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This guide collects guidance for authors and research project managers looking a developing a publication plan, and identifying where to publish research outputs (primarily journal articles). It includes guidance around;
Choosing a journal or publisher: Key considerations, establishing criteria and identifying predatory journals.
Journal identification tools: Tools available to you to identify relevant journals based on a draft manuscript, key topics or your reference list.
Publication planning: Considerations and suggestions on how to approach a publication plan for a research project.
Peer Review: An overview of peer review processes, including open peer review
"Think. Check. Submit. helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their research. Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international, cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications."
If you are a new researcher, or are researching in a new or unfamiliar area, then the guidance below may be helpful in choosing where to publish.
Where do your colleagues and peers publish most frequently?
Which journals have you found the most relevant articles related to your subject area?
If you find a lot of research on your topic in just one or two journals, this may be the best place to publish to reach a key audience, irrespective of journal rankings etc. Journal metrics will usually be based on citation and publication data from the previous 2+ years, and may not yet reflect new trends or hot topics and where they are published.
Your Faculty Librarian may also be able to offer some advice on key, new or emerging journals in a particular field of study you may not be familiar with.
You can also use some online publisher tools (see Choosing a Journal Publisher: Publisher Tools on this page for a range of guidance on short video demos) to suggest journals based on a title or abstract (be aware, these may be limited to suggesting journals published by that publisher, which may not be the most appropriate journal for your research!)
You could also use tools such as Scopus or Web of Science to identify published articles matching a keyword search, and then analyse these results to view in which journals most articles appear, or which articles (in which journals) received the most citations.
When shortlisting prospective journals
Do those journals identified have a clear "aims and scope" section on their website, and does your research fit that journal?
This might give an idea as to how many academic and student readers your article might potentially reach.
When you have identified a potential journal
Do you or your colleagues know the journal?
Do your colleagues have any feedback on their previous experience with the journal?
Submission system and processes
Peer Review - speed and appropriateness/usefulness of comments/reviewers
Marketing and promotional support post publication
Do you or your colleagues know the publisher, or does the publisher belong to any recognised trade association or accreditation initiative?
Are the publisher or editorial team easy to identify and contact?
What editorial services are offered?
If required, do they offer academic writing or language support?
What publication fees will you be liable to pay?
Can you tell how long it takes an article to be published from the point of submission?
If the journal doesn't indicate this, do the articles within the journal give any indication through submission/acceptance/publication dates recorded?
All academic authors should be aware that there are a large volume of fraudulent or predatory publishers who will encourage you to publish your research (for example you thesis) with them, often for a fee. Although many publishers are legitimate and well respected, and may charge either for open access publication, or levy page or colour figure charges as part of their business model, not all such approaches are honest or genuine.
Fraudulent or predatory publishers may not provide the same level of editorial or publishing expertise that you might expect, and there is no guarantee that your work will remain available to readers in the future. Some predatory publishers offer a range of titles, with often professional looking websites and using names similar to existing, well established and respected journals.
If you are contacted by a journal, you should always exercise some due diligence before agreeing to publish with them:
Have you heard of the journal before?
Have you or colleagues published with them previously?
Have you or colleagues consulted research published in the journal before?
Check the title - it may be similar to a well known journal.
Is the journal indexed in a database you already use?
For example, in Scopus, Web of Science, Business Source Complete, ASSIA, ERIC, PsycINFO or Historical Abstracts?
Not Google Scholar - many predatory or vanity publications are indexed by Google Scholar, which does not have the same selection and indexing policies an academic database might.
Has the journal approached you before?
Does the approach seem persistence, aggressive?
Do repeated approaches offer significant 'discounts'?
Have other colleagues experienced similar persistent marketing?
Do they offer to publish your article quickly?
Whilst shorter publication times may be attractive, it could be indicative of the quality of editorial or peer-review processes in place (or lack of).
Who is on the editorial board?
Are they real people?
Are they contactable, and based at reputable organisations?
Do they have a publication profile, or a profile page at their organisation?
Does it list their position on the journal there?
If they are identifiable, do they know they are listed as being on the editorial board? Do they list this indicator of esteem on their own personal or professional profile anywhere?
Are costs clearly explained? What about peer review and editorial processes?
What is the quality of existing articles already published in the journal?
If the journal indicates it has an Impact Factor or Citescore, is this true?
If your publication is reporting research conducted under a funding agreement, it is essential that you are aware of the requirements of the funder and what policies they have with respect of the resulting outputs of that research.
For commercial partners in particular, are you required through any contractual agreement to allow them to review any planned publications prior to submission, for reasons of commercial sensitivity?
Are you required to publish one or all outputs reporting the research in a specific journal or venue?
Are you required to make your research open access, or specifically to publish your research in an open access journal?
Are you required to publish your research output under a specific re-use licence?
Are you required to deposit your research in an open access repository? If so, is this in a specific repository (e.g. Europe PubMed) within a designated timeframe?
These requirements may apply to awards for a specific research project, salary support provided by a funding body (eg the Wellcome Trust) or a doctoral training award (eg RCUK). It is essential you are aware what publishing commitments you have agreed to as part of a funding agreement you have signed or are party to before deciding what and where to publish. Be aware that some funders already impose penalties for failing to comply with their publication policies, such as withholding payment of an award or consequences for future grant applications.
Open Access Publication: Requirements and Benefits
As a leading research institution, Durham recognises the value of its world class research and is committed to sharing its knowledge and expertise as widely as possible in order to enhance its use and impact.
As a researcher and an author, you may wish to consider which options are offered by journals or publishers you would like to publish with, and if:
these will allow you to meet any Funder, REF or institutional requirements, or
how reducing barriers to access (e.g. subscription access or pay-to-view) might benefit your aims in sharing your research.
- DORA: "assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published"
- Leiden Manifesto: "The impact factor is calculated for journals indexed in the US-based and still mostly English-language Web of Science. These biases are particularly problematic in the social sciences and humanities, in which research is more regionally and nationally engaged."
- The Metric Tide: "placing too much emphasis on narrow, poorly-designed indicators – such as journal impact factors (JIFs) – can have negative consequences"
- Durham University Statement on Responsible Metrics: "We will guard against false precision, for example reliance solely on journal / publisher rankings or single metrics."
Journal rankings and citation mapping
Are any journal level metrics considered important in your field of study? Does your department indicate any expectations as to particular "high impact" or "high prestige" journals? Is publication in any particular journal considered important for your career progression? It is also worth considering if your research (or similar research) is attracting interest outside of you traditional field of study?
Journal Rankings: JIF, Eigenfactor, Citescore, SJR and ABS Star Rankings
There are several ranking systems for journals, including:
It is also worth considering if your research (or similar research) is attracting interest outside of you traditional field of study. One way of doing this is by identifying who is citing similar work and where these citing articles are being published. There are various tools available which might be of interest may also be of interest in seeing "citation flows" - where citations between specific subject areas are developing.
There is no point spending a year of your life writing a book if it is not going to reach the people you want to read it." Thomson, P (2011) [Blog Post] 'Picking the right publisher for your book' [last accessed August 2019]
The type of book or monograph publication will affect how you decide with whom to publish, and the process of publishing itself. The following guidance is just an outline on some points to consider and some further guidance available.
Identify potential publishers
Your first step is to create a short list of publishers to whom you could submit a proposal for publication. There are various ways you could do this.
Speak to colleagues with research interests in the same field.
Check the library collections for items published in your chosen topic.
It is also worth seeing which publishers appear most eager to solicit new material. Have a look at publisher's websites, or speak to publishers exhibiting at conferences. Identify which publishers make it easy for authors to get in touch and are clear of the format they require for a submission (of course, it is also perfectly valid to question why a publisher seems so keen to publish your new material).
Narrow down your preferred shortlist
The points below are some questions to consider in narrowing down your shortlist. Not all will be relevant in all situations.
Funder requirements: Does you funder have any specific requirements? For example, the Wellcome Trust requires monographs and book chapters are made open access. If you are in receipt of funding for your research, this should be the first thing to check as you have likely signed a contract which stipulated the terms under which the funding for your research was provided.
Academic weight: Does the publisher offer a peer review process? Is this essential for your purposes (eg for future career progression, for future research evaluation exercises such as the REF). If it is essential, cross off any publishers which do not meet these expectations.
Size of publisher: Do you want a smooth, if less personal service that a larger publisher might be able to offer over a smaller, but more personal operation? Can your colleagues or peers offer advice on their own experiences with individual publishers?
Prestige of publisher: Likewise, are you looking for a prestigious publisher where competition may be greater, or a younger press that may focus on offering a good personal service and where acceptance for publication may be less competitive.
Speed of publication: Depending upon your own personal requirements, or that of your funder or employer, the speed of publication offered by the publisher may be major factor in your decision.
Subject specialist press: Are you aiming your research at a small, select expert audience, or at a wider cross-discipline audience? Would a publisher which specialises in your field of study offer an advantage or improved service (especially when considering proof-reading, peer-review and indexing services which may or may not be offered).
Added value: Design and layout, copy-editing and proof-reading, good review coverage, promotion, indexing part of the service?
Pricing policy: How does the price they plan to sell book at compare to similar publications and the price sensitivity of the target market?
Distribution agreements: Smaller presses can still offer an efficient service if they have a good relationship with a local distributor. Can the publisher demonstrate its effectiveness in getting its publications into the academic or commercial market you require?
Location: Especially for smaller publishers, check their country of legal domicile to ensure the copyright legislation in place offers no reason for concern.
Web of Science is a multidisciplinary citation database, with several tools which can be useful for identifying journals for potential publication.
Web of Science: Master Journal List
Web of Science: Manuscript Matcher
Web of Science: Analyse Results
Whilst this video is not specifically about identifying journals for publication, you can use the 'Analyse Results' function demonstrated to identify which journals have published the most on a given topic recently.
Publish Tools: Elsevier
The Global Academic Publisher Elsevier provides several tools which can be of use to identify suitable journals for publication.
Elsevier Journal Finder
Elsevier Journal Finder allows you to upload a manuscript abstract and title, and it will try to match this to relevant journals which may have published similar research.
It is worth noting that:
This tool is limited to Elsevier owned journals only (if you an academic who is currently boycotting publishing with, or providing peer review or editorial services to Elsevier journals).
The journal finder does not support upload of text in TeX, html, MathML or LaTeX formats.
Similar to Web of Science, if you use Scopus to search for documents matching certain keywords, you can use the services Analyze search results option to explore which authors are most proliferate in publishing in that field, and in which journals most articles are published in. Scopus is not limited to Elsevier-owned journals, and indexes over 19,000 journals, so can be a useful way to identify relevant journals if you are careful with your keyword selection.
This free tool was created by researchers from the Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI), aimed primarily at those publishing in medicine, health, biosciences and related journals. It uses data from journals which have had articles published in PubMed over the previous year, matched against a title and/or abstract you can provide them, to identify potential journals for publication (or potential co-authors to collaborate with if in the early stages of a manuscript).
It provides a freely available API for those who wish to integrate it into their own systems.
JSTOR: Text Analyser
JSTOR Labs provides access to a Text Analyzer tool (currently in Beta), which allows you to upload a document and it will find similar or related article and books. Whilst primarily targeted as a tool to identify other articles as part of a literature search, this may be helpful to also identify where these have been published, to identify potential journals or publishers for your work.
This section provides guidance for new early career researchers, and those who supervise or mentor them, on thinking about how to plan for what publications may result from a research project.
You can save, share or print this guidance off as a pdf file using the link below.
It may seem obvious that publishing the results of academic research is a key expectation upon researchers, but the reasons for publishing your research may also impact upon any publication strategy or planning.
Core expectations of scholarly research
Reporting of primary research findings
Publication invites the critical review and feedback of peers, and is constructive in improving a researchers writing skills and experience of the scholarly publication process.
A pathway to generating research 'impact'
A publication (or publications) may be useful to form part of the evidence underpinning a REF Impact Case Study.
Publication and communication of research is one pathway to generating impact, be that the adoption of research outcomes in the development of social policy, professional practice or opportunities for commercialisation.
An individual researcher's career progression
Raising your academic profile and engaging with your network of peers.
Ensuring you have enough outputs for submission to the REF or other research evaluation exercises.
Boosting your author-level metrics, such as your H-index.
Expanding your CV - evidencing the quality of your research (and your productivity) to support promotion and employment applications.
A prior publication record is evidence of your individual, your collaborators' or your research group's track record of getting research published which might support new funding applications.
Legal and ethical obligations
Contractual agreements with any employer, funder or collaborator on your research, which may outline the what, where and when around publication.
Whilst not always what an author prioritises for publication, codes of practice around research integrity often expect and encourage the publication of 'negative' results.
Appropriate publication which avoids fragmented or duplicate publications, but which recognises practice based on the discipline and nature of the research.
For example, multidisciplinary research projects might expect the publication of results separately in journals appropriate to each embedded discipline, and framed in a context appropriate to that discipline.
Why have a Publication Plan?
There are many reasons why having a publication plan is useful to you as a researcher and author.
Because of the sensitivities authorship can present, all Durham authors are advised to raise the question of authorship and acknowledgement at an early stage, and to engage in open discussion with colleagues and collaborators, so as to avoid problems arising at a later date.
Where guidance or support might be required (e.g. peer review, guidance on open access requirements, funding to cover publication costs, help in identifying appropriate journals/publishers) it is beneficial this is identified in advance to ensure resource to provide that support can be provided.
REF and Impact Planning
There is an expectation that if you are eligible for inclusion in the REF submission, you will have authored sufficient outputs to be included in the submission.
They need to meet any requirements set by Research England (including, for example, requirements around author contribution and the REF Open Access policy)
You need to be aware of any strategy, and collective responsibility for a submission across your REF Unit of Assessment
You need to ensure your key research findings are submitted for publication in reasonable time for it to enter the public domain during the current REF census period, if it is planned to be included in the current REF submission.
A publication plan can help identify pathways (and timescales) to maximise the potential impact of research.
Good practice in support of any discussions around authorship in multi-authored papers
Identification of co-authors can help share the burden, and increase productivity for larger projects.
If involving internal co-authorship, rotation of lead author (within the bounds of research integrity) across publications to ensure, for example, all researchers on a project can provide sufficient publications for the Unit of Assessment's REF submission or gain sufficient experience of the publication process.
Supporting all researchers on a project, from the senior academic to the early career researcher.
A clearly articulated publication plan can:
help balance an author's personal research interests against the demands of a departments research strategy.
better enable you to manage your time over long periods with clearly identified objectives.
feed into institutional processes such as the annual development review or REF preparation activities.
What form should a publication plan take?
You should consult with your department as to any guidance provided, or expectations on formulating a publication strategy. This will help:
Identify available support structures relevant to your discipline.
Enable a discussion to ensure any personal objectives complement or build towards shared local strategies and objectives.
As a basic guide, a publication strategy should cover multiple planned objectives, over several years (e.g. to cover all intended research outputs which might contribute to the next REF submission).
Resources and Support available
Some of the resources below may be useful in helping you formulate and record your publication strategy.
"encouraging the student where possible and appropriate, to gain experience necessary for an academic career, such as teaching, publication and conference participation"
"helping the student interact with other researchers by making him or her aware of other research work in the School and University, and by encouraging attendance at conferences. Support the student in seeking funding. Where appropriate supervisors should advise on the submission of conference papers and article to referred journals. Supervisors should obtain the agreement of the student for any publication of work contained in the thesis and the inclusion of the student as co-author"
"For an early-career researcher (for example University Research Fellow, Roberts Fellow, lecturer), mentoring is likely to be directed towards establishing the individual's research by: … Reading and commenting on draft papers for publication and offering advice and guidance on suitable journals in which to publish”
"Many aspects of mentoring will depend on the particular Department and the area of research of the new staff member. However, typical aspects might include: … advising on their publication strategy and suitable outlets for research outputs"
Once you have had a publication accepted for publication, you may also want to make sure you have planned for how best to disseminate that research to as broad (and as appropriate) audience as possible.
If you are new to academic publishing, the process of peer review and what you might want to expect may be a source of some anxiety. As with many aspects of academic life, talking over concerns or asking for advice form a supervisor or colleagues might be your first port of call.
If this is not convenient, or if you need further guidance, we hope that some of the information here may be of interest.
Peer review encompasses a range of approaches where research is evaluated and its quality checked both before and after it is funded or published. In the case of publications, it involves submitted papers and other publications being subjected to a critical evaluation by independent experts (the author's peers), usually but not always prior to publication.
If you are new to publishing your research or interested in learning more about peer review you may be interested in some of the links below:
An interesting guide to peer review of scientific information, aimed at the general public has been published by Sense about Science and may also be of interest.
Open Peer Review
In recent years, new approaches to academic publishing have included a move in some journals to either fully open peer review, or publication of (sometimes anonymous) peer review comments post publication.
These can be useful both in evaluating research output, but also for early career researchers to gain an insight of the variation in peer review comments they may themselves receive, or examples of how to provide a good (or not so good) peer review service themselves.
F1000 Research publishes all peer review reports, author's and responses, and review names are public.
PeerJ also operates an optional open peer review model for its accepted articles.
Some of BioMed Central's journals, including Biology Direct have adopted open peer review processes.
BMJ Open has included reviewer names and reports for many published articles since its launch in 2011
eLife will publish the decision letter with the author's approval. Whilst reviewers remain anonymous, the author can provide responses to their comments and indicate the revisions made to the articles prior to publication resulting from this process.