Publications as “Currency”
I’m diving into the idea of “publications as currency” to both debunk the idea and show you how you can make it work for you and your academic mission.
If you’re in academica, you’ve probably heard the idea that publications are currency. And that’s true…but what does it really mean for us as womxn academics operating in systems that are not built for us? Publications add value to the world, represent our work, and give us something tangible to take forward with us. But it’s time to reframe the “currency” idea.
I want to show you how you can use your writing as the currency to get you where you want to go in your career, rather than as a proscribed idea of what you have to publish where to “pay” your way forward. Some of the ideas I’m going to put forward might seem scary, but I think they are vital to our individual satisfaction in our careers, and to the collective work we’re doing to change norms in academia.
Publications Are Part of Your Creation
What is currency? Something that has value no matter where you take it, that gets picked up and passed around and used by others. This is just what our publications do. They add value, and they are mobile. You might not be able to transfer curriculum creation or coursework from one institution to another, but your publications always come with you, and always add value.
“If publications are currency, that means writing needs to take a more central role in our careers.” -Cathy Mazak
Currently in academia, the “currency” idea is often used to mean certain kinds of publications, in certain kinds of journals, that pay your way to certain opportunities. I want to challenge that.
Our careers as academics are a continuous process of creation. Publications are a kind of “receipt” for that creation; they are a tangible thing to point to. But what else could be a “receipt” of the creation you do? Always bring it back to your academic mission statement. What has helped you move toward that mission? Maybe it’s engaging with your audience through newspaper articles, social media, or community involvement. These can all be used as currency to build the career you want. But you have to be strategic.
Getting Strategic With Your Writing
Maybe being published in a prestigious journal doesn’t move your career forward like smaller journals that are more targeted to your audience would. Don’t let the norms of a patriarchal, racist, ableist system distract you; always bring things back to your mission statement.
Use your writing strategically to help you get the working conditions you want, the things you need to support your mission and the career you are building. Here’s how:
- Craft your career narrative to tell the story of your career in a way that highlights all of your writing and work.
- Always measure goals and opportunities against your mission statement.
- Reflect on what you want your career and working conditions to look like going forward.
- Think about what you want your publications to do for you. What doors do you want to open? What audience do you want to reach? Where will you make the most impact?
It might seem scary at first, but reflecting on what you actually want and then going for it is important, and powerful. It isn’t selfish; it’s making your important, creative contribution to the world the best it can be.
“The more you are happy and joyful in your career, the better your contribution to the world is going to be.” -Cathy Mazak
So, are publications currency in academia? You bet they are. But they don’t have to be in the journals that are most prestigious, or in the order someone else thinks they should be in.. or only in journals at all. They are the currency for getting what you want in your career.
“You are more in charge of your career than you think.” -Cathy Mazak
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