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  • 1.  Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 04-25-2023 01:57 PM

    I am interested in getting an idea as to how many non-academic professionals in the industry have found themselves in a position to publish papers, journal articles, etc. 
    I have found in my own experience that the ability to publish papers is severely limited by the type of tasks and projects available to a person (and which are usually assigned by someone else.)

    If you've managed to get published during your career, how did you get the opportunity to do so? What steps can others take to find or create these opportunities as well? 

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 2.  RE: Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 04-27-2023 08:02 AM


    If your goal is to contribute to the Body of Knowledge of your profession, one effective way might be to join a committee within ASCE or another engineering organization that is tasked with developing design standards, such as one of the Loads committees, etc. It is very important for these committees to have experienced practicing engineers on them to provide insight into aspects of the construction industry and engineering practice that folks who live solely in academia may not have.

    With each new edition of ASCE 7, seeing the process for calculating load become more and more complex under the guise of being more "precise", I can't help but see a disconnect between researchers setting up test models in a lab and those of us that have to apply these expanding requirements to actual buildings in the real world. I'm all for exploring real world failures and asking how building codes could have better prevented them, and I'm all for exploring hypothetical scenarios in a laboratory setting, but I do think that the application of this work to practice needs to be tempered by those who have experience in practice. That is the best way to strike the balance of what we do as engineers: create a sensible and reliable analytical model for something in the real world, not a perfect model, while maximizing efficiency of both our resources, as the designers, and resources of those constructing our designs.

    So I encourage you to take your practical experience and put it to good use in a code / standard-writing committee. And for what it's worth, I have practiced what I preach. The only "publication" I have is that I sat on a committee that published snow load data throughout my state based on snow collection data with a wide variety of quality in the data sets themselves. It was an informative and gratifying experience.

    Gregory Latreille P.E., M.ASCE
    Anchorage AK

  • 3.  RE: Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 05-01-2023 08:01 AM

    Christopher, thanks for the question. 

    I've intentionally stayed out of publishing in my 40+ year career as a private, licensed engineering consultant.  The only time I've published is when a colleague got wind of a white paper I had prepared as an expert witness for a court case.  He thought it would be good material for the annual gathering of Flood Plain professionals. 

    Why have I stayed out of publishing?  Because I see a lot of papers that are written that have the feel and taste of marketing, or even worse, bravado, versus providing a truly meaningful benefit to the industry. 

    I also work in water resources, specifically in the water rights, hydrology and water supply planning side within the context of the Colorado River basin.  So much of what we need to know is entirely OTJ (on-the-job) learning.  Academics are seldom a useful go-to in this arena.  Even highly researched and vetted papers, e.g., USGS, USBR, NRCS, have to be read from the perspective of "what are they not saying?"  Quite often guiding documents have a bias based on 1) who funded it, 2) was funding adequate, 3) were there competing interests, e.g. "turf battles between the NWS and SCS", and on and on.  Another example:  "voided grade beam" foundations were the rage in Western Colorado in the 1980s and 1990s.  Horribly flawed idea.  Don't know how many foundation failures ensued.  But it all came from someone who promoted the idea.

    So, rather than contribute to what I feel is the fray, I've stayed out of the arena.  Not wrong to publish.  But I'd encourage you to not be hasty.  The most useful articles also reveal the warts as well as the victories.

    - Paul Currier, M. ASCE for 40+ years.

    Paul Currier P.E., M.ASCE
    Water Resource Cons., L.L.C.
    Rifle CO

  • 4.  RE: Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 05-01-2023 08:03 AM

    The opportunity exists, though few practicing professionals attempt to publish.  Look at the ASCE Journals and you'll find one that interests you and where you have something to say.

    I'm, a long-time Associate Editor of the ASCE Journal of Management in Engineering (JME) and we have been challenged to find practicing professionals willing to make the attempt despite repeated calls for submissions.  I admit the peer review process seems intimidating, but there are opportunities.  Start by reviewing the ASCE "Publishing in ASCE Journals" document.  On page 7 it lists some article types that are many times more appealing to practicing professionals and likely less demanding to prepare than a Technical Paper:

    Technical Notes -Technical Notes present (1) original, practical information; (2) preliminary or partial results of research; (3) concisely presented research results; and (4) innovative techniques to accomplish design objectives. Technical Notes must not exceed 7 double-spaced manuscript pages including references, figures, tables, and captions.
    Case Studies - Case Studies describe a method or application that illustrates a new or existing principle or presents an innovative way to solve a problem. Ideally, results should have broad implications and not be specific to only the case presented. Case Studies are judged with the same rigor as technical papers and Notes. Case Studies must not exceed 30 double-spaced manuscript pages including references, figures, tables, and captions.
    Book Reviews - Book Reviews assess new books whose content is judged important. They summarize the work, illuminate its strengths and weaknesses, and place it in context with existing literature. Book Reviews are limited to 3 double-spaced manuscript pages. Please note that not all ASCE journals publish book reviews.The first page of a Book Review must contain the following information: book title, author(s)/editor(s), publisher and publisher location, publication year, ISBN, total number of pages, and price in US dollars. The reviewer's name and affiliation must also be provided.
    Editorials -An Editorial is a brief opinion piece concerning the scope, content, direction, or philosophy of the journal or a policy issue concerning engineering research or its application. Editorials are occasionally invited and may be subject to peer review. Contributions are usually short, not exceeding 4 double-spaced manuscript pages, and rarely contain tables, figures, or references. Editorials require a title and author byline with current affiliations.
    Forums -A Forum is a thought-provoking opinion piece or essay founded in fact, sometimes containing speculation, on a civil engineering topic of general interest and relevance to the readership of the journal. Its purpose is to stimulate discussion rather than document an advance in research or its application. A Forum is subjected to either partial or full peer review, depending on the subject matter and recommendation of the editor. Forums must not exceed 8 double-spaced manuscript pages, including references, figures, tables, and captions. Tables, figures, and references are often included but an abstract is not allowed. Forums require a title and author byline with current affiliations. 

    I especially direct your attention to Forum submissions that might be the most appealing approach.  JME is always looking for good Forum submissions that fit our aims & purpose, which are very broad and are relatable to most practicing professionals day-to-day life.

    So, bottom line it's doable, just need to find a Journal where the aims cover the topic and submit.

    Good luck

    SR Benton, P.E., F.ASCE, FDBIA

    Stephen Benton P.E., F.ASCE
    SR Benton & Associates, LLC
    Fairfax VA

  • 5.  RE: Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 05-01-2023 10:43 AM

    Great question, Christopher. In addition to Technical Papers, which tend to be research-oriented, ASCE journals publish Case Studies and Technical Notes, which are often practice-oriented. https://ascelibrary.org/doi/pdf/10.1061/9780784479018.ch01 
    Getting the latter two published may require a strong editor to overcome peer reviews by academics who expect to see research in every submission. I've had a few ASCE reviewers ask why a paper was submitted to "this research journal." Nevertheless, it can and should be done.
    This also illuminates the need for practitioners to serve as paper reviewers. To volunteer as a reviewer, write to: journal-services@...

    William McAnally Ph.D., P.E., D.CE, D.NE, F.ASCE
    Columbus MS

  • 6.  RE: Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 05-01-2023 03:57 PM

    I am a retired practicing engineer. I do not like the task of writing papers. I have done it many times, motivated by desire to share knowledge and experience gained through developing ways to solve practical problems. Several of those papers were recognized at a national level. I have many more I should write, but per above, I do not enjoy the task.

    I think it is very important for practitioners to share their experience, warts and all. Academics as well as other practitioners benefit from such papers. I have, throughout my career, maintained close ties to academics in my field, often through ASCE committee work.

    This is of mutual benefit. I bring them interesting and usually complicated problems that can be the subjects of research, which they find very helpful. I often suggest approaches. They sometimes tell me that what I suggested won't work and why, which is(exceedingly helpful. Or, they help flesh out the approach I suggested. Or, they give me a better idea. Then we (meaning mostly they, with me as co-author) write the papers, if there is something worth publishing. I often learn new things from reviewers comments and/or from responding to them.

    My academic colleagues know much more than I about how to get papers published; it's their business. And because academic papers which are tailored to complex practical problems are rare, they are more likely to be published, IMO. The academics reap the substantial benefit of additional publications. I occasionally got new work from someone who read an article. Per above, there is much mutual benefit. 

    I have given more conference presentations than I can remember. Lesser audience, lesser benefit, but much less effort. It's a partial substitute. For most practicing engineers I've talked with, their employers will support the prep time for presentations, but not for papers. Fortunately for me, I never had that problem. My first (and only) boss at the Potomac River Commission pushed me to write papers and give presentations. Then I formed my own company. I did not push myself hard enough.

    If you want to write professional papers, it helps to be in an employment environment that at least does not discourage the activity and at best promotes it. Following my first bosses lead, I always encouraged it within my company. This is not always the case. 

    Being my own boss, I had the luxury, and the financial uncertainty, of pursuing work I thought would be interesting. Interesting work makes for good papers, but it takes time. Several of my most interesting projects took 2 decades to develop. Some happened overnight. Litteraly. I found that working on professional committees and attending sessions at professional conferences greatly broadened the range of projects that I found interesting and could pursue. I know of very few cases where employers turned down work found by their employees. Unfortunately, I also know of examples where that work was assigned to others. It is extremely helpful to work in a place that will support you in writing papers.

    I strongly encourage you to find ways to publish or publicize things you think will be helpful to others. The most valuable thing we pass on to society is what we've learned.

    Dan Sheer LM. ASCE
    Retired former President HydroLogics Inc.
    Columbia Maryland

  • 7.  RE: Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 05-04-2023 11:45 AM

    Thank you everyone. I really appreciate the different perspectives and the various suggestions as well as the personal anecdotes and experiences in what sounds like an often grueling (but ultimately worthwhile) process. 

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 8.  RE: Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 05-04-2023 04:32 PM

    There are many good thoughts. I would say, where there is a will, there is a way; if no strong intervention is there. Now that the world is coming closer together – thanks to the good aspects of cyberspace, in accessing resources – the 'way' has a very good chance of getting a boost.

    • Why do the practicing professionals publish? Publishing in parallel with practicing is no easy task. It requires lots of commitment, skill and hard work.

    • Therefore, a follow-up question would be: what motivates these professionals to publish? Fame, recognition, money and promotion! None of these seems a good answer – well, they may do somewhat, like exposure. But, not like the effects of others – like connecting, socializing, even flattery, etc. One thing for sure – works associated with publishing/presenting let one refine things – like concepts, approaches, methods and skills.

    • I myself, have been asked such questions often. Being only partly involved in academics, the relevance of this question to me is apparent. Entire length of my career is in consultancy projects – having investigation/research elements in them. Or, I made them so sometimes. In many times, I was encouraged – at others I faced jealousy.

    • Here is a glimpse of one my experiences. My first peer-reviewed journal publication back in 1990 – came with some sort of a jolt. The comments from peer reviewers were so harsh that I was totally depressed – only to recover from it after about 2 weeks. When I gathered courage to read back the comments, I have found the kind remarks of the editor. He said, reviewers value the contents of my paper. Then recommended to: read back, let someone read also, address each comment they made, and resubmit. And I did. After about 2 months, I got a packet from the journal, but did not have the courage to open it – afraid that it was the final rejection. Shortly afterwards, I got a reprint request from a prestigious university prof – and rushed to open the packet. Voila! The reprints were there. The smell of the fresh print with my name on the printed page – was something of a total fulfilling bliss!

    • Is sharing my experience encouraging or discouraging? I feel that everyone has to find their own niche that works for them. While advises are great, it is not wise to get overwhelmed by them. Simply, because the advisers do not know every situation – even we cannot claim to know ourselves completely.


    Dr Dilip K Barua, PhD

    Website Links and Profile

  • 9.  RE: Practicing Professionals Publishing Papers

    Posted 05-04-2023 04:36 PM

    I think I lean more towards the hearing back from how others have either created or found opportunities to publish. 
    However, I I am in the process of drafting technical papers with fellow colleagues, to be published (soon I hope) for projects that I have worked on. But I am interested in contributing on ASCE. Tips or recommendations?

    [Lydie] [Uwantege] [CEng, P.E., M.ASCE]
    Civil Engineer