Oh where oh where should I publish?

As a scientist, part of life involves writing up scientific papers about the research I’ve conducted and having them scrutinized and reviewed by a body of my peers, which hopefully culminates in publication of said paper in a journal. One of the major things to consider is where to submit your papers for them to undergo review and hopefully publication. I am currently trying to figure out where I should send a QTL paper. Here are some things we have to consider when choosing where to publish.

1) Impact factor: All journals have what is known as an impact factor. According to wikipedia “The impact factor, often abbreviated IF, is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to recent articles published in science and social science journals. It is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field, with journals with higher impact factors deemed to be more important than those with lower ones.” You want to submit your work to a journal with as high as an impact factor as possible. The big four journals with large impact factors are Nature (IF=36), Science (IF=31.2), PLoS Biology (IF=12.6) and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (9.681). However, you better have done some pretty damn good work to even consider submitting to any of these. Most of the time, you know how good your work is and submit to a journal with an appropriate impact factor. Why is impact factor important? Well, when you are trying to get a job, they want to hire someone who is doing work that will make them a leader in the field. If you are a leader in the field, you should be publishing in journals with high impact factors.

2) Appropriate audience: You obviously don’t want to publish a genetics article in an ecology journal. You have to be sure to choose a journal that will reach the appropriate audience, an audience that will read your work and cite it in their papers. Most journals are very good about having descriptions of the work that they publish. Also, you can often email the editor of that journal to see if your paper would be a good fit.

3) Publishing costs: You are expected to publish your work, but it sure as heck isn’t always free. Some journals charge you a certain amount per page, per color figure, etc. Some journals are what we call “open access” and you have to pay for your paper to be published where it can be accessed by anyone. This is good because more people can read it, but it often takes close to $1,000 for this to be accomplished.

4) Turn around time: Sometimes, you want stuff to get out there quickly. Especially if you are continuing work on that project and you would like to cite it in your future papers. Open access journals usually have a pretty quick turn around. Other journals are slower. Much, much slower. The first paper I had published went through 3 months of review the first time, a month of me doing additional data analysis to resubmit, about 2 1/2 months after it was resubmitted before it was accepted, and then another five before it was actually published. It was literally almost a year since it had been submitted before it was published. I will note that some people are very wary of some open access journals since they still seem to let sloppy work slip in. A member of my committee refuses to publish at a certain open access journal because they reviewed a paper that needed major revisions, and the paper was allowed to be published without making those revisions.

So, I’ll be pondering deep thoughts on these four topics as I begin work on my next manuscript.

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