There is the age old question of quantity vs quality in scientific writing. I think that the general consensus is that it’s a mix of both. Sure, most scientists* want that Nature or Science paper, but chances are they aren’t going to get one. And even if someone has such a publication (or a few) on their CV, chances are that they also have a wide variety of other manuscripts scattered throughout other journals. So in addition to the idea of quantity vs quality, there also arises the question of diversity over impact.
When I first started publishing as a graduate student, I quickly labeled myself (at least according to my manuscripts) as an ecotoxicologist. Most of my graduate work concerned pesticides in one way or another and tox journals seemed like a logical fit. This is not to say that tox-related studies don’t fit in other journals, it’s just easier with tox journals. Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting this, but I’m not saying anything new here. If you look at my CV, it’s tox heavy. I originally favored short studies with quick turnaround to start building a publication record. My undergraduate work was in amphibian toxicology so it was a logical carry over. But as I progressed through my graduate career, I became more interested with questions concerning disease and community ecology, and less interested in the tox work.** I added in some field surveys for disease, a few fruitful collaborations on disease dynamics, and began to shape my research in broader ecological contexts. I’m mired in revisions for a few manuscripts, but I’m currently preparing one of my last experiments from my graduate work for publication. It’s tox and disease, community ecological and food webs, pure science with management implications. It’s been a challenge yet also quite rewarding. So I guess this is where I get to the title of this post.
In the beginning, I just favored publishing. “Get out there” I was told, so I did. I realized that there are a bunch of well-respected tox journals with decent impact factors. But I didn’t (and don’t) want a CV full of journals from a single discipline. So I branched out into some herpetology journals, couple disease journals, and an ecology journal (with more submissions to come). Maybe I would have a higher cumulative IF association if I stuck with tox journals, but that’s not the scientist that I want to be. I think (and hope) that potential future employers will value a diverse publication record versus one that focuses on a single discipline.
*I originally wrote “everyone” and then realized that was like untrue
**I will always be a toxicologist. I just recognized that I wanted to be a broader ecologist.