7 questions: academic publishing
Have you ever asked yourself how academic publishing works? Do research get money for publishing? What are predatory publishers? The 7 question series wants to provide a brief overview of a topic to get you informed, but without going to much into detail or taking too much of your time.
Scienticst need to share their findings for scientific knowledge to spread. The way to do that is academic publishing in scientific journals.
- Submission: choosing a journal and submit a manuscript according to the publishers requirements
- Revision: journal editor organizes peer review
- Editing: (multipe) peer reviewers comment and recommend adjustments to manuscript
- Acceptance: edited manuscript accepted by journal (or rejcted again)
- Production: production editor or publisher finalizes the manuscript (copy editing, typesetting, journal layout, printing or online publication)
Usually you can distinguish between open access and traditional journals. Published in an open access journal the research findings are available for everybody and reach a broader audience. However, traditional journals are widely recognized and have a certain prestige. Open access journals are still perceived as less-quality journals, which is not necessarily true. But the industry is in transition – even some traditional journals are now considered as hybrids, offering open access in addition to the traditional publishing.
A review by peers – meaning other exprets in the field – ensures the high quality and prevents plagiarism or malpractice, due to their own profound knowledge. The peer-review is part of the editing process for submitted manuscripts. The reviewers are selected by the journal editors, not by the author and evaluate the content for scientific value, validity and originality. Are the study design and methodology appropiate? Are the results valid and significant? After adding comments to the manuscript it can be edited by the author and re-submitted to the journal for final publication.
The safest way is to look for journal information on the journal’s website. A description of manuscript processing should be mentioned including peer review methodology.
In contrast – researches have to pay a fee when submitting a manuscript to a journal, mainly for editing- and peer-review-related costs. Also, after acceptance of the manuscript, some costs arise. In traditional journals authors commonly have to pay a per page, while in open access journals they have to pay an article processing charge. Furhtermore, it is recommended to publish in open acces journals or in traditional journals with reasonable subscription fees – otherwise nobody can afford to subscribe, which will harm readers and authors.
It is not inconceivable that low-quality studies are still being published. Publishers that are demanding fees without providing editorial and publishing services are called predatory publishers. They are called predators, because they are thought to trick authors into publishing, although in academic circles it is commonly known that they publish work with low quality. There are a few lists available online that identify predatory publishers based on different criteria, e.g. Predatory Journals or Beall’s List.
The impact factor is the most widely used parameter to reflect the quality of academic publications, but actually it is quite controversial. It is calculated from the ratio betwen citations and recent (last two years) citeable articles and is therefore a measure for the recent journal quality, whereas the h-index relates to an individual scientists performance over a lifetime. It is based on quantity (as in the number of publications) and quality (as in the number of citations). These factors can vary and can not be compared between different scientific fields.
A more profound ranking is provided for example by Scientific Journal Ranking SJR. They aim to smooth these differences and enable a comparison independent of scientific field and allow us to capture the scientific impact of a journal from distinct perspectives.
7 questions is a series which does not itend to comprise all aspects of the topic, rather giving an overview about the most common questions in a short amount of time. It can not cover all controversies that arise from these issues. Instead, they can be discussed in detail – when necessary or requested – in a seperate article.