Yes, you do have to work hard. We are constantly reading, reviewing, discussing and thinking of research ideas. And you keep on writing and writing and submitting. Last year, I submitted more than 20 papers to various journals. Many were desk rejected by the editors, others were rejected by the reviewers, a few went through to the next review rounds. Now this year, I am seeing the fruits of my hard work as I have had several papers published and others accepted for publication.
2. Working Smart
However, besides working hard, you have to work smart as well. I soon realised that a lot of papers by the top professors are with their students, also a number are in association with other academics. You simply cannot do it alone and highlights the importance of having good students researching under you and networking.
The idea of the lonely professor working alone in his room does not work anymore. Looking the prolific professors, it is clear that they do not do it alone - it is in collaboration with many other authors and of course, with their students. I know of one PhD student who already has 3 publications even before graduation and all papers are with the supervisors.
3. Reading and Reviewing
I also joined the editorial teams of a few journals and am reviewer to several top ranking journals. Reading and reviewing papers of other academics have actually helped me to improve my own submissions and I can see that my success rates are improving over time.
The dark side of academia
Of course there are several criticisms - that we have become paper churning machines, that we are neglecting teaching and learning, and long-term research are often rejected for less impact short-term research. There are increasingly a number of reports indicating that so many academics are suffering from stress and depression because of the requirement to constantly publish papers and not just any paper, but papers in “high ranking journals”.
Tenureships, increments, promotions all depend on the number of good publications. In fact, in academia, it is our currency. All academics are aware of the phrase “Publish or Perish”. Unfortunately for academics, it is still the major KPI used for evaluating performance, hirings and for promotions in most Universities throughout the World.
Then there is the dark side of academia. We regularly hear of how certain professors have been suspended or fired from their jobs for ethical issues including plagiarism and fudged research findings. Sometimes they go unpunished because it would involve bringing the institution into disrepute.