Industry Science: Publishing Research In Industry

Most of us probably appreciate the importance of publication in academia. In my experience, PhD programs generally require at least one first author publication to graduate (many require two). Postdocs pursue publications to advance their research and careers, and university labs focus on publishing as a key output of their research. This may sound familiar in the academic setting, but what about industry? What does publication look like for a scientist doing research in a company? Without being in industry, I don’t think it’s always clear how industry scientists balance publications with their other therapeutic priorities. In this post we will explore what it means to publish research in industry.

How Important Is Publishing In Industry?

I have a couple publications from my time in industry, some of which are first author, some are middle author, and some are senior author. My observation while going through these processes is while publications may not be a primary priority in industry (often the top priority centers around drug discovery & development), it’s often a key second priority.

From the company’s perspective, publications are a way for the group to continue contributing to the field, and it can often be a great way to catalyze collaborations. From the individual scientist’s perspective, publications are our way of communicating and contributing to our colleagues, and it’s also a genuinely great exercise in career development (writing, reviewing, revising, etc are all critical skills we continue to develop). This communication and participation is one of the things we often love to do as scientists, and this doesn’t change when we join industry.

Taking that a step forward, publications are often explicitly identified as important goals in industry. I know of many industry research departments that require (or strongly encourage) publications as promotion or other career advancement criteria. Many departments set publication goals for their group to hit each year, and as I’ve mentioned in a past post, industry postdocs are often expected to (and supported to) publish as their top priority.

How To Balance Publishing & Proprietary Information?

Another big question is how industry scientists balance publication with proprietary material. Honestly I’ve found this to be an active conversation most project groups go through. Of course it’s hard to generalize other than to say that most companies have established processes and policies to review any material that is publicly communicated (e.g. published). This often includes review by legal, strategy, and even other scientific teams. Beyond that, each project is really done on a case-by-case basis. In my experience, I would say that a lot of groups actually lean more toward publications than keeping things proprietary because it’s important that we contribute to the field.

Do Industry Scientists Participate In Peer Review?

So scientists in industry publish and there are active discussions on what that means in the context of potentially proprietary information. What about reviewing other publications? Do industry scientists participate in the peer review process? In my experience, the answer is yes.

While I wouldn’t say peer review is recognized as much as publication, a lot of industry scientists do it. I find it to be another helpful way to participate in the field and help provide constructive feedback on colleagues’ work. In other words, this can be an aspect of service to the field to which industry scientists often contribute.


Overall publication is a big part of industry science. We are scientists after all, and we love to communicate our work and contribute to our fields. It can sometimes be challenging deciding when to publish or to keep something proprietary, but companies generally have process and policies to help find the answer. In addition to publication, scientists often participate in the peer review process.

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