The lost war on journal’s papers and open access

the lost war on journal's papers and open accessElsevier, the publishing house, is requesting scientific social-networking sites, and directly to authors, to remove the papers posted online without their permission (The Economist, 2014).

  • When an article is published, some in principle logical copyright is transferred to the academic journals, as they have some editorial costs, and also often provide a powerful and quality platform (the electronic journal webpage), well positioned for SEO in search engines like Google. In other words, they usually provide an interesting service for the international scientific community, but of course at a cost.

The need for access to scientific literature or knowledge in an open and easy way is behind this problem, of course, as the good feeling to challenge the growing power of the powerful publishing corporations; but I feel that the unstoppable force that moves desperately researchers and authors to disclose their papers is the growing obsession with citations and the metrics associated:

  1. On the one hand, universities and accrediting agencies require professors to publish in journals indexed in specific databases, as ISI Web of Knowledge / Web of Science (Thomson Reuters), Scopus (Elsevier) or EBSCO.
  2. But there is an increasing pressure on citations from our articles as a measuring metric of the impact and quality of our research. This leads us to disclose our papers to be found in the Internet, either through working papers in repositories, or hanging the articles or abstracts directly in social and academic networks.

However, this ‘lost’ war (for publishing houses) on journal’s papers and open access shows a certain lack of knowledge by scientists of how SEO and search engines work, since a paper or article is much more easily found for example in Google if it is published in a platform / journal of these corporations than if it’s posted in a repository or in the social networks.

Then, of course, there are other related or derived connotations, such as academic networking: if a researcher or peer asks us a copy of our last article, do we refuse it when is probably a potential and valuable citation?

Finally, the solution to publish an earlier version of the article in open access, not the article itself, sounds a little sloppy. Anyway, I can’t think of disclosing an article that has been published and has publisher’s copyright, because I value my relationship with the editors of journals, it would be like betraying them, don’t you think?

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Research papers, English language and fair play

Research papers, English language and fair playA few days ago I was criticized ironically on the social networks (by a non-academic consultant) by the grammar of one of my blog posts, although I take much care of the English writing, of course, and I usually dedicate to it around 25% of the time. It made me feel pretty bad, but it helped me to reflect on the theme of research papers, English language and fair play.

Something similar can happen to non-native English speakers with our academic articles, with which I’ve never had trouble publishing in premier journals in English, the last one in a fist quartile Journal Citation Reports (ISI Web of Knowledge / Web of Science) indexed journal. It’s true that there was a peer-reviewer (I don’t know whether He/She was native or non-native English speaker) in one of them who told me something about the writing, but as I explained that I had sent it to edit the English (I had the bill), they didn’t say anything back again.

Papers should be written in English for two main reasons:

Those of us who are non-native English have a handicap here, but it need not be a barrier to disseminate knowledge. The world would lost much of the innovation and development if journals were not open to international scientists, and journals understand it this way, there could be no complains about it. Another thing is that the English required for the manuscripts is of first class, which is fair and reasonable but slows and lengthens the process of publishing in journals for non-native speakers.

In case you find it helpful, the process I use to write an article in English is as follows, because I understand that not writing well could in itself spoil the work and effort invested in a research:

  1. Once I have a revised and contrasted research draft in Spanglish (parts in English and parts in Spanish), I translate it fully into English, paragraph by paragraph, carefully reviewing the meaning of each sentence and making sure it is understood.
  2. Then I send it to edit the writing to a specialized academic editor on my field of knowledge.
  3. And, finally, with the reviewer’s comments, I correct and improve it.

Thereby I expect that my articles, and blog posts, are understood, are well written and transmit my research and ideas, not that they win a prize for literature or are compared with the works of Hemingway! On the other hand, I think that non-native English academics should also be given a fair chance in this publishing world, providing we observe the writing rules and don’t hide behind our limitations.

Selecting the right journal for my recent academic article

Selecting the right journal for my recent academic articleI’m finishing an article for its publication, now I’m writing the last touches before submitting it to publish, so it already has all the ingredients required to be acceptable: introduction, thesis and problem statement, topic relevance, literature review, data analysis, findings, implications and conclusions; that is the hard part.

Now we have to select the right academic journal (the soft part) for our article. Since the research and methodology have good bases, and the results are interesting, we plan to send it first to a journal indexed in JCRJournal Citations Reports (Web or Knowledge), quartiles Q1 or Q2.

  • We’ve identified, during the literature review, the scientific journals that publish research on our field of knowledge; we obtained about 8/10 journals.
  • Then I reviewed the database Journal Citations Reports (JCR) to see their impact and quartile. There were about 4 or 5 high quartile journals in the selection.
    • Now I need to check in Gaudeamus, the network for publishing in academic journals, if there is a journal of our preference, and I’ll contact the editor to introduce him my paper to see if it fits there. I’ve already done it successfully a couple of times, before or after the previous point of identifying indexed journals.
    • If the journal is listed in Gaudeamus, it means that the editor is open and available to contact authors, and then it’s much easier than sending the papers directly to a cold e-mail using other databases or directories.

After that, we’ll investigate the few 3/4 remaining journals for adapting the paper to their style and preferences, getting to know the underside of them, as their editorial board, their owners or quality criteria. The most important thing is to find the journal that is looking for the kind of research and manuscript that we have written; this way we’d avoid sending our article to several journals, wasting our time and morale.

We’ll submit it first to 2 or 3 JCR Q1/Q2 journals, and see what kind of feedback we’re getting; if we have no success with them we’ll go for JCR Q3/Q4, Scopus or EBSCO journals. And we shouldn’t take rejections as a failure, you always get information to improve the paper or to better target ‘your’ journal.

What do you think of our approach? Do you do the same when selecting a journal?

The future of scientific research dissemination: Liberalism back again

The future of scientific research dissemination: Liberalism back againLast week was the presentation of my book ‘Publish in Journals 3.0’ and attended as speakers one of the foremost authorities in Spain on accreditation, the President of ACAP; the Director of the Corporate Finance Department at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and the Library director of the Faculty of Business and Economics; who brought their different views on the future of scientific research dissemination.

In the later discussion, there were addressed two issues of particular relevance, which I found interesting to comment here for its reflection.

1. We were wondering if it makes sense for a centralized agency to evaluate professors, and somehow tell the universities which of them could recruit.

  • It would be something similar to university admissions, there is now a centralized evaluation to be replaced in the near future by the specific of each college, American style.
  • Accreditation agencies would focus then to certify program studies and not to professors, seen as a private subject, of its quality and vision of teaching.
  • Many professors present at the event, as me, were slightly perplexed since we are working very hard on our accreditations, and because this new scenario would put it much harder for their foreseeable lack of transparency and equality of criteria.
  • But this change in evaluations doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take care of our academic curriculum, on the contrary, the requirements will not be lower.

2. The other interesting point is that probably the future of quality of research dissemination is not in the Platform (journals, repositories or even peer-reviewed books and conferences), but in the number of citations.

  • Although the results of the last poll I conducted on this topic reflected the opposite, which was the opinion of researchers about their current situation; in the future more emphasis will be given to citations obtained than to the relevance of the journals in which research is published, both closely interrelated.
  • Moreover, publish papers in journals is not the only thing that measures the impact or quality of research, but there are other important activities, such as patents and transfer of knowledge to society through the creation of start-ups.

That is, the conclusion I draw is that the important thing is to do research, publishing is its result, not the goal, or the system become perverted. Either way, we professors expect troubled times (you know: life is change, change is life), but not necessarily for the better academically and for the future of society. It is the vision of radical liberalism that now prevails, I guess.

Poll results on quality of research: Journals 3-2 H-Index

What a surprise! There have been fewer responses than in other polls, I thought that there were more interest on this topic, but the results are clear on quality of research: Journals 3-2 H-Index.

Is Google Scholar a good indicator of your quality of research activity and influence?

Poll results on quality of research: Journals 3-2 H-Index

* The poll was posted in October 2013 in many academic discussion groups. Around 470 answers were collected.

Although Google Scholar is open and reliable because it treats scholars equally, it’s not considered to be a good indicator of quality of research activity and influence. It’s incredible and difficult to digest because I had a hope in this. So I guess what you can think of Altmetric, which is based on an ample idea of impact, not just on academic production…

The reasons for these results are implicit in the survey because, if on the one hand these metrics provide useful public information, on the other hand I understand that, in general, H-Index metrics have the following barriers:

  1. It adds pressure on researchers.
  2. No organization seems to be looking seriously at them.
  3. Not many people are using them, because their citations are poor comparing with those of some champions in the sciences, and because is another annoying tool to take care of.
  4. And mainly because it is still considered that journals are a better indicator of quality of research.

Well okay, I get it, we’ll look at the individual metrics but focusing on publishing in indexed journals. I don’t think that in the medium term this will change much, peer-review will remain the king of research quality assessment, and makes perfect sense.

But instead, for journals these results are a triumph and a shot of adrenaline. The road for them is to be indexed in well-known databases and be open to open access to allow authors to be cited and have an impact, isn’t it?

Towards a Corporate Governance system for journals

Towards a Corporate Governance system for journalsIn the previous post, I suggested the idea of ​​using the corporate governance model but for academic journals and research, a kind of Journal Governance system, aligning journal practices with each other and with the scientific environment in which they operate, which would lead the academic publishing industry towards a Corporate Governance system for journals.

In corporate governance there are two leading models: that of the Shareholders (in our case the journal would seek wealth maximization), monitored by the market, that is, their readers, paper rejections ratios, subscriptions, indexation in high ranked indexes, publication prestige, etc.; and that of the Stakeholders, having into account a dense network of journal collaborations; but the trend is to use a mixed model, in which the publishing world could have the following key Journal Governance Variables.

The internal forces, those directly responsible for determining both the strategic direction and the execution of the journal’s future:

  1. The journal owner (publishing company, faculty/university, scientists): Maximization of the journal value.
  2. The editorial board: Transparency and international approach.
  3. The editors (Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor):  Independence and loyalty.
  4. The peer-reviewers: Knowledge and ethics.

The external forces, those interested in the journals behavior and success:

  1. Readers, looking for quality, innovation and rigor of published research.
  2. Authors, seeking the prestige of the journal.
  3. Funding institutions, in need of project validation.
  4. Universities and faculties.
  5. Databases and indexes.
  6. Accreditation agencies of professors.
  7. The regulation of each country on education and teaching.

Many of these forces are currently existing, but in a weak way and not incorporated or regulated by a comprehensive model, for example forcing journals to publish a sort of Journal  Governance Annual Report, among other practices, which would be compelling as other quality practices, such as peer-review or independence of the academic board.

Anyway I’m not naive, I know that this hypothetical system of Journal Governance wouldn’t be infallible either, but would be the best we could come to have in the medium term, don’t you think so?

Peer-review revisited. The last journals’ scandals effect

Peer-review revisited. The last journals’ scandals effectLately there have been some scandals regarding some low quality academic publications or fraud involving several journals, an issue that is not new and that is affecting the current model of journals and peer-review system. So much so that The Economist has written an interesting and intricate article on this subject (How science goes wrong), in which scolds the industry, coming to say that:

  1. Peer-review system is not enough to guarantee the quality of research
  2. It is important that research results can be replicated, and in many cases have not been made by tech firms, because data were allegedly manipulated.
  3. Also blames journals, which may be selecting the more sensational or interesting articles for their readers.

To solve this problem it raises fairly complex ideas, difficult to implement in practice from my point of view for all fields of knowledge, such as including a system of post-publication evaluation, or even registering the research protocols, so it can be monitored and trial data can be tested and inspected.

Currently, publish in journals is an elephant pregnancy, 22 months: once the draft research is ready, it must be passes to a paper format, with the following peers and co-authors revisions; then you have to choose the right journal; adjust the paper to its specific format and translate  it to the proper language, if necessary; then you have to send it to the journal, which usually have up to 90% of rejections, and take up to a year to be re-reviewed and eventually accepted.

Therefore, I think that complicate the process would be counterproductive, but I agree that something certainly should be done because this system gives rise to errors and fraud, which could lead to a slower advance of science and humanity.

As a researcher in finance, it comes to my mind the implementation of corporate governance practices but applied to academic journals and research (Journal Governance), which is somehow already being done. The prevailing logic would be that journal practices are aligned with each other, as well as with the academic environment in which they operate.

(It will continue.)

Where do journals go to find articles and authors?

Lately there are many places in internet proliferating with calls for papers in different social networks and web pages. That makes sense, since it is a method traditionally used in academia for collecting research journal articles and conference presentations.

A call for paper is usually distributed using a mailing list or on specialized online services, trying journals to target as much professors and researchers as possible:

  • Direct mailing with their own databases, either of published authors or authors who have submitted rejected articles, which should be a lot in some academic journals, though not necessarily happy.
  • Use data from their subscribers and readers. Many of them are usually professors or researchers.
  • Another source is directly the Universities and Faculties, through the secretaries or heads of departments, but it takes time to find and update the data.
  • It is also common now to communicate the call for papers on social networks such as Linkedin or on specialized websites, as WikiCFP.

At the end it turns out to be like going hunting journals, there are thousands of call for papers that come to your e-mail and many web pages where to go, and eventually as always you have to analyze each journal: its indexation and field of knowledge. That is, the difficult part is that your current scientific paper or research has to match with the need of a specific journal.

Apart from the call for papers, other tool journals have to find content and authors is writing in their editorials or webpages their interests or content sought for the future. An author may read it and try to meet this need writing something for the journal. I tried but it is not easy to design or research something on a determined topic in the short term.

The ultimate method is Gaudeamus, an online community of scholars (professor, researchers and journal editors) with the common goal of getting research published in journals; giving authors the opportunity to communicate directly with editors seeking quality content for their journals. Because, at the end, publishing papers is not only about searching databases and call for papers, it is also about networking with journal editors.

Authors, what do you do when looking for journals to publish your articles?

Journal Editors, where are you going to look for authors and quality papers?

Where do journals go to find articles and authors?

Connecting journals and papers, researchers and editors

POLL: Do you bet your future as a researcher on Google Scholar metrics?

POLL: Do you bet your future as a researcher on Google Scholar metrics?The journals’ world is boiling: Internet and Open Access is questioning the indexed journals’ model, from anonymity in peer review to the selection criteria of the directories or databases, and the calculation of the journal impact indicators.

An alternative model to measure the quality of research are the personal citation indexes (H-index), which allow open tools, accessible and public such us Google Scholar; although, there are also private metrics, or at a cost, as Altmetric.

  • The change is motivated because the indexed journals’ model doesn’t just convince scientists, because of the power that some journals and private directories have. But it is producing an undesirable effect, that the two models are used now to evaluate the quality of research, with the danger of drowning professors and scientists even more.
  • And paradoxically, journals are also pressured in some way, because now they have to ‘promise’ implicitly that their published articles will be cited more with them.

Google Scholar metrics are here to stay. What do you think? Do you bet on your citation appeal?

* It can be chosen 1 o 2 answers.
**Comments are highly encouraged.

Open Access Journals: The model that would be king. Poll results

Open Access Journals - The model that would be king - Poll results2The topic of Open Access (OA) has already been widely discussed in academia and currently it is a common reality in the publishing world, but there are still some doubts and suspicions on the part of scientists, as we shall see.

Are you submitting your articles to open access journals? was the question of the poll, and at first glance its results are clearly optimistic: we love this OA model.

  1. 62% of the respondents would submit their articles to OA journals.
  2. 35% would send it, but after good analysis of the OA journal: indexation, impact factor and fees to authors, which make sense anyway.
  3. 23% of professors wouldn’t, which is a pretty high percentage of them.
  4. 15% of them don’t mind about OA, they just mind about journal indexation, so I suppose they care little about their citations.
Open Access Journals: The model that would be king. Poll results

* The poll was posted in August 2013 in many academic discussion groups. Around 700 answers were collected.

But we have to keep in mind the bias of the sample, because it corresponds to professors and researchers who routinely use technology and internet. That is, within the cream of the crop, 38% (23% +15% above) still remains some skepticism about sending their papers to OA journals.

On the other hand, another reading of the results is that OA journals are acceptable for scientists, but only if they meet certain minimum traditional academic etiquette (and of common sense): quality, indexed, peer-review and reputation of their board.

My impression is that although OA has been with us for decades, that publishers are making good use of it and that authors need it because it represents a clear advantage, it has yet to completely establish itself as a model. But, who wants to miss this train of OA journals?

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