Wednesday, 9 December 2015

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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