Monday, October 18, 2010

Writing and Publishing Tips from Nature

Very good advice (almost all of which I follow myself) from Nature on writing and publishing.

My only caveat is that there is a real trade-off in economics between getting published in reasonable time and getting published in the top journals. The top journals have very slow review processes and very high rejection rates. Not all of them use the "desk reject" system used by top natural science journals like Nature and Science, though some do.* If top journals take a year to review a paper and accept fewer than 10% of submissions vs. 3 months at typical lower ranked journals and acceptance rates of 30-50% it is a real question as to which it makes sense to submit to. This is especially the case for people on the job market who want to quickly get some publications onto their CV but also for authors of policy-oriented articles who need to publish in a time-frame before the issues change significantly. If you just want to get your paper to the audience then it could make sense to send it to the second-tier journals (those ranked by the ARC as A journals). It will be cataloged in the Web of Science and Scopus and thought of as a reliable paper by most potential readers. But it won't help as much in getting a job or promotion as a paper in a top-ranked journal ** and some readers might think it a less reliable source and, therefore, be less likely to read it and cite it. If you have a paper that you think might be publishable in a top journal check whether that journal has a desk-reject policy.

* At Ecological Economics we do use the desk-rejection system (and we're a "second-tier" journal). Papers that are either very weak or not related to the topics we are interested in publishing on will likely be desk rejected. At the moment it is a minority of papers that are not sent for review by referees. Often an associate editor like me will decide whether to reject the paper.

** At the most elite departments in the US (maybe UK?) articles in a second-tier journal could be a negative, especially for new PhDs. If the only thing on your CV is a second-tier article, search committees are likely to downgrade their evaluation of you. It could be better to have no publications and a PhD from a top program. If you are coming from a low-ranked program you should get publications on your CV somewhat irrespective of quality.

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