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Decisions Decisions Decisions: Choosing a Research Project
(and other difficult dilemmas)

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
Newark, NJ, USA

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october links image- Will he survive his pulmonary hypertension without a heart and lung transplant?
- Should I marry this person?
- The usual beer tonight or a seasonal Octoberfest brew?
- How should I choose my current research project?

While that last question regarding research may not have quite the gravity of the others, approaching a research project is an important decision for many nonetheless. It is essential for those early in their careers who are facing a research decision to consider the three "M's": Mentor, Material and Manuscript. There is a fourth "M" that can help but let's consider that one later.

The importance of working with a strong mentor as you embark on the research process cannot be overstated. It is important that the individual who will serve as your Sherpa and guide you through potentially perilous terrain has both the time and experience to help you. Brilliant researchers without time to devote to you or those with time for you but who do not have a positive history of mentoring others may not provide you the best chance to succeed. A great mentor will do many things for you: encourage the development of your research question, keep you focused on answering the question you have chosen, identify appropriate material for your research, and guide your manuscript development.

Material for your research is another important consideration. If you work at a center with a large clinical transplant database, this resource may serve as a great starting point for a retrospective study. Alternatively, a large repository of biological specimens may allow one to quickly engage in a translational research project investigating a putative biomarker. When neither of these is immediately available to you, then using other databases such as the ISHLT Registry or seeking collaboration with other investigators and/or other transplant centers may help access the material you need for your project.

When you have formed the question, collected and analyzed the data, the next step the astute researcher has already considered is, "How attractive is my data for a publishable manuscript?" The prospect of the published manuscript may not have been the spark for your research question or the main motivation for your investigation; however, publication is essential to share your work with others and to build your career. There are many aspects to writing a solid manuscript and this, again, is where the mentor plays a key role. Ultimately if it made an interesting abstract at a scientific congress, and you continued the study to completion, you have a great chance to get your work published. This starts to build your Curriculum Vitae, improves success for obtaining research funding and provides some bragging rights for your family.

As for that fourth "M", successful researchers generally have it in large measure: moxie. Completing a research project and publishing your work can be a grueling process. Those with moxie will persevere and get the often-revised manuscript submitted to the journal.

Our personal advice on the other difficult questions is more suspect but here goes anyway:

october links image- Yes, he probably will survive with only a double lung transplant.
- If you do marry consider a pre-nuptial agreement.
- Choose the Octoberfest, your usual brew will be available all year. Cheers!

Disclosure Statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.