Troubles deciding where submitting your manuscript? The discussion was initiated from this post at Dynamic Ecology, so it’s also even more interesting to Seeds Aside in that it’s fully in the ecological sciences. Much has been said already, I have to let you read many reactions at various places and comments there.
Since I’m probably transitioning in my own takes on these points, I’ll split my take between past and possible future change.
Aim as high as you reasonably can.
Past. I’ve been trying that earlier. Not that I ended up aiming at most prestigious journals (I’m in Ecology after all), but I have lost a lot of precious time trying to push my first papers (probably at the cost of post-doc opportunities because publication was delayed due to aiming high, and believe me, unless you have a pure rocket conclusion in a hotly debated theme, you’d better publish quickly, even if it ends up in slightly less prestigious journals). Of course, early in career you’re just naive as to where your peers find interest, and even delusional as to how important your findings are. Notwithstanding with the interest or importance issue, it also takes some time to understand that the success of a paper is not correlated to its actual importance. (Seeds Aside still feels its most cited papers are not the most important ones). So don’t worry too much and have fun publishing your results.
Currently. I’m probably in a lesser need to overpush papers. I fully admit that willingness to publish is not always a rational behaviour and I have now a wish-list where I could possibly send manuscripts even if they would fit higher in some more prestigious journals too. Irrational, I know. But fantasies overpower fame temptations sometimes.
Don’t just go by journal prestige; consider “fit”.
Well, I completely agree. This is a skill to develop over time though. I think “fit” was first meant to IF fitness of a journal, but you may consider other factors of importance, especially in early carreer: the average timeline between submitting and published (shorter the best); the generalist/specialist spectrum of a journal (a more general readership is probably to be preferred over the specialised equivalent of about same or greater IF: application committees or hiring PIs have then greater odds knowing the journal); or similarly, “fit” to the community you want to reach (just broad or narrow, depending on your goals).
How much will it cost?
Past. Never a gave a cent. Some open access journals have reduced publishing fees. I don’t know about waivers, I’ve never reached that negociating point.
Future. Depends on the monney left or tradeoff with experiment monney. Will see.
How likely is the journal to send your paper out for external review?
When it happened that I got rejected without review, it was always for the wrong reasons. Rare happenstance though. Or was it because of aiming too high?
Is the journal open access?
Past. As noted in the links, it also depends on co-authors. I’ve always been suggested to go for traditional journals. Academia may be so conservative…
Current. I’ve only one paper open access so far. Not in a well established journal, rather a recent one; and my own decision. I initiated and was leading the project (unfunded what’s more), and it was terminated once my contract ended (which is sort of unfortunate, but that’s the way it is). Costs are currently nihil for this hopefully promising journal, and that’s probably what did ease co-authors acceptance for this OA outlet. Of course, based on a bet: that there is a future for this scientific subdiscipline at the intersection of plants, pollinators & ecology. Open Access is sometime a choice you should carefully consider. I think Pollination Ecology will turn out as a success, but in case it is not, there’s a risk for continued access to the papers.
Then, there are plenty OA Journals that are established already, and some of them are on my publish wish list.
Does the journal evaluate papers only on technical soundness?
This is an important thing to consider, especially were carefully driven research resulted in mitigated conclusions (not sure this always means that the question was badly set, but then reviewers may have a different take on that). I’ve never made it a main consideration though, because I did not have to write papers along these lines (which just means I selectively write the papers with clear cut results in priority, but then, I have acculmulated a lot of data sleeping in the drawers). Anyway, this point is also discussed because reviewers have sometimes quite narrow or biased views on what is actually important or interesting and would make it through. Read the links proposed at the beginning of the post, and you’ll see that even journals supposed to make judgements on technical soundness only do not necessarily follow the rule that closely.
Is the journal part of a review cascade?
I didn’t know about it until recently. I never considered this, though I find it interesting and probably time savy. But do I only know of journals with such process?
Is it a society journal?
Not something I tend to consider, but then, the most important journals in botany and plant ecology are society journals.
Have you had good experiences with the journal in the past?
With Pollination Ecology, I had a very good experience. Well, as far as I remember, I always have had good experiences with all journals, even when we get rejected. The only exception is a prestigious PLOS editor that was demanding far above what was possible to do, in the lines of “this is good enough but I want in addition a mechanistic and experimentally supported hypothesis for your data”. Sounds like great advice, but given the kind of study this was rather a hugely huge addition (and even if I had this, I would rather have sent it as a paper itself to Nature or Science, not this PLOS journal however good it was). So in my experience, an especially easy one, editoring in the journals I submit to is especially professional and fair. I even remember for the paper I submitted to the big plos, an editor in Evolution took a third reviewing round despite two first negatives, because she wasn’t sure how to deal with this strange study or the even stranger reviews she received.
Is there anyone on the editorial board who’d be a good person to handle your paper?
This is a question I only consider during submission process, whenever the journal is asking for a prefered editor. Usually there’s one. I don’t really know how this affect review process though (does a theme-unfamiliar editor deal with lesser professionality than a hand-in-handling one? See the Evolution submission just above).
Some extra stuff that’s just plain true:
Publish in a diversity of journals
I don’t know how this actually translates in career perspective, but the idea is probably that it demonstrates the ability to succeed within a diversity of lines and standards, thus correlating with good work on average. This is something I aim to since a long time, and this is a goal that I had set very early in my scientific life. A collateral benefit is that you thus present your work to a wider community, or at least allow for more people to learn about what you did, especially when you work out many aspects of your ecological model. Unfortunately for me, I have made too many jumps from one discipline to another for this diversity to be fully meaningfull, and actually I could do nothing but having this journal diversity because of the changing themes. But overall, diversity is good also in publishing, this is no exception.
Listen to your feelings
Definitely something to further self-endeavours. Publishing in specific journals you’ve targeted since some time can even lead to a greater satisfaction then publishing it in some prestigious venue. Definitely when you feel the journal that your results fit into, you’re ready for greatness.