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I usually give about 5-10 invited talks a year, and like the OP, I don't have that many papers ready for presentation at the same time (usually about 2 in presentation-ready state in any one year). In my experience, the best stage to present a paper is when it's either (i) very close to being ready to send out to journals, or (ii) under submission at a journal. That has the benefit of giving a paper that's fairly polished, while also giving the audience the opportunity to influence what the final published version will look like. Given the usual rejection/R&R/etc trajectory, I've rarely (to my memory, never) ended up presenting an already accepted paper using this strategy.


Intervening/clarifying question:

When y'all refer to presentations, what length are we talking about? 50 minutes? So about 6000 words?

And are the majority of your publications around that length? I have a tendency to not write anything under 10K and I'm wondering if that's hurting the way my productivity projects.

TT philosopher 6 years post-PhD

Maybe it's because I move in interdisciplinary circles a lot, but I'm not convinced the norm in philosophy against presenting already-published work is as strong as it once was. I'm pretty sure I've done this to mainly philosophical audiences multiple times and never had any sense that anyone was bothered by it. Even if it's published, chances are very few people in the audience will have read it, so what's the problem from their perspective? They get to learn about the idea/argument without having to find time to read the paper - which few of them who don't work in the area will do. And even if it's published, they can still have good objections etc. that might cause you to change your view in some way, or rethink things for future work on the topic.

I've also had good experiences presenting fairly under-cooked works in progress, prefaced with the kind of 'heads up' Marcus describes. I think if you've got a good, clear question you can articulate, but don't yet have a definite answer (or aren't yet sure if/how your answer works, etc.) that can be quite enough to make the talk and Q&A an intellectually valuable and worthwhile exercise for speaker and audience alike. This, of course, fits with the philosophical norm that one gives talks to get feedback on works in progress.

Cecil Burrow

Is this really a problem that actually arises? Given how long it takes to get a paper accepted these days, does it really happen that while working on a talk, you decide to turn in into a paper, which ends up being accepted before the talk is even given? I imagine that situations like that would be *extremely* rare.


I think this is standard practice. When I was on the market, trying to secure a TT job, I tried to have a new paper to present each year (for 5 years!). And, I was also, simultaneously trying to publish these papers. The strategy paid off (I think?!).
And I even recall, when I was in grad school, colloquium speakers presenting papers that were already accepted for publication.

UK Postdoc

I agree with TT philosopher above that the norms may have changed here. And I also believe this is a positive development. Too many papers are published but not read even by people who should have an interest. It is valuable both to the author and to the audience of a talk to have the chance to 'promote' a paper. Especially since the audience will have the chance to ask questions, and the author has the chance to discuss material that was left out of the paper. I'd go for it!

Grad Student

For what it's worth, in my university there is a tradition of inviting weekly guest speakers and I'm a member of the committee. It never occurred to any of us that we should ask the speaker not to talk about published work and this post is the first time I hear of such a norm.

TT philosopher above

Grad Student, I don't think anybody ever *asks* speakers not to talk about published work. There just has been, at least in the past, a largely tacit understanding that the purpose of giving talks in philosophy is to get feedback on work in progress. If this is the purpose, then it seems to follow that there's no point presenting already published stuff, since you can't change it in light of the feedback.

I'm curious if anyone knows whether these sorts of norms exist, or have existed, in other Humanities disciplines. In the sciences they don't, AFAIK, and the main point of giving talks is to communicate findings.

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