You're ready to graduate when the number of first-author publications you've published, plus the number of years you've been in grad school, equals 7.
Tongue-in-cheek, obviously, but not a bad guideline.
a) A conference paper early in the process can get you some really great feedback on your research. You might get to network with some people who are influential or prominent in your field. You may also get greater clarity for the direction you want to take the research.
b) Publishing a few papers means that a lot of the work you'll be submitting in your thesis has already been scrutinised by experts in much the same way that your thesis will be graded. If there are any weaknesses in your work or literature you've overlooked then this should come out in the review process when you submit your papers so you then have time to address the issues. Once published, you have greater certainty that the quality of your work is PhD suitable.
c) You get to put a timestamp on your work in case someone does something extremely similar in the meantime. It's improbable, but it's not impossible. If your ideas are great, the likelihood of this happening increases. If you publish stuff, you can point at your published work and say "look - this idea was mine". This almost sort of happened to me. I took it as reassurance that what I was doing had some merit.
d) Paper writing is similar to thesis writing, albeit on a much smaller scale. You still have to review the literature, present your work, evaluate it properly and do all the necessary comparisons to other existing stuff. If you can get a small paper published it's great practice for what you'll ultimately have to do for the thesis.
I disagree with people commenting that you could earn your PhD with zero publication. You need to compare your work with the state of the art and confront other people in conferences this is what research is about and not simply working on something and never open your work to critics.
In other theoretical field it's different but in CS there are plenty of opportunity to publish your work. PhD symposiums, poster sessions, workshops and millions of conferences (with probably only 10/20% of very good ones). So even if there's no formal requirement, I'd really suggest you put some effort into it. It's not just for the sake of showing who has the biggest (publication list), it's really to make you interact with people and have an objective opinion on your work through the review process of your submission to conferences.
I personally got my PhD with 11 publications (4 top tier conferences) and 5 patents. I can tell you it was a big shock when I submitted my 1st paper and got demolished but I really got valuable feedback I was on the wrong track and my advisor didn't care ;)
1) It shows you are not a one trick pony. This is essential if you are applying for faculty positions.
2) It is the number employers expect to see. This is really determined by the number of papers had by your competition. In this regard, the reason the number is 3 is because other people have around 3 papers.
This said, no one stamps a PhD on you when you get 3 papers. I actually got 3 papers pretty early in my PhD. I spent an extra year working with a research lab on an unrelated project. I found my PhD committee (full of some famous people) was not impressed by my papers. However, when I had some decent job offers, I felt I grew up in their eyes. So it is really about when you grow up, which doesn't happen by magic when you cross a certain number :-)
The answer is obviously "one". Any number of PhDs have been granted based on one outstanding paper. But this outcome obviously depends on the quality of the work, and institutions differ in what they consider significant.
No self-respecting person/institution is going to say "N papers are required". The nature of the work is what's important, not a paper count.
My school did replace their Qualifying Examination with a research paper requirement (http://www.cs.ucla.edu/academics/graduate-program/graduate-s...), but it does not have to be published.
Unless things have changed recently, you certainly need more than 3 good publications to get a tenure-track academic position in CS. That means you have to either be a publishing machine while you are a student or do a post-doc.
I haven't heard of any special dispensation for the case where the student has 1 paper proving P != NP. But the student is not obliged to choose "thesis by papers" so there is no problem.
Papers are useless to rate the quality of a PhD thesis - the jury, if chosen right, should be experts in this field and thus able to analyze by themselves whether the PhD was an original contribution to science ie finding a way of doing something that was never done before and believed to be impossible, or in reverse, proving something to be impossible, and therefore PhD worthy material.
The amount of papers doesn't matter - or should not matter, if the PhD is to have any sense. Meaningless papers are just a waste of trees.
For ex, in my PhD I identified a specific kind of variability in written sign language that for some reason hadn't be grasped by the linguists who worked on the same problem with us. The PhD was in computer science and there was a linguist in the jury- she had read the acts of the conference where I had presented a communication on this variability, and for her this contribution alone was worthy of a PhD.
In the end, since there were other interesting things, it was awarded summa cum laude, even if not a single paper was published on the subject in a journal - my work was only disseminated in presentations, acts of conference, and a research report ordered by the government.
That was in 2008. 4 years later, my work is leading to an actual implementation of the ideas discussed, for the reasons discussed in the manuscript, and I have my own page on the SignWriting website (SignWriting is the written form of sign language I worked on) : http://www.signwriting.org/library/history/contributors/Azna...
I feel damn proud to have been proven right not just by some research paper published in an obscure magazine, but by real people working on this same problem and bringing the issues in front of the Unicode committee (in progress - hopefully it will be completed in 2013 or 2014)
It's far from done yet - it is still research work. But after my work from 2008, I made a tiny dent in the universe (as in http://www.openculture.com/2012/09/the_illustrated_guide_to_...)
When it's complete, I'll be happy to write a paper presenting the difference between the theory and the actual implementation, which could prove useful to other people attacking similar problems.
But a paper is not an end by itself.
EDIT - adding some links
Intermediary work : http://www.irit.fr/-Publications-?code=2628&nom=Aznar%20...
Manuscript : http://www.irit.fr/~Patrice.Dalle/Publis/these_aznar.pdf
In most places, it is. That said, I think most CS PhDs -- and definitely most strong CD PhDs -- will have a few publications in top conferences. This has several benefits:
(1) communicating your results -- few people read entire theses.
(2) getting feedback from the community, both in the form of PC reviews and feedback from the conference attendees.
(3) as a way to checkpoint your work on individual sub-projects, and to act as a forcing function.
Trying to "require" independent publications as part of a PhD seems silly, but having publications is definitely a good thing IMHO.
If your area of research is obscure or quickly evolving, a journal might not be the best place to share your results, while giving a presentation at relevant conferences, where people working on similar topics will get exposed to your result, is better.
But even this is secondary. I loved doing research, but I was even more interested in the end result - having something working and useful.
Not publishing might have damaged my "profile" in several places where the amount of dead trees is the only thing that matters, but it's all a matter of priorities - and I'm not sure I'd have been happy to work in a place where the end result is only an afterthought.
Maybe that's why I'm reading HN :-)
Sadly, the state of academia has become a giant publication fest, where getting as many publications possible out the door every year has pretty much become a synonym with funding, tenure, etc. (if I check my spam folder these days, I have more spam about cheap conferences where you can get your paper published for $XXX than ones for viagra)
Professors pushing their PhD students to publish often are preparing them well for a future career in academia, if they so choose (which a significant portion of them will).
It's definitely not right, but it's the sad state we're at; and I'm not sure what exactly will change it :(
Assuming that option remains. In other disciplines, from what I read, it is fast disappearing for the majority of... "qualified" candidates.
As the quality of the product (i.e. potential employee and what they have to offer) declines, I speculate so will academic opportunities. There's a lag while the decline in value reveals itself, but eventually the world catches up with the new state of things.
On one extreme, if a student has published (say) dozens of top-tier papers and (say) demonstrated broad expertise in the field, haven't they earned a PhD?
On the other extreme, if a dissertation makes a huge advance in its field, doesn't that work deserve a PhD regardless of the author's other accomplishments?
For example, if the dozens of papers are all disjointed, or on completely different topics, you can simply bolt them all together and call it a PhD thesis.
Like all good stories, there has to be a solid start, middle and end. This generally also means that one fantastic paper is also not enough, content wise, to warrant the award of a PhD.
- published at a high impact journal/conference ?
: There are gazzillions of paper out there in many good journals/conference proceedings but no one really cares about.
- total number of citations ?
: This may be a factor. But I have seen many survey papers (most of them are boring and mostly involve physical work) get a load of citations, but do not always add anything new.
- On the other hand, I have seen a number of good PhD thesis (especially in CS theory/math) that did not produce any "publication", per se. But they are highly cited and pretty much popular. Even many of them are written in Russian/German.
The impact of a "research work" is not always possible to be measured by some numbers. Getting the attention of the community is a totally different aspect -- and that's what makes a research work valuable.
Of course, UK PhDs are very different to the US - here, 3 years is a normal timescale to completion, and 4 years is the maximum my department allows. Frankly, in any "deep" subject, that's barely enough time to work out what the state of the art is, let alone advance it.
Consequently there is an expectation that CS PhD students should publish more.
That said, such requirements do not matter to superstar candidates, their bar is much much higher. Typically, by this time, they are already giving invited talks at famous venues, so defense is merely a formality for them.
Maybe you can finish your PhD without publishing but it seems unlikely that you could spend that much time doing GOOD original research and not have your name on something. Also it will be very hard to get an academic or even industry research position without GOOD publications.
why not put your own opinion, Dr. "Associate Professor of Computer Science" ?
This certainly exceeds acronym/real word ratio in my book. I thought this was about a university pub crawl... :S