--Last week, I posted a blog about the long time it takes for scientific papers to get published. (Thanks to all who submitted emails on their "paper waits". Samuel C. from Atlanta submitted the longest time between submission and publication, 22 months. He will receive the free book).--
This week, we talk about how to consistently publish scientific papers, in spite of this paper wait. This is important because employers, promotion committees and anyone who might evaluate your productivity will look carefully at your bibliography. Long gaps between publications could be viewed as lapses in productivity.
If you are a scientist, you always need to have publications, but especially at certain times in your career. When you are at the point of completing the last years of your doctorate training or postdoctoral fellowship, when you are about to be considered for promotion, and when you are planning to submit a grant proposal, you need to have publications ASAP. Notice that biosketch formats do not allow you to include sections that list "Papers in Preparation" or "Papers Submitted". Those don't count and some review panels may not like it if you include these in your bio. Only "Papers Published or Accepted for Publication" really count.
In spite of the long wait times from submission to publication of scientific papers, you will still be expected to maintain a consistent output of publications if you work or study in an academic setting. Here are some tips and suggestions for keeping a consistent flow of research papers in your pipeline.
Mine your data. Periodically scan your research results to see if there’s anything that is already complete enough for publication. If so, make writing and publishing that paper a top priority in your schedule and give yourself a deadline for submission.
Having a bunch of different projects going on at once is nice (and necessary), but will lead you to have many unfinished works and no publications. Instead, try to focus on the project that is closest to being a complete story and submit that for publication as soon as possible. You can work on the other projects while you WAIT for this one to be reviewed by the journal, which can be a long wait as we discussed in the blog last week.
Be realistic. Don’t waste time sending your paper to a journal with a super-high impact factor only for the purpose of getting a review with the plan to work your way down the impact factor ladder. If realistically, your paper is not material for the one-word journals (Science, Nature, Cell…) then don’t try to send it there anyway hoping to get comments that may be useful for sending it to another journal. If your paper is amazingly groundbreaking, then fine, by all means, send it to one of these journals. But, if realistically your paper is not at this level, then send it to a journal where your paper will be a better fit and where it will be given serious consideration. Be honest with yourself and don't waste your time aiming for the stars, instead, focus on a good solid target.
High impact vs fast impact. How do you choose to which journal to submit your paper? Do you have a system or process for selecting a journal?
There are many factors to consider when selecting the perfect journal for submitting your precious paper, not just the impact factor.
One consideration should be the average time to publication. Once you have short-listed some potential journals, check the average wait-time for each journal (the time between "first submission" and "accepted for publication"). This can influence your decision tremendously. For example, the difference between a journal with impact factor of 4.9 and another with a 4.2 is not such a big deal. But the difference between a journal that publishes within 6 months and one that publishes in 18 can be huge when you are trying to build your bibliography quickly. Sometimes you may need to sacrifice sending your paper to a journal with a slightly higher impact factor and instead consider sending it to one that has a faster publication turnaround. It all depends on your goals for that particular publication.
The point is, consider the journals' average wait time as part of your journal selection process. To help you compare journals, you can download the free fill-in forms from Chapter 7 of my book How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide.
Watch out for junk. Unscrupulous publishers know that many scientists are in a hurry to publish. They take advantage of this by promising quick publication, for a fee. Do not fall for this type of predatory journals. Sending a paper to one of these journals is almost the same as throwing it in the garbage, the difference is that it is much more expensive. I will write more on this in an upcoming blog. For now, suffice it to say that there are plenty of legitimate journals that will complete a solid peer-review of your work and publish your paper in a reasonable amount of time. Just be patient and don't be tempted to throw your science away or leave it sitting in a drawer.
Recommend reviewers. One factor that can potentially slow down the review of your paper is the time it takes for the journal's editor to find peer-reviewers. Everyone is so busy these days that it is hard for many researchers to say yes to every request to serve as a reviewer for scientific journals. So, journal editors spend a lot of time trying to find the right reviewers with the right expertise who will agree to review in a timely manner.
Help your editor by submitting the names of two or three potential reviewers for your paper. Potential reviewers should be people who know about the topic, have not worked with you in the past and can be impartial in the review process. Many journals now request that you include names and contact information for potential reviewers upon submission of the manuscript. For others journals, you may include the names in the submission letter. Although the editor is under no obligation to actually use the reviewers you recommend, it can be very helpful if you recommend reviewers.
As you continue to improve and systematize your scientific writing, you will start to develop a pipeline in which you will have papers at different stages of completion and publication. Keep working at it and you will have a consistent stream of published works.
I have created a template to help you evaluate and choose the right journal for your paper. Click HERE to download a free copy.
Dr. Luz Claudio is the author of the book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide, a workbook that teaches you precisely what to do and when to do it when writing scientific papers. She is a tenured professor of preventive medicine and has mentored hundreds of students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty. She blogs about life in academic research.
Time between submission and publication seems to be getting longer, doesn't it?
We just got a new paper accepted for publication. Yay!
As I was reviewing the pre-print, I noticed something peculiar. It said:
Date of submission February 2014!
It was now January! 2017!
Is it me...? Or do you think that scientific papers are taking longer to get published?
Looking into this, I found an article in Nature, an analysis of the length of time between submission and acceptance of papers in journals that listed those dates in Pubmed. The article apparently showed that the median "paper wait" time has stayed the same for over 30 years, about 100 days. But this wait time was not the same across all journals. According to the article, journals with the lowest and highest impact factors had the longest wait times. (What the..?!). Does that make sense to you? Let's look at this more closely.
There are journals that do not publish the submission dates on Pubmed, so those would not have been included in the article's analysis. Worse, some journals use the resubmission date rather than the first submission date as their benchmark, potentially skewing the data. The resubmission date can be many months after the date of first submission.
Aha! That explains some of it, no? There are a whole bunch of steps that take place between first submission and resubmission. First, the journal's editor checks to see if the paper is appropriate for their journal. Then, she/he has to find willing and capable reviewers (a task that is increasingly difficult given scientists' busy lives). Then, the reviewers submit their critiques. The authors edit the paper based on those critiques and they draft a separate response detailing the changes. After all that, the authors finally resubmit the paper.
Is this long period between submission-review-revision-resubmission (and sometimes back to reviewers, more revisions, and a second resubmission) discouraging new researchers? In the 30 years since I published my first scientific paper, the 25 years since I first served as a peer-reviewer and the 20 years since I've been on the board of scientific journals, there have been many advancements that make everything in life faster and more immediate. The process of scientific publication does not seem to be one of them.
Or perhaps, is it possible that it just feeels like it takes foreeeveeeeer... because we are now so used to a faster pace of life?
What is your experience with the "paper wait"? Has it changed for you too? Or has it really stayed roughly the same?
Email me your "paper waits" for a chance to win a copy of the book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. What is the longest you've had to wait for a paper to go from "first submission" to "accepted for publication"?-- Luz
On last week’s blogpost, we focused on tips for identifying “predatory journals”. Those are journals that exploit scientists' need to publish their research by charging publication fees to authors without providing legitimate peer-review or editorial services. If you have not read that blogpost, check it out here.
Now you know which journals to avoid. Let's talk now about how to choose the right journal for your paper.
Given the vast number of scientific journals out there, (as of today, there are 5,635 indexed in Medline, the publisher of PubMed) choosing the right journal for your paper may seem like a daunting task, but it’s one of the key factors that will determine whether your paper gets published or not. Here are 7 things to consider when making your selection.
1. Consider the journals you have cited most in your paper’s list of references: It may be a great starting point to look at the journals that published the articles you’re using as background information for your research paper. Notice if many of those papers have been published in the same journal. If so, then you may want to consider this journal as a possible option for your own publication because it may mean that they tend to publish papers in your area of research.
2. Look into the journals published by an organization that you belong to, such as a professional society: You may have presented an abstract of the paper you’re trying to publish at a conference of a professional society. Notice that many professional societies not only organize scientific conferences but also publish a journal. This journal may be a great fit for your paper because they may have already published your abstract and it may be a journal that is read by your peers who may also be members of this organization.
3. Consider journals that cater to the professional group that you want to reach: Think about who may be the experts most interested in your research. Will you be catering to academic researchers, public health practitioners, health care providers? Keep in mind that the content and information within your paper should be as relevant and helpful as possible to the specific audience of experts you’re targeting. The audience you ar trying to reach may or may not be very similar to you. For example, you may be a basic scientist, but a particular paper that you are working on has applied clinical implications. In that case, you may want to send this paper to a journal that is read by clinicians. Thus, ask yourself if there is a journal that caters to the specific group of professionals who would most benefit from reading your paper.
4. Factor in the “impact factor”: A journal’s impact factor is a measure of its influence within the scientific community. When choosing a journal for publishing, you should consider that some journals are more prestigious than others. For example, Science, Nature and Cell are considered to be some of the most prestigious journals out there. Having publications in these journals is regarded as equivalent or even more valuable than having a lot of publications in journals with lower impact factors; in fact, that’s what some of the most respected scientists do, it’s a quality over quantity type of approach. However, for most scientists, it is best to take a realistic approach to choosing a journal. Overshooting to a high impact factor journal can be a waste of time if your paper is not at that level. Be realistic and choose a journal that has a good impact factor that is within your reach for that particular paper.
5. Make sure that you are considering journals that publish the type of paper you want to write: There are several types of research papers such as reviews, case studies, commentaries, in addition to original research papers. For instance, if you are planning to write a case study, and the journal that you are aiming for doesn’t publish those, you need to find another journal. So make sure that the type of paper you are aiming to write fits what the journal usually accepts.
6. Check out the amount of time it takes from submission to publication: This is an item that is often overlooked, but it is important. Not all journals publish at the same pace. Whether a journal is slow or relatively fast to publication may be more or less of a factor to you depending on your particular situation. For example, you may need a relatively fast publication because you are finishing a training program or you are coming up for promotion.
To compare the relative pace of publication between journals that you are considering, make sure to check out how often the journal is published. Is it a weekly, monthly, or quarterly publication? A second consideration is the amount of time it takes between submission and publication, termed the "paper wait" (for more on this, check out this blogpost). To determine this paper wait, you can take a look at articles that were recently published in the journal. On the title page, there should be the date of submission and the date the article was accepted. This will give you an idea of how long the journal takes to review, accept and publish submitted papers.
7. Open Access or not: Open access refers to the practice of journals to charge the authors for publishing their papers. This allows the journal to make the paper available to all readers online, regardless of whether they have a subscription. The topic of open access is complicated, so I think I will write a separate blogpost on this. For now, suffice it to say that it should be one of the factors that you need to consider when choosing a journal. To clarify, we are talking here about high-quality open access, not the predatory type we talked about in the earlier post. Many legitimate journals are now offering an open access option in addition to the traditional publication format. Authors may be asked to choose whether they want to pay for open access after the paper has been properly reviewed and accepted. As you consider whether to go open access or not, keep in mind that the costs can be quite high, I have paid about $3,000 for open access of one of my papers. So if this is not in your budget, don’t do it. You may still consider the journal for traditional publication if they offer that option.
After applying all seven of these considerations, you may have narrowed down the candidates that you are considering to two or three possible journals. I have created a fill-in form that will help you compare your journal choices side-by-side. The form can be helpful as you go over the advantages and disadvantages of each journal choice and also can help you in your decision-making process as you present your journal options to your collaborators and advisors.
To download a free copy of the journal comparison fill-in forms, go to https://www.writescientificpapers.com/free-fill-in-forms.html
Dr. Luz Claudio is the author of the book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide, a workbook that teaches you precisely what to do and when to do it when writing scientific papers. She is a tenured professor of preventive medicine and has mentored hundreds of students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty. She blogs about life in academia.
1) Choosing the Right Journal for Your Research
2) The Thomson Reuters Impact Factor
3) Measuring Your Impact: Impact Factor, Citation Analysis, and other Metrics: Journal Impact Factor (IF) http://researchguides.uic.edu/if/impact
4) Selecting a journal to publish in
5) Tips for finding the right journal
I was recently interviewed by John R. Platt for an article published in the website of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE-USA on the importance of presenting at poster sessions at professional conferences. (You can view the article here).
In the article, I said that “Poster sessions are a great way to get feedback on your work and for you to see what other people in your field are doing.” The three main points of the article were:
In Chapter 4 of my book, How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide I give tips for creating poster presentations and provide a template for how to format them.