Two weeks ago I wrote a post about a recent paper by Salinas and Munch that presented a model-based method for determining to which journal an author should submit a manuscript for publication. I was curious to know how the readers of The Molecular Ecologist choose where to send their papers so I included a link for a short, informal survey to gauge how people feel about the submission/publication process. Fifty people completed the survey (thank you!) and I have posted the results below.
The majority of people who responded were postdocs followed by graduate students and faculty members, from assistant to full professors. An industry scientist, a museum research scientist, and an NGO scientist also provided feedback giving the survey some diversity.
At what point in the process do people pick a journal?
The majority of people who responded indicated that they decide where to submit a manuscript after they have collected and analyzed the data and before they have started to write the paper. Based on the comments of a few of the respondents, making the decision abut which journal to go with seems to be a fluid process.
“It varies. I usually have ideas of where it might be submitted before or during the experimental stage, but that often shifts as I get closer to the writing stage. Usually by the time I’m seriously working on the manuscript, I have a journal in mind so I can format it the way that journal wants.”
Factors that influence journal choice
According to the responses, journal reputation, the fit of the manuscript to the journal, and the journal impact factor are the three most important criteria people consider when deciding where to submit a manuscript. Because survey takers could write in any answer (as opposed to choosing from predetermined options), I combined some responses into one category to make displaying the results a little easier. For example, “journal reputation,” “prestige,” and “quality” were lumped into one category. Many people who listed journal reputation as a top-three factor also included journal impact factor. To me this suggests that people view reputation as somewhat separate from impact factor- a journal with a high impact factor may not have a great reputation in the opinion of a researcher (or vice versa). I found it interesting that “likelihood of acceptance” fell in the middle of the pack.
The majority of people were on the fence about using a model-based method, such as the one proposed by Salinas and Munch (2015), to select a target journal for a manuscript.
Taking a risk
The survey asked “How likely would you be to submit to a prestigious journal and risk rejection instead of submitting to a solid, but lower ranked journal where you know your paper has a good shot at being accepted quickly?” Respondents were able to write in any answer so, as objectively as possible, I categorized the responses into “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.” Most respondents were willing to take a risk on getting a paper into a high impact journal although many people said the decision to aim high depended on career stage. Considerations such as the desire to get the data out quickly or avoid time-wasting reformatting for multiple journals were also important.
“As a grad student I would be less inclined to take risks, as quantity of pubs and speed/short review process was a priority. As a postdoc, I’m more inclined to take risks since the expectations are higher.”
“Depends on the urgency to get the data out, but I will risk rejection at a prestigious journal occasionally.”
“It depends on the turn around time for the higher ranked journal. Something like PNAS where rejection is very fast, yes, but somewhere that is notoriously slow like Systematic Biology, no.”
“Rejection is fine, it just means you have to rewrite; prefer submitting to solid, lower-ranked b/c prefer not to rewrite and reformat.”
The last question on the survey asked the respondents if they wanted to say anything else generally about the way in which they choose a target journal. Here are some of the most interesting responses and those that did not fit neatly into a category above…
“The size of my data set and my methods are also important in where I decide to submit a paper.”
“I like to publish in “society-based” journals such as Am Nat, Evolution, etc.”
Word limit is sometimes also a factor.”
“My priorities and those of my coauthors often differ, so journal selection is often a negotiation (unless it’s very clear-cut from the get-go).”
“The main thing is to get the work into the public domain.”
“I feel the process is quite subjective, depending on recent pubs in the field and in each journal. Depends on appeal of the paper, desired audience. Can’t imagine a model that would capture all that I think needs to go into the decision.”
I enjoyed very much seeing the results of my informal survey and reading the responses of those who took the time give their opinions. The overall impression I get is that the process of choosing where to send a manuscript for publication is subjective, complex, and often a compromise among many factors. Thanks again to those who filled out the survey. May your acceptances be swift and your rejections few and far between. Happy publishing!