Why didn’t the writer of that important new review cite your work? After all, it is on exactly that topic. This is unfair. It is easy to feel aggrieved. Why should you bother to work so hard on your research when the big boys just ignore it. What to do? Fortunately, there is an easy answer: start writing the reviews that define the field yourself.
When you write a review, you can put your work where it belongs in the scientific narrative. But be careful! The best reviews are the most fair ones. They cite as widely as is appropriate. They have a new and clear perspective, or they extend an old perspective. Many journals these days put reference limits on reviews, so work hard to cite the most relevant ones, mixing between the very newest and the historical papers that once defined the field. Don’t look for revenge by ignoring those who once ignored you. These are the scientists you want to win over to your perspective.
When you write your review, you should have something new to say. This takes work. But it is work that is rewarded, for it not only helps put your work in a worthy place, but it can also lead you in new and creative directions. Graduate students should be involved in reviews, writing or collaborating on them as they become familiar with the literature, provided they can write a fresh, new review.
Olaya Rendueles, a postdoc in the Velicer lab in Zurich told me that a number of her fellow grad students in Paris wrote review papers very early in their graduate careers because the short 3 year program required at least one publication. That would be hard to do with a data paper in such a short time. I did a quick search and found an interesting review that she wrote entitled: Multispecies biofilms: how to avoid unfriendly neighbors. It looks interesting, but I couldn’t download it from here.
It will still be true that the reviews written by newcomers will take longer to have an impact than the reviews written by leaders in the field. Just remember, those leaders got to their positions by having interesting things to say. I can hardly wait to read Steve Frank‘s latest piece on kin selection, for example. I also love the way he makes everything so accessible, retaining the rights to his books so people can download the PDFs freely. This didn’t stop me from actually buying the books for the convenience of the format.
There are other things you can do to get your work noticed. Attend various meetings. Give talks and posters. Approach scientists you admire and engage them in conversation about their work. Then work it around to yours. We scientists are social animals and remember best the work of those we know.
To become a leader in your field, you need to do the important new studies, casting pretty shells on the beach of science. But you also need to gather the shells of everyone together and put them into a pattern. Then you will get the attention you deserve.