All 15 entries tagged Getting Published

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December 05, 2012

What do publishers do for authors?

Is there an advantage to setting up your own journal or publishing your work online yourself? What do journal publishers actually do for authors? Since RCUK funded authors are soon to be paying large sums of money for OA publication of their articles, where is the value for that spend? This piece explores a little bit of what publishers do.

The Finch report has highlighted the need for publishers to be able to continue to invest in publishing innovations. On page 51, it states that

Access on its own does not necessarily make for effective communication.

and on p95 it says that

Quality assurance through peer review coupled with the wide range of discovery, navigation, linking and related services provided by publishers... are of critical importance to both authors and users of research publications.

Back in 1997, Fytton Rowland described four functions of a scholarly journal:

  1. dissemination - publishing and marketing activity.
  2. quality - this is where editorial, peer review and quality assurance come in.
  3. canonical version - a work that others can refer to. Involves archiving, issuing DOIs and ISSNs, etc.
  4. recognition & credit for the authors.

In my view, the recognition authors want is quite often tied to the dissemination and quality activity. If your peers don't know about your article (the dissemination hasn't been good enough) then the recognition and credit can't follow. If the journal you are published in is not one of the high quality ones then it follows that the audience and recognition you might get for being published there might be less. Although if your work is of high quality itself then it might help to raise the perceived quality of a publication.

Authors have told me that they want the following things from a publisher:

  1. To edit and improve their work.
  2. Bestow prestige on their work.
  3. Publicise their work & bring them an audience. The audience they want might be scholars or a broader reach, leading to "impact".
  4. Protect their work against plagiarism.
  5. A perpetual record of their work.
  6. Money: probably more applicable to book deals but for journals, at least the author won't want it to cost them a huge amount to publish.
  7. Timeliness: some authors want their work published as soon as possible.

I daresay that the list could grow a lot longer for some and be shorter for others, but essentially authors often have to balance their needs when choosing where to publish.

Earlier this year (2012) Jason Priem described a "de-coupled" journal" and how the journal system could be reformed to provide essential functions of:

  • archiving : relates to "canonical version", in Rowland's list above.
  • registration : relates to "recognition", above.
  • dissemination : also mentioned above.
  • certification : relates to the quality function, above.

The concept of a de-coupled journal is one where there is more variety in how each of the different functions are provided, so that they might not all come from the publisher. Eg archiving might be shared with repositories which store a preservation copy. Dissemination activity can be carried out by authors themselves. The online environment brings a variety of channels and services that authors can use, beyond the traditional publishing system.

I wanted to explore more of what publishers do:

Filter for quality: co-ordinating the peer review process

Editors provide one layer of a quality filter, and then the peer reviewers provide the next level. Editors and peer reviewers refine and polish articles for publication, so they also enhance articles in terms of their quality.

Managing a journal and co-ordinating the quality process is no small task, even when the peer reviewers and editors work for free. The authors need instructions, the editors benefit from tracking tools to monitor where peer reviewers are at in the process and to chase peer reviewers. Copyediting and proof reading tasts need to be carried out. Digital media or associated data might also need corrections and modifications to the way they display.

There are lots of experiments with the peer review process:

Is there a role for more post-publication peer review? eg F1000 offers this. Accessible science might need to be more peer reviewed than science that is only for sharing within the academic sphere, where researchers are able to assess quality for themselves owing to their expertise, whilst members of the public and amateur experts might not be as well able to assess the quality of articles they find.

Many journals publish articles with a comments field at the bottom, rather like on blogs, but relatively few articles attract worthwhile comments. Journals (eg PLoSONE) sometimes publish information on downloads, "tweets" and "likes" for their articles, so that readers can use those measures as post-publication quality markers, too.

Alternatively, peer review could take place even before an author submits an article: American Journal Experts offer a pre-submission peer review service, for a fee. It could save you time if you have the money to spend and the process is indeed rigorous and helpful, since they promise turnaround times of days.

Dealing with ethical concerns

Pre-publication, the ethical concerns could be said to be a part of the quality filtering process. Before publication, publishers:

  • issue instructions to authors
  • use editors and peer review to screen articles,
  • require authors to sign agreements.

Editors need to be experienced and knowledgeable in their field to identify ethical concerns. Scientific "mis-conduct" is not defined in exact terms and practices might vary. Ethical considerations might include:

  • the work of others is properly acknowledged, credited and referenced.
  • data should be accurate and preserved and accessible - as appropriate.
  • the article should be complete and publication well timed (eg results not being shared prematurely).
  • co-authorship is properly attributed.
  • confidentiality is respected and maintained.

Publishers are not the only filter for ethical considerations, of course: such issues are included in grant proposals to research funders and the process by which they are reviewed. Institutions might have ethical review panels to approve grant proposals even before they are submitted to the research funders.

After publication, publishers might use retractions or corrections to deal with ethical concerns. This is perhaps more of a service to readers than to authors, but it does help to maintain a journal's prestige if ethical matters are dealt with professionally.

ALPSP's Learned Publishing journal from April 2011 features an article about ethical considerations. Advice from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is particularly useful and well presented, with flowcharts.

Dissemination & discoverability

An earlier guest post on this blog, by Yvonne Budden, describes the importance of metadata to resource discovery. By providing good quality metadata, publishers are bringing readers to the article you have written, and helping you to find articles that you should be reading.

Search Engine Optimisation seems to me a "dark art" but it is important for scholarly articles to be discoverable through Google and Google Scholar: that's where a lot of researchers will be looking for stuff.

Some publishers are huge and they build and market their own discovery platforms for scholarly articles. Other publishers ensure that their content is indexed in others' discovery environments. Most publishers offer table of contents alerts.

Publishers have staff dedicated to marketing and sales, helping to ensure that their work reaches key target audiences. Perhaps in an Author-pays OA world, sales staff will be selling the services on offer to authors rather than the services offered to subscribers and readers. Marketing staff will be building the prestige of the publisher and journal brands.

Journal publishers should monitor the audiences for their publications and ensure that their material is discoverable in the places where people are looking for it, in the way(s) that they like to search.

International copyright protection?

In my view, authors are concerned that others should not copy their work without attribution but this is more a question of plagiarism. I don't think they mind about the actual copying so long as they are credited. With the RCUK policy on Open Access, the articles that they pay Gold OA fees for should be made available for others to copy for any purpose, as long as the work is properly attributed, using the so-called CC-BY licence. With such a licence, the copyright is not something to be protected.

I'm also not sure to what extent publishers pursue copyright internationally when they own it and don't licence copying, and I expect a variety of practice between publishers and from one nation to the next. After all, copyright law must vary on an international scale. So I'm leaving my big question mark in the heading of this piece!

Awards schemes that they run or sponsor

See my earlier blog post on Journal awards for examples of the kinds of award schemes that publishers might offer... or indeed put their journals forward for.

Awards act as a route to recognition but also as a way of building prestige of a journal if at the title level and from an external and prestigious source.

Open Access repository deposit

Research which has been funded by the Wellcome Trust has to have outputs deposited into Pubmed Central: authors who pay a fee for the Gold Open Access route, which the Wellcome Trust will pay for, can have publishers make this deposit on their behalf.

Publishers sometimes also allow authors to make deposits. The Sherpa ROMEO tool makes it easy to look up publishers' policies on repository deposit by authors, although authors really ought to keep copies of the agreements they sign with publishers as these will be the legally binding expectations, rather than the publisher's latest policy.


In summary then, it seems to me that publishers should be doing the following things for authors:

  • co-ordinate the editorial and peer review process to filter for quality and also polish works.
  • provide instructions and support to authors, peer reviewers and editors.
  • build the reputation and prestige of their titles through professional handling of ethical concerns.
  • provide quality metadata to the right search tools.
  • ensure that their content is easily discoverable on the web via search engines.
  • measure downloads and activity around articles: this could be used to enhance their dissemination activity but could also be used as a further mark of quality if displayed to readers.
  • adapt to the OA and copyright needs of researchers as authors and readers.
  • provide authors with clear agreements and keep SherpaROMEO's records up to date.
  • offer awards and put their journals forward for awards, by way of offering recognition for authors and building prestige for their journals.
  • invest in publishing innovations... which could be around any of the themes above.

It's quite daunting to think of setting up a journal and doing all this yourself. Do leave a comment and let me know all the things I've missed out!

September 12, 2012

UK research sector, publishing trends and facts from the Finch report

Writing about web page

I have been tweeting all the "Finch report facts" that I found in this recent report on accessibility to research publications. This blog entry presents some of those "facts" back in a discussion of what it seems that the Finch report is saying about the UK research sector and publishing trends, when I look at those "facts" plainly and bring in other contexts and ideas.

I'm not commenting here on the recommendations of the Finch report, nor the debate about routes to open access, although I did pull together a Storify collection of reactions to the Finch report, in case you want to read more about those topics.

UK Researchers' productivity

The UK research sector has some particular characteristics. I tweeted:

Finch report fact p37: There are 250, 000 researchers in the UK & p38 'their rate of productivity is more than 50% above world average'

This rather depends on how you measure productivity!

I also tweeted:

Finch report fact p37: UK is successful at research publications but 'relatively weak in producing other kinds of outputs such as patents'

So perhaps the productivity referred to is really all about publication activity, and I went back to the report to check where the productivity fact came from: it's a paragraph all about the number of articles written by researchers, so it's most likely although not entirely clear that the productivity referred to is about numbers of articles. A footnote against this particular fact also states that:

"It should be be noted that it is sometimes argued that high rates of research productivity in the leading research countries are achieved in part by establishing dependency cultures in other countries."

Have UK researchers achieved high publication rates due to multiple author collaborations? Possibly.

Why are UK researchers achieving high publication rates? Is it driven by RAE and REF processes?

The UK's measures of research performance have centred around research outputs which might encourage UK researchers' productivity against this measure. Looking at the RAE 2008 data (Merit project) we can see that of the 222,177 outputs that were measured, 167,831 were journal articles. I'm rubbish at maths but even I can tell that's about 75%. I expect that for the sciences, the percentage of journal articles that make up their outputs for measurement is even higher.

Another couple of tweets, then:

Finch report fact p71: 120,000 articles by UK authors are published each year. According to p62, this is 6% of articles published worldwide

Finch report fact p62 'researchers in the UK comprise just over 4% of the global research community'...

So, UK researchers are publishing plenty of articles and contributing to scholarly knowledge worldwide on a larger scale then their numbers represent.

REF 2014 will be looking at impact as well as outputs, which brings a different dimension into the measurement since RAE 2008 and that might also affect UK researchers' activity in the future.

The potential effect of performance measurement mechanisms on actual performance is addressed in a RIN report on Communicating Knowledgefrom 2009, describing a bibliometric analysis of the outputs produced in 2003 and 2008 by a sample of authors who were included in those two RAEs. Amongst many other interesting findings, they reported a slight increase in the no. of publications per author in 2008 compared to 2003, but a significant increase in no. of multiple-author works. These are multi-institutional and international. They did not find an apparent difference in citation behaviours between the two time periods. All very interesting!

In REF2014 the assessment panels for the science, technology and medicine subjects will have citation data provided to them. On UK researchers' citation scores, I tweeted:

Finch report fact p38: citations to UK articles increased between 2006 and 2010 by 7.2% a year, faster than the world average of 6.3%


Finch report fact p38: UK’s “share of the top 1% of most-highly-cited papers was second only to the US, at 13.8% in 2010.”

Not only are our researchers producing lots of articles, they are also producing highly cited articles. There have been numerous studies and debates about the value of citations as a measure of the quality and influence of research papers (my own main reservation is the difference in disciplinary practices around citation), but at any rate there is plenty of citation activity and evident attention for UK authored articles, according to citation measures.

In agreement with the findings of that 2009 RIN report and the footnote on the earlier fact about UK researchers' productivity in terms of numbers of research articles, I also found in the Finch report:

Finch report fact p71 Nearly half (46%) of the peer reviewed articles with a UK author published in 2010 also listed an author from overseas

I believe that multiple authorship and involvement of overseas authors could be significant in achieving those high citation rates. The more collaborations and network contacts or reach that a researcher has, the more people will be aware of that author's work in terms of its findings but also its quality, and so the more likely the work is to be cited by those contacts or indeed their contacts in turn.

An international scale

UK researchers are operating on a world stage, of course. There are other facts in the Finch report that give some context to the UK researchers' performance. I didn't tweet this quote from page 38 because it was too long(!), but I find it very significant:

...part of the explanation for the UK’s success is that it attracts internationally-mobile researchers. UK researchers are also more likely than those in almost any other major research nation to collaborate with colleagues overseas...

Even though the UK researchers are publishing a lot, researchers from other countries are also publishing a lot:

Finch report fact p37 Rise in the no. of UK-authored articles has not been as fast as in very high growth countries such as India and Brazil

So I think that those collaborations and multi-authored articles are very significant, and the international scale of research is one that favours the UK because it's known for its high quality research already. I really think that this is key to UK "success" in the context of citations, because those collaborations and networks occur due to the migration of internationally mobile researchers to the UK. It seems to me that international reach is a very important element of impact that UK research assessors should be interested in.

Meanwhile, according to the Finch report, the UK doesn't spend a great deal on research. Apparently, the UK ranked 16th for "research intensity" amongst OECD countries in an Elsevier report that is cited on page 38, in a footnote. In actual figures:

Finch report fact, p37: 28% of UK R&D is in HE Sector. UK is 'strongly dependent' on gov.t, charity & overseas funds

Finch report fact p38: 09-10 UK total expenditure on R&D: £25.9bn of which £10.4bn from gov, £5.5bn of which from Research Councils & HEFCs

Perhaps the relatively high reliance on government and the HE sector to pay for our research is also part of the reason why the UK has been more successful at getting articles published than at producing patents and other kinds of research outputs.

Perhaps another reason why UK researchers are so much involved in publishing activity is that the UK is also a key player in the worldwide publishing industry:

Finch report fact, p15: UK publishers are responsible for 5000+ journal titles & 1/5 of articles published each year

The UK also seems to be playing an important role in the development of the online open access repositories landscape:

Finch report fact: US, Germany, & UK account for over 1/3 of repositories worldwide. There are 200+ UK repositories: 150 are institutional

And the UK publishes about 7% of open access journals:

Finch report fact, p32: Currently 7600+ open access journals listed in the DOAJ, from 117 countries: 533 in UK #oa

UK researchers do seem to have good access to published articles:

Finch report fact p47 93% of UK researchers had “easy or fairly easy access" to papers. Those without most often find a different item.

Finch report fact p48: Researchers are more likely to have problems accessing conference proceedings and monographs, than journal articles.

Although library expenditure in the UK is falling:

Finch report fact, p23: library expenditure in UK Unis fell from 3.3% to 2.7% as a proportion of total expenditure #oa

The Finch report also says on page 51 that "Access on its own does not necessarily make for effective communication" and although I know that the report is really referring to the role that publishers play in enhancing discoverability through their search platforms and other work, I also interpret it to mean that all those networks and collaborations of our authors are helping to ensure that they are building on the best research that is out there.

It seems to me that international reach is a very important element of impact that UK research assessors should be interested in.

Publishing trends

Open access is one of the changes to publishing that has taken place in recent years, as the worldwide web has enabled online access to scholarly content. It's the main focus of the Finch report, so there are lots of facts relating to it! There are at least two routes to making content available on open access: the gold route where authors pay a fee or "article processing charge" (APC) for the publisher to make the final version available to readers for free, and the green route where authors own copies are deposited into open access repositories, where readers can find it.

My first publishing trend "fact" is:

Finch report fact p39 in '09 OA journals accounted for 14% of articles published worldwide in medicine & biosciences, and 5% of engineering.

The report goes on to say that only 6-7% of articles published in 2009 were available in repositories. This looks as though the repositories are not as successful a route to open access as the OA journals. But the data is only for 2009, and only for limited subject areas. The report itself highlights that science technology and medicine account for 2/3 of OA journals:

Finch report fact, p33: 2/3 of OA articles are published by 10% of publishers: STM account for 2/3 of journals #oa

At this point it is worth referring to Steven Harnad's blog post "Finch Fiasco in figures" because he's looked into all this in a much more scholarly way, and has a great graph (figure 6) showing the relative balance of green and gold open access availability of articles: it looks like he has very different data, but even in his graph, the balance looks worst for green OA in the biomedical sciences, so the Finch report should also present data across all the subjects, in the interest of objectivity.

On page 69, the Finch report suggests some reasons for the "low take-up of OA" in humanities and social sciences, and it seems clear to me from the reasons given that the report means the low take-up by publishers, ie that gold OA routes are not so readily available in these disciplines. The reasons suggested are: rate of publication and rate of rejection, length of articles, and the larger amount of material in a journal that is not an article and therefore would not bring in an article processing charge as income. Further, on p71 the Finch report refers to the tradition of the independent scholar remaining strong in the humanities: these researchers would have no mechanism through which to pay an APC.

Another trend that the Finch report refers to is the decline of the monograph:

Finch report fact: p44 refers to decline of the monograph as print runs have shrunk, prices have risen & UK libraries spend less on books.

I've already included the fact about the relative decline in expenditure on libraries in UK universities, and the Finch report also points out another difference that electronic format makes in that it means VAT must be paid by Libraries, whilst printed versions don't attract VAT. I know that many of the libraries I have worked at have had their book budgets squeezed by rising journal subscription costs over the years, so I don't doubt that the monograph is not what it was. But I believe that the research monograph carries as much research credibility as it ever did, even if it is not attracting the same revenues for publishers.

A conclusion?

After meandering through these "facts", I'm pleased to see that the UK research sector is publishing so much and attracting so much attention worldwide, in relation to the amount of investment. I believe that we should keep up our international and collaborative efforts in order to sustain this, and we should also keep up our involvement in publishing activities, perhaps by investing in OA routes as this makes access fairer to all. The Finch report recommends that the UK support gold OA publication: perhaps it will as the RCUK policy seems to have followed this route.

Most of all though, I'm interested in what researchers will do. They are making decisions on where to publish what, with whom they will co-author and whether to deposit in a repository or not and all such things. The rest of us (publishers and librarians) are trying to respond to their need to communicate with each other, and to find out what each other are working on.

August 02, 2012

What happens after you send off your article?

Well, at first maybe nothing! You might have to wait a long time: each journal will have different procedures and timescales, and there will be some practices that are more prevalent in each discipline, but here is a little list of the basic next steps that authors might come across.

1) Desk rejection: this is when your article is rejected without being sent for peer review. More and more journals are bringing in this initial filtering stage as they are being inundated with articles for review, and the peer review system is under pressure. Three basic ways to avoid this kind of rejection are:

  • read the journal's instructions and advice for authors and follow them!
  • make sure your writing and language is correct (and follows the conventions and instructions of the journal you are submitting to.)
  • make sure that your article is within the scope of that journal's remit, i.e. your content matches their subject area. You do need to choose the right journal to submit your article to.

The Construction Management and Economics forum has 30 tips on how to avoid a desk rejection!

2) Your article is sent off to referees, for peer review. There are differences in peer review processes, such as the number of peer reviewers, blind or double-blind review, editor's right to final decision, etc. Practices vary by discipline, but the basic possibilities are:

  • Open: both authors and reviewers know each other.
  • Blind: author doesn’t know reviewer.
  • Double blind: neither author nor reviewer are known to each other.

After the peer review then you might get one of the following responses:

  1. Accepted unconditionally (rare!)
  2. Accepted in the event that you improve it in certain ways,
  3. Invited to revise and re-submit. This might feel like a rejection but it is an opportunity! Beware of journals' advertised rejection and acceptance rates, which are unlikely to count this response as a rejection.
  4. Rejected with comments. Use these to refine your article and then submit the article to a different journal. Sometimes a different journal from the same publishing house might be suggested.

When considering how to respond to the peer reviewer's comments, there are three golden rules:
(1) respond completely;
(2) respond politely; and
(3) respond with evidence.

These are described in: Williams, Hywel C. (2004) How to reply to referees’ comments when submitting manuscripts for publication. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 51 (1). pp. 79-83.

At this stage, you might be asked to pay an article processing charge and to sign an authors' agreement, although you might have had to deal with these parts of the process at the submission stage. Charges are sometimes made for colour illustrations, for more pages than their limit, and/or for Open Access availability.

When your article has been accepted then consider your publisher's policy on repository deposit, along with your repository's ability to handle embardo periods. You might be able to put an open access version into your institutional repository.

3) Expect more waiting for your article proofs. When you get these, keep an eye on the deadline date for you to respond. If you have co-authors then you should share these with them, and perhaps give them a deadline too. Proofing corrections might be done on the manuscript itself, or in a separate document which refers to page and line numbers. Your proof reading is not just of your text, but of titles, figures, references, etc.

Sometimes the proof comes along with editorial queries for you to respond to: use these to make corrections. Note that proofing corrections should be minor.

4) After proofing and corrections, your publisher might make your article available online on their website.

5) Your article appears in the journal issue.

6) Marketing of your work: this is something you can do, as well as the activity that a publisher will do to market and sell their journal titles.

7) We hope that this won't happen, but there can also be subsequent procedures:

  • Erratum: production errors in your article that the journal publisher will issue a correction for.
  • Corrections: part of your article is flawed and the article is corrected.
  • Retractions: Serious flaws, ethical problems or erroneous data might lead to this. So might "redundant publication" where the publisher discovers that the author has published the same research findings elsewhere.

8) Someone cites your article! If you want to track these and the journal you have published with is indexed by Web of Knowledge, then investigate citation alert tracking on WoK. You can track citations on Google Scholar.

July 09, 2012

Mendeley and ResearchGate: profile sites and repositories used in tandem to raise research profiles.

Writing about web page

There are so many places for authors to put their papers and information about their papers online, so what is the best way to make use of them? I don't have the answer exactly, but I have plenty of ideas!

Drive traffic to the repository by creating links to your papers

Brian Kelly of UKOLN (see Brian's UK Web Focus blog) and I have co-authored a paper for the international repositories conference, OR2012. The full reference is:

Kelly, B. and Delasalle, J., 2012. Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories? Submitted to: OR2012: the 7th International Conference on Open Repositories, 9-13 July 2012, Edinburgh, Scotland.

and naturally, it is in an open access repository and linked to from this post.

The article title mentions LinkedIn and, and this blog post title mentions Mendeley and ResearchGate, but the concept that the article explores and that this blog post is about, is that these kind of external, profile hosting sites could be useful to researchers in raising the profile of their work, especially when used in conjunction with repositories.

I have blogged in the past about these kinds of profile hosting sites and listed a few other such sites in a piece about, and I have written on this blog about the number of Warwick researchers I could find on such profile sites.

One point explored in the paper is that the profile sites offer a way for authors to create inbound links to their papers in a repository, and such links might help to optimise those papers' search engine rankings, since the number of links to a page or site are a factor in search engine rankings.

I don't quite understand how search engine rankings work (that's their business, and it's getting ever more complex... SEOmoz have a useful article), but inbound links have long been a factor, one way or another. And as a former repository manager and a long-time information professional, I'm very, very aware of the important and sizeable role that Google has to play in bringing visitors to papers in a repository. Some of my early blog posts on the WRAP blog attest to that.

So profile sites are useful to researchers in offering a quick and easy way to generate inbound links to your repository papers: it's a simple concept, but as the example of Brian's work that is given in our paper demonstrates, there are probably a lot of other factors as well that might raise the profile of a researcher's papers.

Maintaining profile details on these sites

Naturally, Brian Kelly and I have profiles on these sites, and our paper is appearing on our publication lists on these sites... thanks Brian, for uploading it and making it easy for me! I confess, that I have left partial profiles on most of these sites: it takes a lot of time to create and update profiles properly. Brian is really good at doing this but I'm not a great example to other authors about how to use these sites.

The two sites I have been looking at most recently are Mendeley and ResearchGate:

I like ResearchGate for making it easy for me to "claim" articles that it has found, as ones that I am an author of. In particular, I like that it harvests records from my institutional repository, so if I kept that up to date with all my papers, then it would be relatively little effort to also keep my profile on ResearchGate up to date. Bravo, ResearchGate! (I have blogged about ResearchGate recently, in greater detail).

However, the thing that I find most irritating about ResearchGate when it comes to using it in tandem with an open access repository, is that it invites me to upload the full text of my paper in a huge box on the top right hand side, and it displays my paper to others with a "Request Full-text" button. Meanwhile, the link to the repository where the full text is available is almost invisible and it is not recognisable as a potential full text source. It simply says "Source:OAI" and the "OAI" part is a link to the WRAP repository record from where the full text can be retrieved.

This makes me have considerable sympathy with authors whose papers I have requested copies of, when I was a repository manager, because it is irritating when your article is already available on open access to all, to be asked to put it in another place as well!

Mendeley has similar features and issues in that I can import records from all sorts of sources using its "web importer", including Google Scholar which does index a lot of repository content... but it's not so simple to use as ResearchGate, when it comes to updating my profile with my own papers from the institutional repository. When I carry out a search on Mendeley itself, I find a sophisticated advanced search form, which I like, although I don't like that I can't edit my search string in the search box after running the search. I tried to do that after my first advanced search and got no results but when I went back to the advanced search form and put my revised criteria into the form, I got results. I think that's clunky and there is work to be done on it as a publications discovery tool.

On Mendeley, I am able to refine the results of my search further by selecting a tick box on the right hand side "Open access articles only". I tried this and was disappointed. It finds papers that I have written, but it doesn't know that the ones in WRAP are available on open access.

How do I tell Mendeley that the paper is already available on OA? Why doesn't it already know?

Both Mendeley and ResearchGate have got it wrong

Or at least, from an open access point of view, they have got it wrong. It ought not to be up to the author to upload their content into several places online. And they should be making it easy for people searching within their environments to get through to the existing open access versions of papers: after all, it's hardly in the spirit of OA to make it difficult for people to access the open access version!

Repository managers' perspectives

One of the points that Brian and I made in our poster for OR2012 was to ask 'why don't repository managers recommend use of external researcher profile sites?' Well, it would help if the profile sites worked nicely with repositories, I think.

And of course another answer to our question is that repository managers have enough of a struggle getting papers for the repository itself, never mind encouraging authors to put their papers elsewhere as well.

Beyond that, it is likely that others at the University are advising on the use of social media, so it might be something that repository managers don't see as their role.

Recently, I posted to a repository managers e-mail list to double check if any of them were recommending such sites:

One replied to say that she had noticed some researchers from her institution who were putting their documents onto sites like these, in full text, but not into the institutional repository. So perhaps repositories should be harvesting from the likes of Mendeley and ResearchGate, too.

At the University of Glasgow, they are sometimes using the "Related URL" field to link to a version of the article on Mendeley (see this example record), which is a step towards integrating these two approaches.

Social Media more generally

One repository manager responded that she did encourage authors to use social media "like LinkedIn, Twitter and a blog". And I was sent a very useful link to a blog post by Melissa Terras at UCL, entitled "Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it?" (Short Answer: yes, if you want to attract visitors!)

I think that the use of "social media" is a much bigger topic than the use of profile sites as such. I know that most of the places where researchers can put their profile information are also social media tools in some sense. But this blog post is not intended to cover the social aspects of these tools: that is perhaps for a future blog post!

One more relevant aspect is that publisher websites do often encourage authors to use such profile sites and social media in general, to raise the profiles of their papers. I have blogged about publishers' instructions for authors already.

And finally, I must say that Brian Kelly is an excellent example of an author who uses profile sites and social media. He has uploaded details of his papers onto these sites, but he has also deposited OA copies into his institutional repository and blogged and tweeted about his papers before the conference itself, to raise interest in them. I'm not at all surprised that Brian is the author of the 15 most downloaded papers in the Bath repository, from his department!

July 03, 2012

Mendeley's number of readers

Follow-up to Webometrics and altmetrics: digital world measurements from Library Research Support

I once blogged about Altmetrics and the tool Total Impact, which seemed to use the Mendeley API for tracking papers’ popularity.

I had another look at Total Impact lately and it has been worked on: I can’t give it my Mendeley profile any more, and in fact it didn’t do anything at all for me, but it is in beta and so I sent them some feedback explaining that I got nowhere with the tool, and we shall see.

So, I went directly to Mendeley, and you can see how many “readers” there are for a paper in the results of a search there, but that information is not displayed with the paper’s information once you have added it to your own library or to your list of “my publications” for display on your profile. I was disappointed that apparently only one of my papers is “open access” according to Mendeley’s search filter, even though they are in WRAP and so they are open access... I'm not sure what Mendeley's criteria is for a paper being "open access" according to its search filter.

From what I can tell in the FAQs on the Mendeley site, number of “readers” in Mendeley is the number of distinct users who have added the paper to their Library on Mendeley. It doesn’t actually mean that they’ve read the paper: I added a handful of papers that look interesting to my own Library that I have never read. It’s more of a wish list!

And then I played around with Google some more, to see if there were other tools that were accessing Mendeley’s “reader” numbers API, and I came across Readermeter which looks really interesting because you can give it the author’s name and get all sorts of stats back in a pretty format!

June 20, 2012

Journal awards

I have been blogging about journal quality, and one of the signs to look out for is whether a journal has won an award or not. Journal home pages might tell of any awards that they have won. But what awards are there for journals, and which are prestigious?

I had a look around on Google and on various society websites for awards, honours and prizes, and on journal home pages and publishers' websites, and have written about what I found here. If you know of other such awards or can say something about the value of any of those mentioned here then please do comment on this blog post.

If I had chosen a particular case study discipline and invested a lot more time, then I would have been able to develop an appreciation for the prestige and value of the awards. However, this is a brief overview of what it is easy to find out about, across the disciplines.

Publishers' awards

This is an interesting angle because it doesn't relate to the individual journal, and indeed a prize won by a publisher might be for aspects of its publishing work beyond the journal publishing part of its business. I wasn't looking for these but came across a couple:

An author who is assessing a journal's suitability for his/her article might be attracted to a journal from a successful publisher, but there is a lot more that can be said about what publishers do and can do for authors, beyond the scope of this blog post.

Journal title awards

  • Council of Editors of Learned Journal Awards, eg the CELJ 2011 Voyager Award, won by "Eigtheenth Century Fiction" by the University of Toronto Press, for its quality and originality of contribution to Eighteenth century studies, particularly because of its interdisciplinarity, according to the Project MUSE Spring newsletter. I note that the CELJ awards can only be won by journals who are members of the council (and there are 11 pages of members on their site, and that the CELJ are an "allied organization" of the Modern Language Association, which adds to the prestige of this award.
  • Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) awards, eg The ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation awarded in 2011 to the "Your Better Life Index" by the OECD, which is an interactive tool presenting statistics relating to countries. The ALPSP is "the international association for nonprofit publishers and those who work with them" and also displays a list of members on its site. Membership does not seem to be a prerequisite for a journal's eligibility for their awards.
  • The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) has a Legal Information group, which gives awards to legal journals.
  • The UK's Medical Journalists' Association give awards, including one for the Medical Publication of the Year.

Journal article awards

Also, there are awards for individual articles or papers rather than to whole journal titles, eg the Waste Management and Research journal has published articles that have won The James Jackson Medal from The Chartered Institution of Waste Management, in three different years.

Is an article award a sign of the quality of the writing and the research, or of the publication, or are the two inextricably linked?

Another example is the Lenssen Prize for the best paper on the teaching of philosophy, awarded by The American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT). The "Teaching Philosophy" journal refers to this award and describes itself as an award winning title.

Once again, I am interested in what the journal and journal publisher add to the value of the work that they publish.

Some journal publishers offer awards for articles that are published in their own titles, so if you find a journal with an award winning article, it is worth finding out who gave out the award. Some examples of this are:

Large publishing houses' awards for papers are likely to be valuable as indications of quality, given that they publish so much content. And the granting of such awards or sponsorship of others' awards are something that publishers are doing for academic authors.

Even amongst smaller publishers, there may be considerable prestige in awards, depending on the quality and prestige of the publisher themselves. This is where an understanding of the academic discipline or field is important.

Journal editors' awards

There are at least two categories of these to look out for on journal home pages: there are awards for editorship, and then there are academic awards.

The Professional Publishers Association (PPA) has Editor of the Year awards. The PPA is a UK trade association for the publishing industry, representing companies who publish a range of types of content, from magazines to commercial data but I looked at the membership list for academic publishers and didn't find the big players. PPA have "Independent Publisher" awards and "Data and Digital Publishing Awards", amongst others, and looking at those winners gives a clue as to the membership and types of publishers they represent: it's not a highly academic field, although the business information sources are undoubtedly going to be of use to academics in that discipline. Similarly, there are the British Society of Magazine Editors' awards, and the BSME are also less academically focussed: likewise with the American Society of Magazine Editors' awards.

Some publishers give awards to their editors, for example Emerald and the American Society of Civil Engineers have editors' awards.

There are also academic awards and prizes that an editor might be a recipient of, for his/her wider work eg The Journal of Quantitative Criminology tells of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences award given to its co-editor, Alex Piquero. Wikipedia has a good listing of major academic awards, with information about each of them. If a prestigious academic is the editor of a journal, is this a sign that the journal itself is prestigious?

Some publishers sponsor the prizes awarded by others, eg Elsevier sponsored the 2011 THE Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology award.

Journal Writers' awards

Similarly, writers can be recipients of academic prizes and there are writers' awards, eg the Association of British Science Writers' Awards for Britain and Ireland which aim to reward excellence in science journalism: the publications where these writers' work features include New Scientist and Nature, but also newspapers.

And there are publishers who also offer prizes to writers, like Emerald (see above for a link).

Another example of a writers' award is the Frank R. Smith award, of the Society for Technical Communication. This award "recognizes the authors of exceptional articles that appeared in Technical Communication during a calendar year." Technical Communication is the peer reviewed journal of the society.

The Frank R. Smith award is an interesting example because it's an award within a particular journal so as a sign of the quality of the journal itself, it has to be looked at in a different light. The fact that the journal makes its own awards could be a sign of the prestige of the journal, as with assessments of the publisher depending on whether it has won awards or whether it is large enough to grant or sponsor awards. Knowledge of the field or discipline would help to properly assess the value of any such awards as signs of quality.

My conclusion

When assessing the quality of a journal, and reading that a journal is "award winning", I would be careful to find out who granted the award, what it was for and whether the award is for the journal itself or for articles within it or people who work on it. All such awards might be signs of quality but they need to be taken in context.

On the whole, I'm not sure that authors are particularly concerned about who the publisher is and whether or not they are award winning. Authors might be glad to know of the existence of a publishers' own award scheme, or the publishers' eligibility for them to win a prize granted by others, in that they might win a prize but I doubt it will be a primary concern when choosing a journal for publication.

There is the Elsevier boycott which indicates that authors might be negatively influenced by who the publisher is, and there is a lot more to be considered on the matter of the value a publisher gives to a journal and its authors, and indeed whether or not the publisher themselves might be an indicator of the quality of the journal.

June 08, 2012

Unpublished papers: what happens to them? How do we tell a quality paper?

Writing about web page

Researchers are discussing some interesting topics on ResearchGate. I have linked to a discussion on what happens to papers that they don't manage to get published. I like the answer that they keep refining papers until they are good enough to get accepted for publication eventually. Academic authors need to be persistent and resilient, and published content needs to be of high quality!

However, there is a hierarchy of publication quality out there, and as well as improving their articles, authors can approach less selective or rigorous journals, if their aim is simply to get their work published and out in the public domain. The discussion on ResearchGate was started by someone who has established a website for "Unpublished Articles In Science" ( It's a new site and I didn't find any content. I am also not sure if they want any kind of article or only review articles, and they are asking for donations so I will wait and see if it takes off in any way.

This is not a new idea, to provide a "mop up" place online for academic work that would otherwise not be discoverable. Some institutional repositories were set up as places to make all kinds of research outputs available, including unpublished work. I guess that some authors might just get frustrated enough that their work cannot be published in any other way and put their article(s) somewhere like that, but I wonder what the value is in doing this? Perhaps some really important scholarly works are being missed by the world, but perhaps some works are just not of high enough quality and so should not be publicly available: they might even be misleading.

Surely the peer review and editorial processes of journals exist for a reason? If the work is not of high enough quality to be published, then should it really be in the public domain? Would it not damage an author's career, to have lesser quality work attributed to him/her in such a public way? It is possible that a particular piece of research is just too different for there to be an appropriate journal or publishing outlet, even though it is of high quality and importance. The "differentness" of the output could be that it is in an unusual format or that the subject is highly unusual, and the researcher might be glad of a place that simply makes the work publicly available.

Institutional repositories which accept any kind of output, whether published or not, rely on their academics' judgement about what is a good output. In a way, there is a quality filter of some sort because the author must be employed by the institution, so there is some likelihood that s/he will be able to select what should and should not be in the public domain and associated with his/her name. Some institutions even introduce internal peer review in some way, for unpublished outputs.

At the same time, publishers are introducing new journal titles which appear a little less selective. I am thinking of their author-pays open access (OA) titles, since authors' letters of rejection from their journal of choice sometimes include a suggestion that the article could now be submitted to the publisher's open access journal. The concept of the author paying a publication fee has always been an argument against the open access model of publication, because it interferes with the quality filters in the existing reader-pays model. Of course, the article could still be rejected from the OA journal and there is no reason why peer review could not operate just as rigorously in OA journals as in any other journals.

New, online journals or article collections are not bound by the same format and issue restrictions as traditional journals, and that does allow them to accept more "different" content. The selectiveness or otherwise of an online journal need not be dictated by the amount of print space and paper, but it can use selective criteria based on quality alone. That sounds like a "good thing"!

OA journals can still be of very high quality, as evidenced by the PLoS journals' high impact factor. (I have blogged about these kinds of publication before, and of course I know that impact factors are not infallible measures of quality.) PLoS ONE is the largest, most inclusive journal from PLoS and it has some really interesting features and filters, to enable people to discover high quality research outputs.

With online journals and collections of academic outputs, as with all online materials, the reader needs to be more aware than ever of the features that indicate the quality of the work s/he is reading. Hopefully, the reader will read widely and so be aware of the field, when reading academic content, but beyond the readers' own expertise and academic insight, websites and online journals have features to help readers to assess quality.

Here is a little list of clues on academic quality, including traditional as well as new online features:

  1. place of publication: eg journal title, or special collection within a wider collection like PLoS ONE
  2. information about the authors: institution employed at, membership of organisations, etc
  3. information about who funded the work - they value it, but you might also want to ask why.
  4. when the work was published: this might be recent or it might be before a defining discovery altered academic understanding, so dates are important clues!
  5. whose work is referenced and acknowledged, and therefore this work builds upon
  6. news & media coverage
  7. reviews or comments by other readers, either on the collection site or on readers' blogs.
  8. ratings/scores by other readers
  9. tweets about the article (or other social network discussions)
  10. number of "likes" or bookmarks by other readers
  11. number of views or downloads of an article
  12. citations of the article by others (NB citation sources might matter, i.e. who is citing the work)

Publishers can help readers to access these clues, and providing trackback URLs and ways for readers to bookmark articles in their tool of choice, in a way that the publisher can monitor and publicise are important contributions that a publisher can make. And bullet points 7 onwards in my list are numerical scores, and as such should be taken in context. What is a high score for an article in one discipline might seem low in another discipline: publishers could also provide that context, if they want to help readers to appreciate the quality of the work that they are publishing.

Sites like the UNAIS, institutional repositories and even authors' own sites need to be as good as publishers at providing clues as to quality, if not better, since their quality filters are less well known and understood. And readers do need to be aware.

June 06, 2012

Open Access costs – can you get a discount?

Writing about web page

University of Warwick authors can now get discounts on Open Access (OA) publishing fees, from the Royal Society.

The Library has recently entered into an agreement to save you 25% on the open access charges for any Royal Society journal. If your article is accepted for publication, you will be asked to identify yourself as part of a member institution, resulting in the 25% discount being applied upon payment.

Details of the scheme can be found on the Royal Society website or on the Library’s website.

Note that this is not the only scheme available: we also have a BioMed Central subscription to entitle you to a discount on OA fees, and Wellcome Trust funded authors at Warwick also have a fund to cover their OA fees.

April 03, 2012

Guest Post: Emerald Author’s Workshop at Warwick – Guide to Getting Published

On 29th March 2012 we invited publisher Emerald to present their ‘Guide to Getting Published’ at the Research Exchange. Many thanks to Sharon Parkinson for her very informative presentation; I wanted to share some of the best tips and advice to come out of the session…

Advice on getting published in journals:

1) Pick the right journal: This might seem obvious, but it was interesting to hear that the majority of rejections made by journal publishers were still due to the article being submitted to an inappropriate journal. You will need to:

  • Consider who you research audience is, what they want to know, and what they are reading.
  • Read at least one issue of a journal before you choose to submit work for it.
  • Make sure you consider usage rates as well as journal rankings (which you are more interested in will depend on your motivations for publishing and what you hope to achieve with your work). Emerald suggested most editors would be happy to provide you with usage/download rates for a journal.

2) Send the editor an abstract: This is a great way to avoid problem 1. If you have done your research, but are still unsure if your paper is right for the journal, send an abstract to the editor asking for their opinion on its suitability. Check the author’s guidelines for the publisher you’re contacting to make sure your abstract fits their specifications. (Emerald’s can be found here:

3) Treat it like a job application: I’m not a fan of analogies, but this one seemed too apt to ignore. Much like you would tailor your CV to each position, Emerald emphasised the importance of tailoring your submission carefully to suit the journal/publisher you are approaching. You can also include a cover letter which, like a job application, should focus very clearly on what your paper has to offer to the journal and its readership, rather than on the benefits for yourself.

4) Get your own peer review: Don’t underestimate the value of getting an objective view; someone who isn’t close to your work will find it much easier to critically appraise it. From a personal perspective, I’ve always thought it useful to have someone outside of your field read your work; they tend to be able to spot jumps in your logic very easily.

5) Don’t give up: Getting a paper rejected is very common and shouldn’t deter you. Get feedback from the editor, work on their points and resubmit elsewhere. Also, requests for revisions can be seen as a very positive step – if a publisher has taken the time to do this, then they have obviously seen potential in your work, so don’t give up at this stage.

Advice on getting books published:

1) Make it travel: Obviously the key difference from publishing in journals is that a book must have considerable commercial appeal. Therefore, it needs to be of interest to and accessible by a wide audience: know your market and make sure your work has reach.

2) Attend a publishers’ conference: Emerald were clear that if you want your book commissioned, conferences are the place to be. You can contact a publisher in advance to book an appointment with a commissioning editor at the conference. Arrive prepared – you should complete a detailed proposal form and be ready to answer the publisher’s queries.

3) Keep track of time: You need to be aware of the time constraints that apply to book publishing. Since the publishers will need to promote the book and publicise its release date, you can’t afford to fall behind. Make sure you discuss targets and timescales carefully with the editor and any other involved authors at an early stage.

March 07, 2012

Authors' guidelines on publishers' websites

I recently started to look at publishers' guides to authors, and I noticed which profile sites they recommend authors to use in the promotion of their work. There is quite a lot of variety amongst the publishers I visited today:

The Taylor and Francis website has a neat piece of advice on how authors might promote their work: Taylor and Francis advise the use of LinkedIn and academic social networking sites, mentioning MyNetResearch and Academici as examples… they wouldn’t have been my first choices as I didn't even cover them in my recent piece on profile sites ( However, they could be worth exploring.

Springer’s Author pages ( offer advice on using online tools and social media as well. They mention Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and ResearchGate, Twitter and Wikipedia.

Sage’s section on “Promote your article” for authors ( lists YouTube, Slideshare, Flickr and other Sage provided channels that authors can use. Their section on “Help readers find your article” also offers valuable advice on Search Engine Optimisation:

OUP's journal authors' "Social Media Author Guidelines" ( are very comprehensive, covering blogs, twitter, facebook and youtube, and linking to the OUP channels on such sites in a similar way to Sage. They also list LinkedIn, Goodreads, flickr, tumblr and Quora.

Emerald’s “How to Guides” for authors include some valuable advice on disseminating your work: but it is their advice on “drawing attention to your book” which covers the use of social media best, in my view.

None of these author guidelines mention repository deposit, however!

As an aside: I did also look for Elsevier and Wiley's guides but couldn't find comparable content easily: I recall Elsevier having published a very good guide to getting published, as a pdf file, but my link was broken.

With all this variety and plethora of strategies, then researchers could spend their entire time promoting their work. However, Brian Kelly's recent blog post on the value of inbound linking to enhancing access to papers gives a practical example of how some of these sites can be used in a strategic way. The difference between using these strategies to promote a repository version of a paper and the published version of a paper could be dependent on whether you're going to get article level metrics to tell you which of your activities are having the desired effect. Does your publisher or your repository give you such metrics?

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