At some point, you will have to choose journals to submit your articles to.
Finding the right journal is important because if your article isn’t published in a timely fashion, say within a year of a congress presentation, no one will know about it, and a delay will make someone ask, “why did it take so long?”
If you are in basic or medical research, then no pubs mean no funding – simple as that. If you are in pharma, delayed pubs mean that potential prescribers and insurers might not know about your research results when your product is licensed. Even more important, study protocols and study results for therapeutics, whether sponsored by industry, universities, clinical research networks, or other organizations, are posted on public websites, (e.g. http://www.clinicaltrials.gov). If those data are not published, there will be no public, peer-reviewed validation of the significance of the study results.
So you’ve done the research, analyzed your data, and written the manuscript. Your article is ready for submission. But where should you send it? The first choice of many investigators that I’ve worked with was a “big name” “high-impact” journal like the New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Nature publications, or Cell.
Unfortunately, the originality, novelty, or significance criteria (or editorial perception) at many of those journals make the probability of acceptance very close to P<0.05. Remember, the primary publication goal is to find an indexed, peer-reviewed journal that is known, and read by the people you want to communicate your results and interpretation to.
Rejections happen to everyone, usually not because manuscripts are of insufficient quality, but because they didn’t match the journal’s objectives or scope, or what the editors believe are the interests of their readership. Rejected articles usually are not lacking of anything, just submitted to the wrong journal.
The biggest problem with rejection is having a longer timeline to publication. Many journals with high rejection rates understand this, and have a preliminary review process to screen submissions. If they don’t want to consider yours, you lose 2 or 3 weeks. Otherwise you will wind up waiting 2 to 3 months for a decision. Granted, rejection letters usually contain constructive comments, but they put you back to “square one”. It pays to spend some time and effort to find the best journals for your paper before you submit it to one of them.
Build a short list of target journals. Which journals do you read frequently? Which journals are read by many researchers/authors in your field? You must already have an idea which ones they are, but discuss preferences with the other investigators/authors that you work with.
If the study results have been presented at a congress, does that professional association have a journal? Check out the publication history of similar studies in indexed journals – PubMed is good for this. Which journals turn up the most often? There’s another great tool for finding target journals – etBLAST – at http://etest.vbi.vt.edu/etblast3/ it’s a unique word similarity-based search engine that identifies journals that have published on your topic and are indexed in MedLine or a number of other databases.
Now that you’ve selected a few candidate journals in your subject area, find out more about them. Visit their websites to see if their scope and aims are consistent with what you are reporting. If the target audience is international, choose a journal with an international focus. If the target audience is experts in a research area or medical specialty, choose a journal with a narrow rather than a multidisciplinary or generalist focus. Are you targeting readers with an interest in research or clinical medicine, theoretical or applied science?
Go to the journal’s internet site to find out the types of articles they publish, check out the submission guidelines, the specifications for each type of article, the maximum number of tables and figures, the format and style requirements, and other information.
Also, some journals accept supplemental data or information associated with your methods or results that can be accessed at the journal’s Internet site. Easy access to the author instructions for most health and life sciences journals indexed in PubMed can be accessed at: http://mulford.utoledo.edu/instr/.
Often the journal Internet site has information on the average length of time from submission to publication. There are three critical intervals. How long does peer review take? How soon after resubmitting a revised manuscript will you hear about acceptance? How soon after acceptance will your paper be published? Also consider the frequency of journal publication.
The journal website should have this information; if not, you can email or call the editorial office. Expect to wait 9 to 12 months for paper publication, but publication online usually happens much sooner.
Does the journal have an open access option? That helps others to access your research results. If so, there is probably a fee to be paid, which might come from your grant or from the financial sponsor. If the NIH funded your research, ensure your publishing agreement allows the paper to be available in accordance with the NIH Public Access Policy.
Well, that’s probably enough for now. I’ve got to keep some of my thoughts on publication in reserve for future posting. Let me know if this has prompted any questions on the process.
Cheers for now,
Clement Weinberger, PhD
The Stylus Medical Communications (www.stylusedits.com)