One of the issues we often discuss on this blog and in the general academic blogosphere relates to generating credit for your scientific work. Your career is influenced in many ways by the degree to which you receive recognition for the work you have done. For the most part this centers around the scientific publication of novel research findings. The issues are varied.

  • What is the reputation of the  journal in which you have published your work?
  • How many authors are credited and what is your position in the list?
  • How good are the experiments, controls and interpretations?
  • How many different methods and approaches did you use to triangulate your conclusions?

These are but a few considerations.

Ultimately, one of the more important ways to value your work brings together many of these other factors.

Citations. How many subsequent publications see fit to cite your paper? This shows, imperfectly, that your paper matters in some way. Matters to the subfield you are in, matters to the larger -ology or matters to other fields entirely. People have read your paper and have decided that your data in some way or other are necessary to the interpretation of  their data. Or are necessary to credit for instigating their work, for shaping their work or for making their work possible.

The topic for today is a simple question. What if your work influences scientific work that is invisible?

Invisible because it is being conducted in a setting in which public communication of results is not a priority or is banned?

In the behavioral pharmacology fields most familiar to me, the best example is the pharmaceutical industry. They use a ton of assays that have been developed, verified, refined, proven, extended, controlled, enhanced….in traditional academic laboratories. They get some ideas about applying a given compound series to a specific disease condition or within a preclinical paradigm from the academic literature as well.

Over time, some of these become their bread-and-butter assays that are used day in, day out to evaluate drug candidates.

Examples are legion but when it comes to methodological approaches, we are talking about such things as intravenous self-administration, locomotor stimulation (or suppression), the Morris water maze, tail suspension, forced swim, the elevated plus-maze, the 5-choice serial reaction time test….and many, many others. These are established/historical examples but science is ever moving forward. People developing methods in their academic labs now are going to create some methods that are used over the next couple of decades in industry.


Now if all of this private use was published, the original academic scientist would accrue traditional credit in citations. And all would be hunky-dory for that person’s career. The trouble is, there is really no way other than word of mouth to assess the invisible, private use of a scientific paper, finding, method or assay.


I’m curious, DearReader, if you have any thoughts on how the academic might make some of this invisible use of her work more visible?  Do you get support letters for your Promotions and Tenure committee evaluations from someone in industry? Do you invent new subcategories on your Full Monty CV to indicate this in some way? List consulting work with an emphasis on how the private company needs you to help them with a method that you developed or invented?