Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Journal Choice (2)

As I was writing about choose-a-journal issues yesterday, I was aware that I was missing a few topics, but I decided to leave them for another time, not only because the post was already long enough but also because I was in the midst of an insane amount of homework for my language class [> 6 hours = insane amount, even for a weekend, especially since I didn't start it until the evening, not quite realizing the immensity of my tasks]. In any case, some commenters picked up on a few holes in the discussion, so I will continue with a few other journal-choice issues.

Yesterday I didn't deal with the issue of choosing between/among tippy-topmost tier journals vs. merely top-tier journals; I wrote only about consideration of similar highly ranked (but not highest ranked) journals. A few years ago I would have strongly advised going for the top journals on the first try (if you felt somewhat confident that your work could/should be published there), and either being published or at least rejected quickly. I would still advise this, but with the caveat that the at-least-you-get-rejected-quickly mantra doesn't apply so much anymore.

Speaking from the collective experience of various colleagues and me, it is quite possible to go through several review cycles for a top-tier journal, getting overall positive reviews, doing additional work/research to comply with reviewer and editor comments, only to find -- many months later -- that the editor doesn't want to publish the paper.

The paper is probably ultimately better for all these efforts and the time is not 'wasted', but the drawn-out rejection process of some journals can be frustrating and perhaps even harmful to early-career people.

Another issue:

What if your research is multi-inter-transdisciplinary and there is no one specialized journal that will easily reach your various intended audiences?

This is an issue because, although your paper can still be found using keyword searches in Web of Science etc., it is unlikely to come to the widespread attention of people in other fields unless someone in another field cites it. If you’re lucky, you will get one or more boundary-crossing citations and this will start an avalanche of interest (and citations).

I confronted this multi-disciplinary publishing issue recently when I was working with someone in an engineering field. We each wanted to publish our results in journals that were widely read and respected in our fields. I didn’t have anything against publishing in the Journal of Engineering Stuff and my colleague didn’t have anything against publishing in the Journal of Mysterious Physical Science Things, but was there a way to publish in both without shingling? (i.e. writing the same paper twice and publishing it in two places). We’re still not sure how/whether to try to publish our papers in engineering and science journals, but we decided to proceed for now by each of us taking the lead on at least one paper that emphasizes our individual expertise and seeing how the resulting manuscripts look.

One of our main concerns with this situation is that we have each had students involved in this research, and these students, if they have certain career aspirations, need to have recognizable journal names on their CV. However many cosmic points you get for being multi-inter-transdisciplinary, prospective employers (academic or otherwise) might not be impressed by your paper in Journal I've Never Heard Of, even if that journal is widely known and respected in another field. Therefore, we are attempting a non-shingling publishing blitz in science and engineering journals. I'm not yet sure how/whether it will all work out.

Coming attraction: Is it possible to publish too much in one (specialized) journal?


Anonymous said...

Well, in my field at least, the tippy-top journals are the one-name titled ones that are more general (like Nature and Science). Most people get rejected from those, of course, but the problem with trying that first is that you have to write a drastically different paper for a journal like that. Much shorter, broader audience, etc.

A lot of the other journals now reject and then encourage you to resubmit. Sometimes you still get an accepted-with-major-revisions response, but the reject-but-resubmit response seems to be increasingly common. From what I understand, this increases the journal's rejection statistics and makes them look more respectable, or something. So it's hard to know when to stop trying to submit to your first journal and move on to another one. Especially when the process takes soooooo long...

Anonymous said...

"I would still advise this, but with the caveat that the at-least-you-get-rejected-quickly mantra doesn't apply so much anymore."

this is indeed a problem, and especially a problem in those fields in which answers aren't particularly clear cut, but that are popular in the press (and thus, the tippy-top journals would like to publish them, if they can). so, things often get sent out for review, rather than being rejected for the editor, which means +1 month. I've seen manuscripts take 1+, 2+, 3+ years to get to print, with essentially the same data. The papers usually do improve, but three year delays in publishing data sets that everyone had heard about already (abstracts, talks, etc.) is a drawback, I think.

cookingwithsolvents said...

If I get a position as a new PI I believe I be better to take the "hit" of not being in a one-name journal in order to get stuff out faster. Especially the first work. Would that be a good strategy?

I've heard that "unpublished results" is not as good as "as we showed in paper xxxx that yyy is possible", give us the $$ to do zzzz. Plus, getting a larger grant without ANY papers on your CV with you as the PI sounds like a huge uphill climb since you haven't demonstrated that you can be productive as a PI.

Opinions appreciated!


Anonymous said...

The interdisciplinary issue is an interesting one. My PhD research fell under this heading, which created a few headaches en route (supervisors in different disciplines and hence different ideas about a thesis - luckily these ironed out). Choice of examiners was critical- we specifically picked examiners in the general field I was heading into. Publishing though is also a bit tricky, as journals that are a most obvious fit have very low impact factors - but most people in the sub-field read them - while others are more general and prestigious, but I have to work a bit harder to get into them as interdisciplinary research is not their 'bread and butter'. I've done both, as I think without the more recognised journals on my CV, I am at a disadvantage for job applications in my general discipline that are not specifically aimed at my sub-discipline.

EliRabett said...

APL and J. Appl. Phys. pretty much covers the needs and are pretty highly rated, so there must be an interesting reason why the paper you wrote does not fit