How to decide where to submit your paper (my two cents)

Following Jeremy Fox interesting blog post, and at least three other people follow-up (herehere and here).  Here are my thoughts on where to submit your paper. In a nutshell, I think times are changing. If you are in a strong position, you can bet for the model you think is best. But if you are not settled yet, I think is wise to have a compromise between publishing some old school papers based on journals prestige, but also make your bet by submitting other manuscripts to faster and open access Journals. That way you can defend your position in a variety of situations.

Following Jeremy’s points:

  • Aim as high as you reasonably can. Agreed, but “high” is a vague term. Impact factor is not a reliable measure and “prestige” is difficult to asses. I think like Jan, that the difference is between the 3 top interdisciplinary journals, the top journals of your field, and then everything else. Within this categories, I don’t worry anymore about the journal in terms of “high impact”. (OA discussed below)
  • Don’t just go by journal prestige; consider “fit”. I do think fit is important, but not in terms of people finding your paper (despite lots of researchers keep using TOC’s of a few well-known journals), but because having a type of journal (or reader) in mind helps you frame your article. For example, I’d expect different things from the same title in Am Nat, than in Ecology.
  • How much will it cost? Important only if you don’t have the money.
  • How likely is the journal to send your paper out for external review? I liked Ethan’s advice on the importance of the speed of the process. By maximizing your chances of being sent to review, not only you can accumulate citations faster but also it reduce the amount of frustration.
  • Is the journal open access? Ideally, Yes, is very important for me. In reality, well, my projects rarely have the money to pay for it, so I end up not making them open.
  • Does the journal evaluate papers only on technical soundness? I think this is a model that will substitute all low tier journals. I’m writing mainly three types of papers. Papers that I hope can make a great advance on Ecology and that I would like to see in a top journal. Papers that has an specific niche, and where I want to target people working on this niche. And good papers that I think can make its moderate contribution, and I want them out there fast for people to read. This papers are ideal for open access and evaluated on technical soundness.
  • Is the journal part of a review cascade? Again, completely agree with Ethan. In fact I would love a model where papers are valued on technical soundness and then there is an “editors choice” or something like that.
  • Is it a society journal? I value supporting Societies. But most important: Is the publisher making profit? Is Copyright retained to the author? Society journals or other organisational journals (i.e. PLOS) has the great advantage from my point of view that revert the benefits to the community, and usually they require a licence to publish, but not a copyright transfer. It’s important for me to avoid as much as possible making a business of science.
  • Have you had good experiences with the journal in the past? I don’t think that’s relevant.
  • Is there anyone on the editorial board who’d be a good person to handle your paper? I’ve never thought on that.

Extra stuff:

  • Publish in a diversity of journals: If you want to increase your readership, increase the spectrum of journals you publish. Publish in general ecology Journals, in more specialised journals, Plos ONE stile. That would help you gain experience with the system too.
  • Listen to your feelings: Is there any journal you like (rationally or irrationally) specially? Forget the pros and cons. Publishing is hard, and its also important to fulfil your whims.
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More on editors (now that I am one of them)

I am excited to join Journal of Ecology as an associate editor. I argued previously here that communication should be better along the publishing process, and now I have the opportunity/pressure to apply that to myself, so If I am editing your paper, let’s have a constructive conversation!

Anyway, this is a good moment to revise my thinking on the publishing scene. Of course, all opinions are only mine, and I like my opinions to change overtime (if needed), because things are not static, and change is good (specially if change is not random, but with some directionality). Panta rei.

First of all, I am happy to be involved in the editorial process, because only by participating actively in a community you can help shaping that community. I learnt a lot about science from reviewing papers, and I hope to also learn a lot from editing papers. (Of course it will also look nice in my CV). There is a lot of conversation on how to reform academic publishing. I agree that some things need to change, but I don’t think we need a revolution of how we publish, but rather an evolution. Why throw away all we learned so far and start from zero with a totally different system? Is better if we build upon what is there. The more pleasant is the transition, the better. May be the differences on what actions revolutionary people and I would take are not that different, but conceptually is important for me to construct in positive. I am not saying I can do much to change things from my position now, but I certainly can try to move things step by step.

Second I want to support more consciously open journals and society based journals. That means thinking more where to publish and for who I am reviewing. J Ecol is good example of a society based journal, which benefits doesn’t goes to some investors, but to the society. Fernando Maestre has a good post on this point.

Third, after some thinking and reading I decided that we do need an editorial process. I think that several journal models are compatible, and I support the idea of PLOS ONE type of journal, but with thousands of articles being published every week, the role of an editor (post of pre peer review) selecting the most influential papers is needed. How to do that is debatable, but for now is good that different systems co-exists: Prestigious Journals selecting your article, F1000 prime post-evaluations, my colleague recommendations on twitter, etc..)

If you get that far, may be you want to know a few more good things about J Ecology: All papers accepted remain copyright of the authors, All papers have free access after two years of publication. So my 2010 paper is already free! And if you are interested on getting more visibility, J Ecol blog is a good place to explain your results in more informal format (videos, podcasts,…).

That’s it for today!

Storytelling (communicating science with comics!)

On one hand I think scientists should stick to doing science and communicators should work with them to communicate Science. On the other hand, scientists tend to be very versatile, and doing outreach is one more fun thing to do. Moreover, by explaining your science to general public you force yourself to really understand what you are doing and think about it from a different perspective.

This christmas I had a rather long break and during this break quite a lot of people ask me what the hell I am doing for living. This breaks are also good to get inspired. My inspiration led me to explain what I am doing in a comic book [Read it here: science_comic_en, It’s just a few pages and I think is fun, I talk about bees, but also about beer, dinosaurs and sex (I hope that these last words have finally convinced everybody to give it a try)]. I think the format works pretty well. While writing it I thought my readers would be mainly family and friends, but who knows? I don’t think a full comic about my research will be super-popular among the general public, but if other Scientists in different fields explain their story too, I believe that the resulting comic would be a blast. Any taker to write another chapter?

The spanish version translated by Belén (always an invaluable help) is available here (science_comic_es). I did it in ComicLife software (for Mac), in case anyone is curious. I may do another chapter when I get more papers accepted. Well, only if people looks interested!