicitly listed, as long as their employer is named, you can find them. There are two ways:
    • You know how every new phone comes loaded with pre-installed apps that you will never use and you can't get rid of them? Well, you're going to use one of them. There is this app on cellphones called the phone feature (I believe that this is where the name "iPhone" comes from!). Use it to call the main number for their employer (which you can easily find on the internet). Ask to be connected to the employee. It may take a little bit of time, but companies don't really try to make their employees miss out on calls from the outside world.
    • If the phone is too scary, email them. I know your response already ("BUT I DON'T HAVE THEIR EMAIL ADDRESS!"), but it isn't difficult to figure out a work email address. While personal email accounts can be difficult to guess, corporations like to give the appearance of transparency so no sneakiness is allowed. My work emails have always been some variation/combination of my last name and then first name/initials/... Over the years, I've had,, etc. Once you know the pattern that a company uses, you're practically there. Suppose you want to contact Elmer Fudd at 3M. There are only 26 possibilities: start with, For more common names such as John Q. Public, you might need to try,'m sure someone could write an app to auto-generate all the possibilities. All you need is to know the format that the company uses. And that's easy to figure out since sites like this have done all the work for you.
  2. Now that you have captured your first industrial researcher, treat them like a spark and build a massive fire off of them. Ask them who else they know and could connect you to. Build a network off of these people and keep expanding it.
Was that so difficult? I realize this is pointed and snarky, but that Tweet this morning really got to me. I've been writing for years about how industrial researchers are seriously overlooked as a potential source of manpower and for someone to complain about difficulty in contacting us was just unnerving. And while the RSC was ahead of the curve in contacting me years ago to be a reviewer (they got my email address off of this blog!), they have never bothered with step 2. Their loss. For Peer Review Week 2015, let's make this the year that industrial researchers are finally recognized as a vast, wasted resource that they are, and then start to use them. [*] Clever people will take these techniques and put them to other constructive uses.

Previous Years September 28, 2012 - The Largest Molecule September 28, 2011 - Hidden Problems in Heat Transfer September 28, 2010 - Blur, perception and Distance >September 28, 2009 - Marketing that anyone can love

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