posts,  Tricks

How to choose a journal

If your research is not cool or hip enough for the journals in the higher stratospheres of academic publishing (aka the triumvir Nature, Science, PNAS and maybe a few field specific journals such as Ecology Letters), choosing a journal can be a real conundrum.

If you are adventurous, you could flip the whole thing on its head and let journals choose your article, through peer-review services such as PeerageOfScience or use pre-print services, some of which integrate with journals (eg. PeerJ), to get feedback.

Things to balance in the choice of a journal:

  • Fit: An easy trick to guess fit is to pick the journal most represented in your bibliography (this may be more difficult if you only site articles published in the scientific triumvir). Judging fit can be done by comparing your manuscript to published articles in the target journals. This can be done automatically using online tools:
    • JANE compares your title, abstract or full text to the articles found in Medline. It can also be used to find similar authors or articles. Finding similar recent authors is an excellent way to find potential reviewers to propose to the journal.
    • Journal Advisor is similar to JANE and is provided edanz and has an option only to show journals with an Impact Factor and/or journals with an Open Access option.
    • Journal Author Academy by Springer searchers is actually a porting of the Journal Advisor search provided by edanz with a few more options including impact factor range and frequency of publication.
    • NEW! JournalGuide is a new ressource that also includes information about predatory journals (real journals can be labelled as “verified”).
  • Personal preference: You or your co-authors may just like or dislike certain journals. One of my co-authors hates publications in which page number spans whole volumes rather than single issues, which leads to ridiculous page numbers (eg. PNAS). You or your funding agency may feel strongly, one way or another, about Open Access, self-archiving, data release policies or specific publishers. Actually figuring out what each journal’s policy is made easy by:
    • RoMEO is an online database of journal copyright and self-archiving policies (including easy to decipher colour coding)
    • While JULIET helps make sure you abide by the requirements of your funding agency is facile
  • Impact factor and perceived prestige: though I would argue that with the advent of online search, impact factor is becoming less and less important for racking in citations, hiring committee still seem to enjoy judging a curriculum vitae by counting publications in higher impact journals.
  • Time to decision: though some journals pride themselves in their time to first decision, this is often hard to acertain for most journals. Even for journals that advertise this statistic, it can be very misleading as editors resort more frequently to Reject with possibility to resubmit instead of accepting a manuscript to cut the reported time to first decision (the decision on the second submission is often instant).
    • SciRev is providing a platform for scientists to review their experience submitting and publishing with different journals. Though such reviews may over represent the views of disgruntled authors that may have more incentive to provide a review to vent their grievances, it does provide some impression of what to expect of the review process.
    • NEW!  JournalGuide is also providing place for feedback and time to decision.
  • Probability of getting published:
    • Mission: PLOS publications don’t have a page limit as they dont have a print version and have thus set out to publish all good science, regardless of wow factor.
  • Cost (of open access publication or page/figure costs)
    • It is surprising how hard it is to determine the costs of publishing in a specific journal.
    • This becomes a growing concern if you are mandate to publish open access.
    • NEW! Cost Effectiveness by is a ressource to identify open access journals that are most/least cost effective in terms of impact (uses data from Journal Prices)

Balance is key : You might choose to try at a journal with a long Time to decision if the probability of getting published in this journal is high. Conversely, you might choose to attempt at getting by the ferocious Editors and reviewers defending the pages of a more prestigious journal despite the high probability that your manuscript will not survive the fight.

It would be great to have a tool that integrates all of these elements and allows you to weight each differently.