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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

The Publishing

The Publishing ProcessTypes of Journals. Within the broad category ofpeer-reviewed journals, individual journals vary inthe audience they try to reach and the scope ofcoverage they provide. Local journals are often not“indexed”, which means that they are not enteredinto the searchable mainstream of the scientificliterature where other researchers can discoverthem. Publishing in un-indexed journals thus doeslittle to advance your career outside your owncountry. However, there are efforts underway tostrengthen the peer review infrastructure of thebest un-indexed journals—many of them in thesouthern hemisphere—so that they can becomeindexed.Within indexed journals, there is a range of types.Some journals—for example, the top-tier journalsScience and Nature—focus on a broad scientificaudience. Others are deliberately narrower inscope, publishing research within a scientificspecialty. Most journals are published in Englishand have a broader readership, but many arepublished in other languages and are primarily readwithin a single field or subfield of science. Withineach group of journals there is a hierarchy in termsof how highly regarded each journal is. One of thecrude measures of a journal’s value is its impactfactor—a measure of how frequently paperspublished in that journal are cited in other journals(see “A Word About Impact Factors,” page 124).The more prestigious and high-impact the journal,the more competitive its publication process is.Though there is great prestige in Science, Nature,or other top-tier journals, not every paper belongsthere. Science and Nature are both weeklymagazines that not only transmit science but alsocarry news each week. Their content is meant tobe science that is especially interesting to a broadaudience, and throughout the year they oftenhave thematic issues highlighting some particularscientific topic. Much of any scientist’s work is notbroadly interesting as a piece of news, but ratherrepresents advancement of an ongoing story, andis not appropriate for these publications. Evenexciting, unexpected results may be turned downThe most important advice I would like toshare with researchers just beginning theirindependent careers is that the phrase ‘publishor perish’ is not just an overused cliché. Theonly way that people will know about yourwork is to have it published. Publishingfirst-authored papers in high-impact medicaljournals like Lancet and New England Journalof Medicine contributed tremendously to myreputation as an established independentresearcher. In publishing, think more aboutquality than quantity of publications.”Moses Bockarie, Papua New Guineaif the magazines have recently run a paper on asimilar topic. Getting an excellent review but notan acceptance from one of these publications isgood news, not a cause for disappointment. Andgetting an acceptance is even better.Work that can be published in an indexed journalshould be, because that is the best way for it to beread by other scientists. But unindexed local andregional journals should not necessarily be ignored.Your work may be important for researchers andclinicians in your region to know about, and shouldFree Journals for Developing CountriesThe Health InterNetwork Access toResearch Initiative (HINARI), a partnershipbetween WHO and scientific publishers,makes free access to biomedical literatureavailable to low-income countries. Morethan 2000 journals from more than 70scientific publishers, including very highimpact groups like Elsevier, Springer-Verlag,and John Wiley, are available throughthis program.More information is available excellence everywhere

e published in the journals that they read. If yourwork is published in an indexed journal, you shoulddiscuss with the editor the possibility of reportingthe results in local journals by re-publishing datafrom the papers.If you get permission to republish the data, youmust make clear to local journal editors and readersthat the data has already appeared in print, oryou may be viewed as unethical.Communication Formats. In scientific journals,primary research holds center stage, although significantspace is often allocated to news, reviews,and commentaries. Depending on how completethe study is and how big a story the work to bepublished tells, original research can be publishedin a variety of formats, including full-length articles,brief communications, technical comments, oreven letters to the editor.As a beginning investigator, you should concentrateon getting your research published aspeer-reviewed, full-length articles wheneverpossible. Technical comments and letters to theeditor count for very little in most fields.A well-written and useful review may be worth theinvestment of your time, particularly if you havealready collected all of the relevant literature thatshould be summarized. However, a review doesnot carry the weight of original research, and is notas valuable to you in the long run as a paper thatreports original research. Generally, a journal editorwill invite you to submit a review. The invitationsare based in large part on the potential author’sreputation in the relevant field. You may also contacteditors yourself and propose writing a reviewon the strength of your unique perspective on afield. Again, your reputation will be a major sellingpoint to the journal’s editor in considering yourproposal of a review. Good reviews tend to getcited frequently by other scientists, which wouldincrease your citation index (a measure of howmany researchers cite your work). It is a “whichcomes first, the chicken or the egg?” situation.How can you get known if becoming better knownrequires being known?If you have a colleague or collaborator who hasgotten a foot in the door and established himselfor herself in the literature, you might approachthat person with the idea of writing a reviewtogether should the opportunity arise. This couldbenefit both of you. Reviews are extremely laborintensive,so many authors who do get invitedto write them are happy to have a willing partnerwho wants to do some of the hard work.To write a good review, you need the breadth anddepth of knowledge that generally come only withlong experience and from knowing a lot of scientistsworking in a field who will share unpublisheddata with you. Partnering with a better-establishedscientist can help you gain connections to thoseother researchers and their unpublished data. Itcan be a great opportunity for becoming betterknown to a broad group of the people whosework is moving science forward. But be careful—a review that reveals your lack of expertise orshows that your collaborator was not careful in hisor own review of the field could be embarrassingand career-damaging. You should only take on atask like this when you know you have the timeand energy to do it well.As your career progresses, you may want toconsider other opportunities to express your views—in letters, comments, and discussions of scientifictrends. Many readers of the good journalsperuse this “front matter,” and contributing toit gives you quick and wide visibility. In the veryhighest of the top-tier journals, however, frontmatter tends to be commissioned by the editors,leaving the letters to the editor section the onlyplace where you have a chance to get yourname in print if you have not yet established areputation.The Editors. Some journal editors are professionaleditors who trained as scientists but no longerwork in a lab, or who trained as writers or editorsand have chosen to become specialists in scientificpublication. Others are scientists who have theirown research programs but also serve as editorsfor a period of time. Journals such as Cell, Science,Nature, and PLoS Biology are staffed by professionaleditors. When speaking to a professionalincreasing your impact: getting published123

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