Icing on the Cake
In this increasingly competitive market for academic research, just winning a place on a well-funded and well-resourced team might be considered enough of an achievement for an aspiring researcher. In that context, getting the results of your study published in a prestigious journal in your field would be considered an icing on the cake.
Focusing on the Deliverables
As a new researcher, you may be forgiven for your naïveté, but an experienced mentor should tell you that the publication of your results is now as much a deliverable for a research study as the data your methodology produces. Whether you are facing a tenure committee or a grant committee, the question of “what have you done lately,” applies as much to your visibility in your field as to the caliber of research you have conducted. If your research has a corporate backer, that expectation of visibility is even higher, such that when you meet with your corporate liaison, he or she will be looking for the acceptance letter from the relevant prestigious journal as a valuable PR piece, a potential white paper marketing collateral piece, as well as a checklist item on the long list of research deliverables.
Plan C or D
In this environment, a strategy of one targeted journal and a back-up journal for Plan B isn’t going to be enough. An approach of “Wouldn’t it be great if we get Journal A but Journal B would be okay too,” virtually guarantees your rejection. Your strategy will require a more comprehensive list of variables and prepared responses for anticipated scenarios:
1. Know which journals are off-limits in advance – institutions are now being proactive in fighting the perceived lower-quality of open access journals by forbidding publication in anything other than an approved list of prestigious journals.
2. Know the limits of your research contract – if a non-profit foundation or corporation funds your research, there may well be limitations as to who owns the right to publish the results.
3. Collect as much information on each journal as you can – the smaller your niche, the easier this may be, but at least compile impact ratings, acceptance rates, number of retractions, number of irreproducible studies published.
4. Establish a clear rationale for each journal you select – this will give you valuable material if you choose to appeal a rejection.
5. Know the submission requirements of the journals you have selected – this may seem like a no-brainer, but failure to follow those requirements continues to be the number one reason for rejection.
6. Designate clear and detailed responsibilities among co-authors – to respond to any changes required for re-submission.
Success through Preparation
Ground-breaking research is no longer a guarantee of publication in a prestigious journal, since there are more research teams than publication venues with high impact factors. If your institution puts no limits on where you can publish, you can definitely find several open access journals that will work for you, but would that really be your first choice? Devoting the extra time to planning a detailed campaign strategy for your research paper will separate you from many of your competing applicants.