Publishing a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal


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Once you have completed writing your paper, the process to publish in a journal is outlined below:. This is essential in reaching your target audience. Submit your paper to only one journal at a time. Our experts shortlist 3 to 5 journals best-suited for your manuscript and prepare a report listing the pros and cons of submitting to each. You can avoid unnecessary rejection by submitting your manuscript to journals that match your study. All aspects of the submission will be addressed by our Premium Editing service.

You can get a well-written, well-structured manuscript that will increase your chances of acceptance by your target journal. Apart from fixing errors related to language and grammar, Premium Editing ensures that you work has been edited with specific knowledge of your subject. Our experts check the logical flow of a manuscript. Artwork such as graphs, photographs, illustrations, diagrams, or other visuals are essential to effectively communicate your findings.

Every journal has specific guidelines for technical artwork, which can often be cumbersome. Furthermore, while Open Access to publications originated from a grassroots movement born in scholarly circles and academic libraries, policymakers and research funders play a new prescribing role in the area of open scholarly practices [ 2 , 3 , 4 ].

Academic publishing

This adds new stakeholders who introduce topics and arguments relating to career incentives, research evaluation and business models for publicly funded research. While such discussions are by no means new in this ecosystem, this highlights a potential knowledge gap for key components of scholarly communication and the need for better-informed debates [ 5 ].

Here, we address ten key topics which are vigorously debated, but pervasive misunderstandings often derail, undercut, or distort discussions 1. We aim to develop a base level of common understanding concerning core issues. This can be leveraged to advance discussions on the current state and best practices for academic publishing.

We summarize the most up-to-date empirical research, and provide critical commentary, while acknowledging cases where further discussion is still needed. These issues overlap, and some are closely related e. The discussion has been constructed in this way to emphasize and focus on precise issues that need addressing. We, the authors, come from a range of backgrounds, as an international group with a variety of experiences in scholarly communication e. Finally, we are writing in our personal capacities.

Preprint platforms have become popular in many disciplines due to the increasing drive towards open access publishing and can be publisher- or community-led. A range of discipline-specific or cross-domain platforms now exist [ 9 ]. These concerns are often amplified as competition increases for academic jobs and funding, and perceived to be particularly problematic for early-career researchers and other higher-risk demographics within academia.

However, preprints protect against scooping [ 11 ]. In a traditional publishing scenario, the time from manuscript submission to acceptance and to final publication can range from a few weeks to years, and go through several rounds of revision and resubmission before final publication [ 12 ], see Figure 1. During this time, the same work will have been extensively discussed with external collaborators, presented at conferences, and been read by editors and reviewers in related areas of research. Yet, there is no official open record of that process e.

Academic publishing - Wikipedia

Thus, a preprint can act as proof of provenance for research ideas, data, code, models, and results [ 14 ]. The fact that the majority of preprints come with a form of permanent identifier, usually a Digital Object Identifier DOI , also makes them easy to cite and track; and articles published as preprints tend to accumulate more citations at a faster rate [ 15 ].

If the unlikely case of scooping emerges as the growth of the preprint system continues, it can be dealt with as academic malpractice. ASAPbio includes a series of hypothetical scooping scenarios as part of its preprint FAQ, finding that the overall benefits of using preprints vastly outweigh any potential issues around scooping 3. Indeed, the benefits of preprints, especially for early-career researchers, seem to outweigh any perceived risk: rapid sharing of academic research, open access without author-facing charges, establishing priority of discoveries, receiving wider feedback in parallel with or before peer review, and facilitating wider collaborations [ 11 ].

That being said, in research disciplines which have not yet widely adopted preprints, scooping should still be acknowledged as a potential threat and protocols implemented in the event that it should occur. The journal impact factor JIF was originally designed by Eugene Garfield as a metric to help librarians make decisions about which journals were worth subscribing to. The JIF aggregates the number of citations to articles published in each journal, and then divides that sum by the number of published and citable articles.

It thus has significant impact on steering research practices and behaviors [ 16 , 17 , 18 ]. However, this usage of the JIF metric is fundamentally flawed: by the early s it was already clear that the use of the arithmetic mean in its calculation is problematic because the pattern of citation distribution is skewed.

Figure 2 shows citation distributions for eight selected journals data from Lariviere et al. The distributions are clearly skewed, making the arithmetic mean an inappropriate statistic to use to say anything about individual papers and authors of those papers within the citation distributions. About ten years ago, national and international research funding institutions pointed out that numerical indicators such as the JIF should not be deemed a measure of quality 4. In fact, the JIF is a highly-manipulated metric [ 22 , 23 , 24 ], and justifying its continued widespread use beyond its original narrow purpose seems due to its simplicity easily calculable and comparable number , rather than any actual relationship to research quality [ 25 , 26 , 27 ].

Empirical evidence shows that the misuse of the JIF—and journal ranking metrics in general—creates negative consequences for the scholarly communication system. These include confusion between outreach of a journal and the quality of individual papers and insufficient coverage of social sciences and humanities as well as research outputs from Latin America, Africa, and South-East Asia [ 28 ].

Using journal prestige and the JIF to cultivate a competition regime in academia has had deleterious effects on research quality [ 29 ]. Despite its inappropriateness, many countries regularly use JIFs to evaluate research [ 18 , 30 , 31 ] which creates a two-tier scoring system that automatically assigns a higher score e. Most recently, the organization that formally calculates the JIF released a report outlining its questionable use 5. Despite this, outstanding issues remain around the opacity of the metric and the fact that it is often negotiated by publishers [ 32 ].

However, these integrity problems appear to have done little to curb its widespread misuse. A number of regional focal points and initiatives now provide and suggest alternative research assessment systems, including key documents such as the Leiden Manifesto 6 and the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment DORA 7. Thus, there is little basis for connecting JIFs with any quality measure, and inappropriate association of the two will continue to have deleterious effects.

As appropriate measures of quality for authors and research, concepts of research excellence should be remodeled around transparent workflows and accessible research results [ 21 , 33 , 34 ].

Researchers have peer reviewed manuscripts prior to publication in a variety of ways since the 18th century [ 35 , 36 ]. The main goal of this practice is to improve the relevance and accuracy of scientific discussions by contributing knowledge, perspective and experience. Occasionally however, peer review approves studies that are later found to be wrong, and rarely deceptive or fraudulent results are indeed discovered prior to publication [ 39 , 40 ].

Thus, there seems to be an element of discord between the ideology behind and the actual practice of peer review. Yet, a number of well-established criticisms exist of many elements of peer review [ 41 , 42 , 43 ]. In the following, we describe cases of the wider impact of inappropriate peer review on public understanding of scientific literature. Multiple examples across several areas of science find that scientists elevated the importance of peer review for research that was questionable or corrupted.

Politicians in the United States downplaying the science of climate change have then cited this journal on several occasions in speeches and reports 9. At times, peer review has been exposed as a process that was orchestrated for a preconceived outcome. The New York Times gained access to confidential peer review documents for studies sponsored by the National Football Leagues NFL that were cited as scientific evidence that brain injuries do not cause long-term harm to its players During the peer review process, the authors of the study stated that all NFL players were part of a study, a claim that the reporters found to be false by examining the database used for the research.

Such behavior represents a tension between the reviewers wishing to prevent the publication of flawed research, and the publishers who wish to publish highly topical studies on things such as the NFL. Recent research has also demonstrated that widespread industry funding for published medical research often goes undeclared, and that such conflicts of interest are not appropriately addressed by peer review [ 44 , 45 ]. Another problem that peer review often fails to catch is ghostwriting, a process by which companies draft articles for academics who then publish them in journals, sometimes with little or no changes [ 46 , 47 ].

These studies can then be used for political, regulatory and marketing purposes. In , the US Senate Finance Committee released a report that found this practice was widespread, that it corrupted the scientific literature and increased prescription rates Ghostwritten articles have appeared in dozens of journals, involving professors at several universities Recent court documents have found that Monsanto ghost-wrote articles to counter government assessment of the carcinogenicity of the pesticide glyphosate and to attack the International Agency for Research on Cancer Thus, peer review seems to be largely inadequate for exposing or detecting conflicts of interest and mitigating the potential impact this will have.

Scientists understand that peer review is a human process, with human failings, and that despite its limitations, we need it. Thus, more care must be taken over how peer review, and the results of peer reviewed research, are communicated to non-specialist audiences; particularly during a time in which a range of technical changes and a deeper appreciation of the complexities of peer review are emerging [ 48 , 49 , 50 , 51 , 52 ].

Peer review, without a doubt, is integral to scientific scholarship and discourse. More often, however, this central scholarly component is coopted for administrative goals: gatekeeping, filtering, and signaling. Its gatekeeping role is believed to be necessary to maintain the quality of the scientific literature [ 58 , 59 ]. Furthermore, some have argued that without the filter provided by peer review, the literature risks becoming a dumping ground for unreliable results, researchers will not be able to separate signal from noise, and scientific progress will slow [ 60 , 61 ].

These beliefs can be detrimental to scientific practice. A possible reaction to this is to think that shortcomings of the current system can be overcome with more oversight, stronger filtering, and more gatekeeping.

The peer review process

A common argument in favor of such initiatives is the belief that a filter is needed to maintain the integrity of the scientific literature [ 62 , 63 ]. But if the current model is ineffective, there is little rationale for doubling down on it. Instead of more oversight and filtering, why not less? The key point is that if anyone has a vested interest in the quality of a particular piece of work, it surely is the author. Instead, the credibility conferred by the "peer-reviewed" label diminishes what Feynman calls the culture of doubt necessary for science to operate a self-correcting, truth-seeking process [ 64 ].


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The troubling effects of this can be seen in the ongoing replication crisis, hoaxes, and widespread outrage over the inefficacy of the current system [ 35 , 41 ]. This issue is exacerbated too by the fact that it is rarely ever just experts who read or use peer reviewed research see Topic 3 , and the wider public impact of this problem remains poorly understood although, see, for example, the anti-vaccination movement. It is common to think that more oversight is the answer, as peer reviewers are not at all lacking in skepticism.

But the issue is not the skepticism shared by the select few who determine whether an article passes through the filter. It is the validation and accompanying lack of skepticism—from both the scientific community and the general public—that comes afterwards Here again more oversight only adds to the impression that peer review ensures quality, thereby further diminishing the culture of doubt and counteracting the spirit of scientific inquiry Quality research—even some of our most fundamental scientific discoveries—dates back centuries, long before peer review took its current form [ 35 , 36 , 65 ].

Whatever peer review existed centuries ago, it took a different form than it does now, without the influence of large, commercial publishing companies or a pervasive culture of publish-or-perish [ 65 ]. Though in its initial conception it was often a laborious and time-consuming task, researchers took peer review on nonetheless, not out of obligation but out of duty to uphold the integrity of their own scholarship.

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They managed to do so, for the most part, without the aid of centralized journals, editors, or any formalized or institutionalized process. Modern technology, which makes it possible to communicate instantaneously with scholars around the globe, only makes such scholarly exchanges easier, and presents an opportunity to restore peer review to its purer scholarly form, as a discourse in which researchers engage with one another to better clarify, understand, and communicate their insights [ 51 , 66 ].

A number of measures can be taken towards this objective, including posting results to preprint servers, preregistration of studies, open peer review, and other open science practices [ 56 , 67 , 68 ]. In many of these initiatives, however, the role of gatekeeping remains prominent, as if a necessary feature of all scholarly communication. They also show that researchers can be entrusted to perform their own quality control independent of journal-coupled review.

After all, the outcry over the inefficiencies of traditional journals centers on their inability to provide rigorous enough scrutiny, and the outsourcing of critical thinking to a concealed and poorly understood process. Thus, it seems that the strong coupling between journals and peer review as a requirement to protect scientific integrity seems to undermine the very foundations of scholarly inquiry.


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  7. To test the hypothesis that filtering is unnecessary to quality control, many traditional publication practices must be redesigned, editorial boards must be repurposed, and authors must be granted control over peer reviewing their own work.

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