Focus and Scope

blog 1This blog is focused on helping academics, my peers, to get their research published in journals. How? By doing what I know to do and what I love: researching, writing and spreading my knowledge to others, that is why I am a university professor.

It is not that I am a champion of publication in journals, that everything that I send it is published at the first or that I break publication records, it is not the case even remotely. But I have been able to identify several small things of which I believe are key in this topic, and which I would like to share:

  • To give it the importance that it deserves, neither much nor little.
  • To incorporate the routine and the obligation to publish into our complicated agendas.
  • To understand the network of participants in this business: editors, journal managers and owners, publishing companies or reviewers, among others.
  • To identify the journals in which to publish, which index category, quartile or relevance, country or specialty, and how often to do it.
  • To build useful relationships with publishers.
  • To develop a method for producing attractive articles for editors and readers.
  • And many other things.

This blog therefore is not aimed at successful lecturers, with great local or international recognition, who think they do not need to publish in journals, but rather it is aimed at professors like me, hungry, wanting to build a consistent int’l curriculum and experience, who desperately look for approaching the publishing process in a smart and agile way.

Well, almost nothing!

Academic absurd cases? Looking for candidates with a minimum h-index

Although the h-index is well known, I didn’t know that it may have some value, but it does! Such as a minimum requirement for certain academic positions; something that I had never seen before, and I have reviewed many academic job posts for years on the internet from all universities in the world!

Academic absurd cases? Looking for candidates with a minimum h-indexTo illustrate it, I’ve recently received the following academic job offer:

  • From the Department of International Relations we share with you this call for professors of sociology, economics and history interested in pursuing an academic stay at Saint Petersburg State Polytechinical University (Russian Federation). Candidates should have at least 2 points in the Hirsch index”.

H-index is, for a given researcher, the number h of publications that are cited at least h times each in academic journals. For example, my h-index is 2 (Finance) because I have 2 papers cited 2 or more times each; the rest of my publications have only 1 (or none) citation each. And to get a 3 h-index, these other papers would have to be cited at least twice, and that would mean 3 articles cited at least 3 times each.

But this so convoluted thing seems to work, at least within the same field of knowledge. So the pirates that wrote the announcement knew what they were doing, and thus I guess they avoid reviewing and/or analyzing (with love and care) a lot of requests, such as those who do not understand the h-index, those do not maintain it, or those without citations, among others. Why wasting time browsing hundreds of academic curriculums when they have the miraculous h-index?

Moving forward, Google Scholar calculates your h-index, though you can also obtain it your course, but you have to document and demonstrate it indicating journals, dates, articles, authors, etc.. The weak point is that Google Scholar considers also self-citations (should they be included for the h-index?), and citations from not indexed journals, books, and other publications. But it’s what we have.

Therefore, apart from the overwhelming logic of using the h-index to select researchers, don’t you think it is outrageously absurd? You can imagine what may be the environment/working pressure on a place that calls for the h-index to their professors/researchers … but it’s up to you and your needs.

Journal Citation Reports: Sources of its power in scholarly publishing

Journal Citation Reports: Sources of its power in scholarly publishingWhy Journal Citation Reports (Thomson Reuters) has much influence in the academic publishing world? So much that it’s almost the only directory that is taken into account to evaluate the quality excellence of research or publications, except for a few fields of knowledge such as engineering, as far as I know.

And I find the sources of its power in its way to compete in the scholarly publishing market, and in quality of its service/product:

1. There is a clear need for directories and rankings of journals that provide us professors and scientists information about the relevance of publishing here our research, and Journal Citation Reports  (JCR) does it better than others.

  • JCR not only gives information about the influence and impact of scholarly research journals, but does so in an objective manner with citation data at subject category levels; although with its obvious limitations (most of their journals are in English and from Anglo-Saxon countries; citations are obtained only from its own indexed journals; and so on) as any other model or system.
  • Its star metric, Impact Factor, is a staple in the market, which now begins to be copied by other directories that nobody trust.
  • It gives us the information annually in a systematic manner. Other assessments by industry associations or institutions are made periodically, such as for example the prestigious Academic Journal Quality Guide Version 4 (The Association of Business Schools), but dates back to 2010.
  • Its access and use of the index is easy and online. I do it through my University portal, from home or where I need it.

2. Rigorous selection process of the journals listed in JCR

  • Journals are only accepted in the directory if they meet minimum quality standards, such as blind peer-review of manuscripts, an international editorial board, or a few years publishing volumes/issues without interruption, among others. This is in theory, because that sounds like a system of quality assurance, a kind of ISO accreditation.

3. Business model and the way to compete in the market

  • Although JCR belongs to a private company, which is logical because a public one won’t do it, it’s not edited by a publishing house, such as in the case of Scopus (Elsevier), but by an information and data company (Thomson Reuters), which makes JCR independent to some extent from the journals that it lists.
  • Most of its clients are organizations (universities, libraries and research centers), I guess, which give JCR a quick access to those scientific communities.
  • JCR does not compete on its own, the group Thomson Reuters provides many more services to scientists and academic institutions.

JCR has also been subject of much criticism, being its power the most important one. Proof of this are the popular initiatives that are being created around it, as repositories of articles or the Open Access movement. For example, it annoys me greatly that there is much pressure to publish not only in JCR listed journals, but that is required to do so in the first 2 quartiles of its impact factor ranking. I guess this is not an issue of JCR, but of ourselves scientists and scholars, and especially of the journals indexed there, who are literally besieged by authors and their papers.

Regardless whether good or bad that much power and influence to a single private company in the market for innovative ideas, JCR provides great value that can go also in favor of increasing the competition between scientists and so improving the quality of their research, but many think that it goes against the advancement of knowledge in general, do not you think?

I’m not stupid when publishing in journals

I’m not stupid when publishing in journalsLast week I gave a lecture (Professors and their publications. War techniques in the web 3.0 environment) in a private university on scientific publications within a seminar series on research. Though this is not the purpose of this post but one of the interesting topics discussed or that raised interest.

It was the attitude of the most senior or more experienced professors towards everything that had to do with the requirement of academic publications: they were quite critical of the current system of publications in indexed journals in assessing the quality of research, and by extension of academic accreditations and their impact on teaching skills.

But by now you know my position about the demands of publications for professors and scientists, which can be summarized in the Media Markt slogan “I’m not stupid”, but referring to publish in academic journals and to improve the research part of the curriculum:

  • What is important is the research activity, so to improve as a professor; but of course you can be a good teacher without having a PhD or publishing your research in journals, although it’s more difficult.
  • The quality of scientific research is currently assessed almost exclusively by the publication record in academic journals.
  • This system of publications in indexed journals (mainly in ISI Web of Knowledge and Scopus) is the one we have, which is pretty good by the way, you just have to know it a little, without obsessing.
  • You also have to know how editors and journals work, their needs and objectives.
  • Finally, social networks used wisely can also help to improve the chances of publishing in journals and that our papers are known, and then obtain citations.

The other related topic was h-index, which I don’t even remember most of it because nobody seems to demand it at my university or in the academic job posts that I see on the web, and that I will write about soon, not so much on how it’s calculated which is well-known, but on who calculates it or how I can get it, and about its advantages and disadvantages for professors as an alternative for assessing the quality of our research and prestige.

And what about your academic career? Do you care about your research activity?

Academic Conferences: Updating, Networking and Rock n’ Roll

The poll results changed my schemes (or rather, my expectations) a little bit; but I don’t know why it surprises me, because academics always answer our polls in a fair and sensible way, as you can see below. The question was What kind of conferences are you attending?

One of the comments was very graphic and explanatory: A professor assists to academic conferences to learn about the latest research in the field (updating), to test his research with his peers and meet scientists for future collaboration (networking), all in a high level university environment in another country that allowed him to get away from the pressure of everyday life (Rock n’ Roll), and even do some tourism in the free time.

Academic Conferences: Updating, Networking and Rock n' Roll

My appreciation was that the current web 2.0 approach towards scientific conferences were also changing, particularly the issue of networking (with social communities), and because of traveling (it seems to me a bit cumbersome and costly, not always funding is provided). But of course, if you take it as a milestone once or every two years, as described before, things change significantly, and I’ll have to restate my relationship with conferences again.

Regarding the poll itself, my general conclusions and ideas are the following ones:

  1. Quality of the conference (52%) is important for respondents, which has much sense to meet peers for future collaborations and for testing our research.
  2. Around 15% of respondents believe that any kind of conference their field of knowledge is acceptable, I guess to meet the expectations of improvement and maintaining of curriculum, which is very legitimate.
  3. Have the paper published in the proceeding or journal is not the main objective when going to a conference (22%). This is the most interesting finding: for me assisting to conferences is a necessary part of the process of disseminating research, but is considered as two different things; I’ll have to investigate further about it.
  4. In order to reduce costs, I suggested assisting to conferences organized around the home city and even virtual ones (11%), but they obtained poor results, perhaps because funds are usually provided by universities.

So, have you chosen the conferences where you’re planning to attend in 2014? At Gaudeamus you can find a few from different organizers, fields of knowledge and countries, if you need some Rock n’ Roll, of course.

What kind of conferences are you attending? Poll results

  • Only to international conferences, 18.72%
  • Depending on the scientists / professors attending (for networking), 17.45%
  • Only those organized by universities or institutions that I trust, 15.74%
  • Any kind of conference my field of knowledge is acceptable, 14.89%
  • Only if the paper presented is published in the proceedings, 12.34%
  • Only if the paper presented is eligible to be published in indexed journals, 9.79%
  • Those organize in my city / my country, funding is not always available, 5.96%
  • I attend (or planning to attend) virtually, if possible, it’s a new interesting trend, 5.11%

* The poll was posted in November 2013 in many academic discussion groups. Around 950 answers were collected.

Poll: Is it really worth academically attending conferences?

Poll: Is it really worth academically attending to conferences?I know it’s a strong start, if it’s really worth academically attending conferences, but I really wonder about it. This is another one of the themes that surprisingly emerged when I started my career as a university professor: Submit dissertation / papers to international conferences is required to complete your research resume; and now I realize that in the future it will be necessary for obtaining further citations. Take that!

The process generally agreed to disseminate the result of a research paper is as follows:

  1. First, doing the research.
  2. After that, preparing a draft of the manuscript.
  3. Reviewing it with your peers and/or department.
  4. And then, sending it to a conference.
  5. To finally publishing a paper in a journal indexed on a first level database, as Web of Knowledge (Thomson Reuters), Scopus (Elsevier) or EBSCOhost.

This process makes sense and serves a clear purpose of testing the research paper, although the process may well be extended to more than 2/3 years since having the research finished. And it looks like as if designed to measure to insecure people who do not trust themselves or their work, and who needs to be given the nod everywhere possible before disseminating their results.

Also I haven’t very clear that all conferences are equal in terms of relevance, or at least there is no quality assurance or databases attesting them, as with journals. So it would be the same attending one or the other whenever international, organized by a reliable university or institution, with scientific committee and peer-review process.

Finally, before moving on to the poll, I also want to mention that you must be careful with the publication of proceedings; as Editor-in-Chief I’ve seen a publisher reject an article because it appeared on the website of an old conference, even though the rules of the journal allowed it.

Well, today I’m very interested in your opinion about the conferences you attend. This world is also changing, and each time I don’t feel like travelling and convincing people who don’t even read my work.

* It can be chosen several answers.
**Comments are highly encouraged.

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.

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?

How to get clients for your journal business

The aim of the post is to reflect on a particular point on the management of academic journals, which is the reader or clients for their journal business.

how to get clients for your journal business

For a journal there are at least three key types of stakeholders, which are interrelated: the readers, authors (content) and peer-reviewers.

  • By focusing on innovation and contribution to knowledge, journal publications are usually directed to a specialized audience. Therefore, very often the reader or target audience (the client), apart from professionals is usually also professors and researchers, which in turn are the authors and users of journal content.
  • The target of journals are usually much focused, which makes it easier for them to find readers, typically located in the faculties and in the authors of papers that are published continuously. But instead the reader’s habits are changing: who can be faithful to a single journal with the current flow of information on the internet on any subject and in many formats?

Moreover, for what I see in the social networks for academics, such as Academia, Researchgate or Mendeley, the world goes to the free access to the article, not to the journal. What the journals provide is to ensure the quality of the paper/research mainly with its peer-review evaluation process; but then the authors disclose them at their own way.

This leads us to wonder about the business model of journals, whether to charge the reader, lowering the target, or charge the author, which also limits access to quality content. But what really matters is if the journal model fits with the new environment of free and open access, and if the reader is somehow relevant or it is just the content.

My conclusion is that as a business, journals make no sense; they make sense as disseminating tools for a university department or professional association. Those who get make money are those serving around journals as hosting applications, journal indexes or directories, or even clusters of journals such as Elsevier and Wiley. A little sad, isn’t it?

Citation impact workouts

citation impact workoutsOnce you’ve published in a journal, nothing changes too much, the pressure to publish each year remains. So researching and writing should be ongoing: it is a cycle that feeds back and helps us to improve as professors and researchers, and to make an impact on our area of expertise.

Although the main focus should be on research and writing good papers, and knowing that the current citation system could be improved, we should somewhat consider the selling of our publications, helping to disseminate our paper with some activities in the current web 3.0 system; on what I have called “citation impact workouts” (summarized from my latest eBook “Publish in Journals 3.0:  from Manuscript to Citations”, released in September).

Workouts to do before the articles are published:

  1. Publish in indexed and open-access journals, if possible with impact factor.
  2. Standardize your name and affiliation to ease the collection of citations received.
  3. Be strategic about the title and abstract, using key and findable words.
  4. Write in English.

Workouts to do after the papers are published:

  1. Set up a link to your article on your webpage, either your own or your university’s.
  2. Include your papers in your profile in social networks as LinkedIn, Facebook or even Twitter.
  3. Circulate a summary, just before publication, to your friends and colleagues.
  4. Mention your paper in your blog, if you write any.

In conclusion, although the main focus should be on research and writing good papers, of course, the current imperfect but vital citation system prompts us professors to take action and be active sellers of our publications.

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