Choosing a journal I: getting your paper published quickly
11th Jan 2012
So, you’ve got a great result from your experiments or data analysis and are starting to write it up as a paper. Now is the time to think about which journal to submit your paper to. How do you decide?
In this series of posts I will discuss various factors worth considering. In this first post, I will look at differences between journals that can have a big effect on how long it is before your paper is finally published.
Speed of peer review and publication
Many journals publish, on their website, either statistics on their speed of peer review or a statement of their ideal time from submission to first decision. The dates of submission and acceptance on published articles, which are also frequently published with them, aren’t very useful for this: the time between submission and acceptance includes the time the authors took to revise, and you can’t tell how many rounds of peer review took place.
You should also check how long the journal takes to reject papers by the editors without being sent to reviewers, if this information is available. If a journal is going to reject your paper you want this to happen as soon as possible so that you can try elsewhere without a long delay. If you’re not sure whether your paper will be of interest to a journal, check whether they will look at presubmission enquiries; you might be able to get a quick answer by just sending the abstract.
Journals sometimes publish statistics on the speed of publication after acceptance. If they don’t, look at the acceptance and publication dates on papers in recent issues to get an idea. Do they publish the accepted version quickly, with a copyedited, formatted and proofed version going online later, or do they wait until the final version is ready before publishing? If you can’t find out this information from the journal’s website, email the editors to check or ask colleagues who have published there.
Cascading peer review
The bigger publishers have a system whereby if a paper is rejected from one of their journals, the reviewers’ reports can be passed to another journal within the same publisher. This means that you don’t have to start from scratch after a rejection, so the process of getting published isn’t delayed.
The following are some examples that I know of:
- Nature passes papers to Nature Genetics, Nature Cell Biology, etc, which in turn may pass them to Nature Communications or Scientific Reports
- BMC Biology, BMC Medicine, Genome Biology and Genome Medicine pass papers to BMC Bioinformatics, BMC Cancer and other BMC series journals
- PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine pass papers to PLoS One
Print/online or online only
Should you choose a journal that has a print issue or one that is online only? Nowadays many prestigious journals do nor produce a print issue, so a print copy is no longer widely considered to be essential for ‘proper’ publication.
But the choice isn’t simply between print/online and online only journals when you are thinking about getting your paper out as soon as possible. If the journal has a print issue, does it publish papers online soon after acceptance or in batches corresponding to a print issue? If online publication waits for print publication, that slows things down considerably. Fortunately, the journals I know of that used to do this (which will remain nameless) now publish soon after acceptance.
Some other things affect speed of publication that may be harder to allow for.
If the journal is very new the editors may not yet be overloaded with papers and might be able to push yours through peer review quickly. On the other hand, they may be too busy telling people that the journal exists.
If the editors are academics themselves, they could be busy with research and teaching, which might take priority over dealing quickly with your paper. On the other hand, in-house editors may also have other tasks that slow things down, such as going to conferences or managing other editors.
Do you know of journals or publishers that have particularly short peer review or publication times, or that have processes that speed things up? Are there other factors that can affect speed besides those I’ve listed here? Please do leave a comment.