Research conference vs Publication - what's more worth it for residency apps

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2+ Year Member
Jul 31, 2019
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I've realized it can be a little difficult to decide what research projects to send for conferences vs submit to publish right away. In at least the conferences in my specialty of interest, you need to submit an abstract nearly 6+ months ahead of time and it can't be submitted for publication anywhere. So essentially, it's choosing which projects I'm okay with waiting 6 months to publish and just hoping someone else doesn't publish on the topic in a high tier journal before I get the chance to submit mine.

In terms of building a strong residency app for a surgical subspecialty, is it okay to just pursue the publication route? Is it good to have a mix of 1-2 conferences with the rest publications?

I guess the easiest way to ask this is, if someone had 6 projects and we assume all 6 would 100% be published and/or accepted to a conference. Would you recommend someone just publish all 6 right away? Submit 1-2 to conferences and publish the rest?

Of course you can always submit a conferences presentation for publication later, but if someone else beats you ton publishing this can make the project very difficult to get accepted by a good journal.

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Submit to conference and then the next day submit to publication. You are over thinking it. They just don't want you to submit things that are already published. It can take a year plus for a paper to get published once submitted.
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I agree with @mmmcdowe. Its very common to submit the abstract and then shortly thereafter submit the manuscript. The journal editors want to make sure it hasn't been published elsewhere. Presenting a poster at a conference doesn't count. Also note that some conferences have an embargo period.

Also note that some conferences allow encores of posters/abstracts. So you can potentially end up presenting the same information at several conferences as a poster and then publish in a journal.
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Yeah, you're overthinking it. The publication process isn't super quick. In my field, abstracts are usually submitted in Nov - Jan for May/June conferences, but you get notified of acceptance in Feb/Mar, so it's not that long of a window even if you were waiting for acceptance.

For reference, here is a timeline for my first publication (which should've been faster, but I was working with a faculty member who wasn't big in research).

Jun 2018 - First draft of manuscript completed
Jul '18 - Mar '19 - Back and forth with authors on revisions to manuscript
Mar '19 - Submit to a journal
Apr '19 - Rejected from journal (with peer review) - work on some revisions based on reviewer comments
Aug '19 - Resubmitted to another journal (finally)
Sept '19 - Revisions requested and returned
Oct '19 - Accepted
Dec '19 - Manuscript published on website ahead of print
Feb '20 - Manuscript published in issue

Now, this timeline could have been shortened considerably without all the back and forth on revisions, but note that it still took 4 months from submission from one journal until it was published for viewing, and it was only done so quickly because we did a lot of revisions following the first rejection.

My second paper had a first author that was super aggressive in getting things done (like seriously--she's published like 6 papers per year since then). Here's an abbreviated timeline of that one:

Jan '20 - first submission
Feb '20 - Rejection. After reviewing the comments, we decided to take a different direction with the manuscript and basically started from scratch.
Mar - Aug '20 - Reanalysis of data, drafting of manuscript, etc
Sept '20 - Second submission of manuscript
Nov '20 - Request for major revisions
Dec 31, 2020 - Revisions completed and sent back to journal
Jan 27, 2021 - Request for minor revisions
Jan 31, 2021 - Revisions completed and sent back to journal
Feb 5, 2021 - Paper accepted.
April 30, 2021 - Paper given DOI
June 2021 - Paper published in issue.

Even if you ignore the first submission and the time it took us to restructure the paper, it was still 5-6 months before the paper was accepted following revisions. And even longer before it was actually published due to copyediting and whatnot.

So, if you're prepping your manuscript during the season of abstract submissions, do both. If you've already submitted your manuscript, don't submit an abstract. Sometimes, your presentation may provide you with some insight for publication as well (which is what happened with my first project--my mentor didn't think it was publication worthy until I came back from a conference with lots of requests to publish formally).

And though some people may be lucky, I have yet to have my paper accepted without significant revisions on the first submission.
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