Choosing a journal III: practicalities

5th Jan 2012

In this series I am looking at various aspects of choosing a journal: so far I have covered getting your paper published quickly and getting it noticed. In this third post I look at a few practical issues that might affect your choice of journal.

Do they copyedit?

If your paper is read by lots of people, any errors in it will be noticed and will reflect badly on you. Most journals use copyeditors (freelance or employed) to edit papers after they are accepted. They ensure that papers are clearly and grammatically written and query obvious potential errors with the authors; they also ensure that there is a consistent house style. Some, but not all, journals also use proofreaders for a further quality check after the authors’ corrections have been made; others rely on the authors for this.

Notable examples of journals that do not use copyeditors for their research papers are PLoS One and BMC series journals; instead, they recommend that authors use an editing service.

You may feel that you won’t make any errors, so your paper will be the one that won’t need to be edited or proofread. In my long experience of editing, however, I have not once found a paper that needed no changes. You know what you are talking about; this means it is easy to miss the omitted explanation without which your methods will be incomprehensible to some readers. Everyone needs someone else to edit their writing, even professional writers.

So if you do choose a journal that doesn’t copyedit their papers, for your reputation’s sake make sure you hire an editor (perhaps me!) to check it first.

Policies on data publication and supplementary material

If you have a large dataset, what mechanisms does the journal have for publishing it? Do they encourage supplementary material?

I know of one journal, Journal of Neuroscience, that does not allow supplementary material. Another journal, GigaScience, is set up specifically to publish very large datasets. And there are many journals with policies between these two extremes.

Also, does the supplementary material get checked or copyedited? For many journals it does not. Bear this in mind when preparing it.

Costs of publication

If the journal is open access, how much does it charge authors?

Some ‘hybrid’ journals allow authors to choose whether their article is open access or not: a list of the author charges for such journals is on SHERPA/RoMEO (updated July 2011 when I viewed it). The average charge is around US$2500.

I haven’t been able to find an up-to-date table of author charges for journals that are completely open access, but a table from 2009 is at openwetware. The average charge for these journals then was about $2350, but the difference may be just because of the time difference.

Some closed access journals have page charges or charge for colour printing.

If the journal doesn’t copyedit papers after acceptance, you will also need to factor in the cost of getting your paper edited.

Ease of use of online submission system

Nowadays, if a journal does not have an online submission system it is unusual. The systems use vary a lot. Check out the experience of other authors with submission systems and find out whether the system is easy to use. Given the many other factors to consider, however, an online submission system would probably have to be really bad to make a difference to whether you would submit your paper there.

Previous experience with the publisher/journal

If you have published with the journal before, or with others from the same publisher, you might be tempted to stick with what you know. In particular, if you know an editor on a journal this might make you more confident in submitting there. I would recommend investigating alternatives first, however.

Recommendations from other authors

Do you know anyone who has published with the journal or with others owned by the same publisher? Whether or not you have a personal recommendation, search online for comments (good or bad) from others who have published there. Some publishers (e.g. BioMed Central) have surveyed their authors to see how satisfied they are).

Your experience

How important are each of these factors in your choice of journal? Do you know of any journal publishers that have particularly good or bad online submission systems or supplementary material policies? Do you know which other journals copyedit papers or do not?

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