Where to publish?

As a student, choosing where to publish your next paper is extremely important in order to showcase your research and build your reputation. Perspective employers look at the journals you publish in to rate your research and decide how employable you are, which makes it very stressful making the decision.

So how do you decide? This is something I really struggle with. On one hand, I believe in the Open Access movement, and think that papers should be open and not behind a paywall. I also agree with the thought that impact factor is fundamentally flawed, and doesn’t necessarily say anything about the quality of research. Often papers published in the highest impact journals are not the best scientifically, but are “sexy”, so they make it in, while extremely important and excellent science gets published in lower impact journals because they may not be as sexy. While I don’t feel the need to chase for higher impact factors, the more I talk to senior academics and post doctoral researchers, the more I am told that it is still important. Everything I’ve heard about getting a job later is that employers look at the journals you have published in, even if they maybe shouldn’t.

I’m looking for a bit of advice, combined with giving a bit of my own, from what I’ve been told after talking to other people. Of course in palaeontology there are a few journals specifically for the topic, such as the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Palaeontology, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, and more. These are typically good for descriptions of new taxa, new localities, and more specifically palaeontology-related topics. Other journals such as Biology Letters, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Journal of Anatomy, Journal of Evolutionary Biology are good for papers that have a wider interest than just palaeontology. Then there are open access journals such as PeerJ and Plos One that allow you to publish any aspect of palaeontology that you want, including a lot of data and supplementary material, which is extremely useful. For me, I think about what I’m trying to publish (do I have a lot of data? Is it strictly palaeontological, or is there a wider use for my work? Is it ground-breaking, or just a bit more data to add to an already painted picture?), the reputation of the the journals (more so than impact factor), and personal experiences with specific journals of myself or people I know.

I have a paper that I’m getting ready to submit, that is not sexy, but has some important data. I was planning on submitting it to a Canadian journal that is not high impact, but is well respected and they like publishing palaeo papers. Then I was going to submit it to a new journal, which is completely open (free to submit, and free to access), but after talking to some senior academics (including the editor of the new journal), I was encouraged that as a student I should not submit to any journals that are new and do not have impact factors yet. So my question is, what about submitting to new journals that are published by well known publishers like the Royal Society or Canadian Science Publishing?

What other advice to people have when deciding what journal to submit to? Especially keeping in mind that I’m a student and have a lot of things to think about… And advice for lots of other people reading as well!

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4 thoughts on “Where to publish?

  1. Important questions! As you know, I am very pro-OA, but I also recognize that the pressures (real or imagined) on early career researchers sometimes mean non-OA journals have to be in the mix. Things I would consider as a student, in no particular order:

    – Is it OA, or does it at least have options that allow you to more widely distribute the paper's content (e.g., posting to a preprint service, or repositing in an insitutional repository, or making articles freely available after a certain period of time)? Although this probably gets me disbarred from being an OA advocate, I think that “green OA” can be a workaround if other factors mean you “need” to publish in a non-OA journal.

    – If non-OA, how widely available is the journal? For instance, JVP is not open access, but it is still getting into the hands of many people in our field. CJES is not OA, but truth be told it is not very widely accessible (even via libraries). It isn't necessarily fair, but a paper that requires a high activation energy to read is probably less likely to get read and cited.

    – How quickly will the thing get into publication? Some journals (even ostensibly OA ones) have a huge backlog, and this is not a good situation if you are a student. Don't necessarily trust their posted submission/acceptance dates, either–journals do a lot of sneaky things that can fudge these (e.g., rejecting and then asking for a resubmission, which curiously resets the clock in some mysterious way). Ask around to find out how things actually operate.

    – If there are page charges, how much are they, does your institution have funds to pay for them, and if not, how easy is it to get a waiver?

    – It's sometimes worth aiming high in journal choice–ask a trusted advisor or mentor for advice. For one of my Ph.D. papers, I didn't have a lot of confidence in the overall manuscript (i.e., I thought it was too “niche” to be successful outside of the most specialized journal). My advisor said I should at least try Journal of Experimental Biology–and it got accepted with minor revisions! This put my work in front of a much broader audience, and that paper has turned into my most cited first-author paper. (plus, it's free-to-read, which I have no doubt has contributed to its citations)

    There's lots more to pontificate upon of course, but I'll leave it at this for now!


  2. Thanks for commenting Andy! All very good points. This is the problem that I have with CJES, which is a journal that I have a few papers I might submit to in the next bit because I've been encouraged to do it based on the content. I discovered that my university has recently got access to it, so that made me wonder if it was becoming easier to access.

    But this is why I was wondering about publishing in new journals by respected publishers. There is a new OA journal being released by the Canadian Science Publishing group (the same one that publishes CJES) called FACETS. They are offering a fee-waiver for papers submitted before June 30, and I'm considering it. But I'm not sure if this would go under the “don't submit to a journal that doesn't have an impact factor” category… I imagine that it will have a similar impact factor (or probably even higher) than CJES within a year because it is multidisciplinary and OA.

    How important is it really? Ahhhh!


  3. In my (opinionated) opinion, I think publishing in any new journal is a risk, but new journals by established publishers are less risky. Yes, it would be submitting to a journal without an impact factor, but I would also agree with you that it probably will be fairly respectable when it does get one in a few years. More critical than impact factor, though, is that there is some brand recognition with certain publishers that gives a “bump” of respectability. Look no further than Nature Communications or Science Advances – it is no coincidence that they put the titles of their glossy siblings in the title, and from what I can tell, it has absolutely worked in bigging up work published there.


  4. That's a good way of looking at it. I'm not sure how respectable the Canadian Science Publishing group is considered around the world. I imagine it's not known very well. Maybe I will ask the other author on the paper and see what he thinks!


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