We must get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths… and tell the world the glories of our journey.(John Hope Franklin)

With the advent of the internet and world-wide web, and in particular with preprint servers such as the arXiv, there is really no excuse not to make your preprints (or other publication-quality writing) available online, so that anyone who is interested in your work can easily find it. (Most journals now also have online availability, but given that the gap between preprint release and publication is measured in years, it still makes sense to have the preprint online too.)

In particular, your work will show up in search engine queries in your topic (I have come across many an interesting paper this way). This will help spread awareness of you and your work among your colleagues, and hopefully lead to future collaborations, or other people building upon (and citing) your papers.

One might be worried that by making your work available, you are inviting too much “competition” into your area, but if the area you work in is of that much interest to others, the competition will come anyway, and this way you will at least have priority (note that submissions to servers such as the arXiv have reliable timestamps) and be acknowledged in citations. Of course, one should still ensure that your preprints are written to publication-quality standard if at all possible, although this is not as important as it is with published papers since it is relatively easy to replace preprints with updated versions. [If you don’t have a preprint of your work yet, or only have a non-publication-quality draft, then it is often better to hold off on any announcement until you have something more concrete to show to other mathematicians.]

As to whether you should email your preprints to other experts in the field, I would only do this if the preprint is unquestionably of direct interest to that person (e.g. it solves a conjecture that they formulated). Otherwise there is the awkward possibility that the person you send the preprint to is too busy (or no longer interested in the topic) to read your work in detail, or that you might accidentally be perceived as being pushy, egotistic, or arrogant. (Also, to save yourself any embarrassment, it is a good idea to wait until your preprint is already at publication-level quality, and checked for errors, before sending it to other experts.)

In most cases it suffices to just make your work on-line; awareness of your work will spread by itself via several channels (e.g. the refereeing process, conferences, word-of-mouth, or preprint mailing lists) and there is usually little additional gain in trying to actively push the paper. But it is not a bad idea to have some place on your web page (or blog) in which you can make some comments (or “sales pitches”) on your own papers.

For similar reasons, I also recommend putting your professional information (cv, publication list, research interests, etc.) on your own web page, and keep it reasonably current (updating it at least once a year); this will allow others who are interested (or potentially interested) in your work to find out about you, without having to bother you directly.

See also “Write down what you’ve done“, as well as my advice on writing and submitting papers.

## 6 comments

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13 May, 2009 at 10:09 am

How to Maximize Citations « Successful Researcher[…] 2: making your work available online (e.g. at the arXiv; see this post of Terence Tao for further details) can significantly increase its chances to be cited (but be […]

27 March, 2010 at 2:44 am

About This Blog « Mathematics Expressions[…] About This Blog By colinwytan This blog records my insights and understandings of mathematics. I also use this blog as a respository of expository and research articles that I write. This follows Terence Tao’s advice to make my work available. […]

23 May, 2010 at 11:07 am

PooyaWhen you publish your results in your homepage or blog before publishing them in a journal, don’t you worry about plagiarism so that someone gets your result and submits it to a journal?

23 May, 2010 at 11:46 am

Terence TaoActually, I feel that having a widely available online (and preferably date-stamped) version of one’s results in fact

protectsagainst plagiarism, which is in fact a rather rare occurrence in mathematics, especially amongst colleagues that one is interacting with on a long-term basis. (The opposite phenomenon, namely of being unwittingly “scooped” due to not making one’s preliminary results towards a result being available, ends up being a significantly more frequent occurrence.)In any event, if I felt that one of my own unpublished articles was indeed at a publication level of quality, I would go publish it, rather than simply place it on one of my web sites.

23 May, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Jonathan Vos PostI wholeheartedly agree with Prof. Tao’s succinct: “having a widely available online (and preferably date-stamped) version of one’s results in fact protects against plagiarism, which is in fact a rather rare occurrence in mathematics…”

I’m the rare and unfortunate position of having had to expend roughly a quarter million dollars in legal fees to fight against plagiarism in Engineering publications in the corporate world. This is not the place for me to detail a hideously long and complex story. Suffice it to say that I used my Caltech Math degree and subsequent expertise in Math and Computer Science for the Space Shuttle Division of Rockwell International, on NASA budget. Among other things, I was tasked with certifying that documentation of space shuttle flight software was correct in equations and algorithms. Often, though, the equations had errors, or the equations were right and the algorithm improperly computed them, or the Math and algorithm was right, but the documentation was in contradiction to one or both.

My expertise on Guidance, Navigation, and Control software had been used earlier for the Voyager flyby of Uranus; for the Galileo to Jupiter (where flight software used Quaternions, and my Independent Verification and Validation used Euler angles and matrices to avoid replicating flight software errors). Likewise, on related spacecraft for for Navy, Air Force, and others.

As a mathematician, it was exiting to see 18th and 19th century equations coupled with new algorithmic approaches. The damage begins when non-mathematicians and non-Engineers use organizational politics (and plagiarism) to block axiomatic and empirical truth.

Dr. Tao is right. The best way to fight such darkness is with light. Open source, timestamped online publication, even of little parts of larger works, as with The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, is better than not publishing in time, or merely publishing on one’s own web site, even when the latter is as wonderful as this blog. And then do the longer, slower, journal and conference and book publications to gather up, contextualize, and restructure the scattered date-stamped fragments.

15 October, 2017 at 1:59 am

JosaphatSir, what if one has no website nor an endorser on arxiv.com what should he do? As for me I have something that seems true to placed there, but no Chanel of the above as endorser on arxiv.com the proof of transidental nature of some numbes, especially that of the odd Runner zeta constant! Help on this, email address : jossy4josphat@gmail.com