Back to basics: The roll of journal indexes

I wonder about the contribution of journal indexes / databases to the assessment of research quality.

Lately, and against what would be logical given the major changes being experienced by the publishing industry, professors are increasingly required to publish in journals indexed in Journal Citation Reports (JCR), both statewide for accreditation as at universities, especially in private ones.

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If indexes and impact indicators were a kind of accreditation on the quality of journals’ processes, particularly on peer review quality and editorial board, I would understand all this alarm about publishing in first class reputable indexes. But apparently not:

  • Being in JCR, journals have to demonstrate to be a regular publication, printed in English, have an international editorial board and other requirements that have little to do with the quality of the papers within.
  • Having a journal indexed in Scopus and other known ones, it is enough to filling out a form giving them permission to use the journal data.
  • Following the same line, other similar indexes (generalists, regional or specialists), only require an application form to be filled.

So, what are the main sources of prestige for a journal? I pointed just a few:

  • Large base of readers.
  • Quality of authors and papers.
  • Sound peer reviewer processes, with good reviewers and feedback.
  • Good Editorial board and clear editorial line, objectives, etc.

If that is somehow true, then, what makes the difference with un-indexed peer review journals? I have not it very clear, it looks like a kind of complex corporate governance system for journals: different publishing stakeholders (indexes, journals, professors, researchers, universities, departments, accreditation bodies, governments, readers, peer reviewers, editors, journal owners, etc.) taking care of research prestige and reputation.

Many voices in academia call for a change, but, is there a better system than journal indexes and impact indicators to assess quality of research?

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Poll: reasons when selecting a journal to submit a paper

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Choosing the journal where to send our paper is critical for two main reasons:

  • Objective factors. The main thing is that it fits in our publication strategy: indexed, with impact factor, peer reviewed, open access, among other criteria.
  • Subjective factors. Then, and not the least, we have to find the journal that is looking for the kind of research and manuscript that we have written. This way we could avoid sending our paper to multiple journals, wasting our time and morale.

Marketing your papers to make an impact: poll conclusions

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The poll was posted in March 2013 in many academic discussion groups. Around 650 answers were collected and many hot comments. The question was:  What do you do MOST to increase the probabilities of your papers to be cited? And the results are:

  • Include the papers in your website and social profiles                                28.0%
  • Publish in indexed and open access journals                                                25.4%
  • Distribute  research early as working papers or tech reports                     16.0%
  • Active selling (promote it on web discussions, blogs, etc.                          12.2%
  • Other activities                                                                                                         4.2%
  • I do nothing                                                                                                            10.0%
  • I do not believe in impact indicators                                                                   4.2%

I have two comments. The first one is about the activities undertaken by professors, that apart from those mentioned above, it has also been discussed some others:

  • Publish with other scholars could help to increase the impact of the article. Research suggests that an article with co-authors is more cited than articles with just one author.
  • Be really strategic about your abstract and your title. Put key words in your title that will make them more likely to be picked up by search engines.
  • Twiter. Here I would mention that active selling in general is a laborious task, it is not enough posting it once at each website or discussion, it should be done regularly and with originality to not be a pain in the neck.

The other comment is on the activity of marketing your articles itself, it has not been accepted as expected, since for example almost 15% of the professors do nothing or do not believe in this citation system; particularly among the publishing industry professionals, which have come to qualify this activity as “snake oil salesman”, although they should be delighted, because professors are willing to be involved in disseminating their publications.

My conclusion is that, 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. Who dares to suggest professors to do nothing? To be passive?

How to increase the probabilities of your papers to be cited?

citationThe dissemination and impact of research for academics is increasingly vital, either to find a position/tenure or to earn prestige. And this impact is being measured by some publishing companies by the number of citations that your publications have from other authors.

Although the main focus should be on research and writing good papers, and knowing that  the current citation system could be improved, we should also consider to sell our publications a little bit; let’s call it “citation marketing”.

What do you do to increase the probabilities of your papers to be cited?

1. Distribute early your research as working papers or technical reports.

2. Include your papers in your website, your profile in Linkedin, FB or other communities.

3. Publish in indexed and open access journals.

4. Active selling, as promoting your manuscripts in web discussions, blogs, or conferences.

5. Other activities (please add them in the comments).

6. I do nothing.

7. I do not believe in impact indicators.

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