Writing a new chapter in science. Literally

Books. Like journal articles but heavier

Why do researchers write book chapters? Cutting edge science is clearly in the journal articles and this is always the best place to showcase research. The next best thing is to attend conferences where we can point out our latest research and hope people will find our paper. And then cite our paper.

Yet we spend a great deal of time compiling book chapters whenever the opportunity arises.

The problem with books is that they sit in a library. At my work, that means going all the way down one flight of stairs. I’d then need to carry the book all the way back upstairs. The only real upside is that I’m sure that counts towards a gym workout.

Online journal articles are far easier and more readily available. They are the most current, cutting edge science. In so far as is possible after the months of redrafting.

I’ve heard it said that the amount of effort spent in writing and re-drafting peer-reviewed scientific papers is so great that every ten papers published equates to a writing a novel. Such a great analogy. I think I’m onto about my third book by now.

With journal articles always as the go-to place for the latest research, books may be considered passé. So why do we bother to write book chapters?

Mostly it is because there is something more permanent about contributing a chapter in a book.

The hope that it will make a longer lasting impression than the thousands of journal articles published each year. That someone new to a topic will pick up the book and read the chapter and learn the essential elements required to understand the new papers that are published in a particular field. That the tangible pages – real pages – will hold the knowledge that will resonate through the ages.

And it’s just cool.