Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Least Publishable Unit (LPU)

I have been recently thinking about the Least Publishable Unit (LPU) theory in academia. Considering that I am now a month into my fourth year of my PhD and I have just submitted my first, first author research paper on my thesis work I am starting to panic slightly. I do have a previous first author research paper from undergrad research, 3 other non-first author papers, a submitted first author book chapter, and a Nature Microbial Reviews paper soon to be submitted. However, I would like to have another couple of first author papers in the next year and a half, so that I can graduate with a decent PhD career under my belt.

From my previous experience, the life sciences tend to publish more content less often, whereas computer scientists tend to publish very often with smaller amounts of research. Bioinformatics has overlap in both of these fields thus allowing different publishing rates depending on your research topic. For instance, if you are developing new tools, you would probably be publishing at a greater rate then if you are using bioinformatics to find some new biological interesting result (although this is certainly not always the case).

I would like to think that I have been focusing more on biology and thus my publishing has been slightly behind. However, I now have the skills and knowledge that I could quickly crank out a couple of useful tools that would probably be publishable (I feel like this would be somehow selling out, but maybe not).
Also, if I did go this route does it depend on how much effort was involved or rather how useful the tool would really be?

Recently, I wrote a script that would use gene synteny to make improved ortholog detection in two genomes. It is not overly complicated and uses previously developed tools (genome alignment and local alignment tools), but I think it is incredibly useful and improves upon the basic reciprocal best blast hit approach that is primarily in use. Although, my research is not focused on ortholog prediction and the tool was made so that I would not have to manually annotate 5500 bacteria genes (as part of a bacteria genome project); I have to wonder, "is it publishable?". I guess the only way to find out is by submission.