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February 22, 2012

Journal acceptance rates: where can we find them?

If you know of any sources, please do share them! I have only been able to collate the following:

1) Cabell’s directory that you have to pay for: http://www.cabells.com/index.aspx
2) The American Psychological Association produce a nice table of their journals’ stats: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/2010-statistics.pdf
3) MLA Directory of Periodicals: look out for the “Updated” date in the journal’s record, though: if there isn’t a date then the information might not be that current. They try to update records every two years, apparently. And they get their submitted and published numbers from editors of journals.

Obviously, there are journal home pages to explore, too. But it takes a long time for authors to have to navigate through all of those.There are some scholarly articles to be found, on this topic, for some disciplines: I have come across one or two in the biomedical sciences, in the past.

Of course, it may not be so very useful for an author to find such information from any source: the rates are likely to be adjusted in the way they are reported, to make the high quality journals look accessible enough that it is worth the authors' while submitting, and to give a prestigious enough impression at journals which might have high acceptance rates!

And then there is the turnaround time: how quickly the article is accepted or rejected might be more important than the actual chances of acceptance.

I found this page which covers much of the same topic: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=98218&sid=814212


February 21, 2012

Webometrics and altmetrics: digital world measurements

Writing about web page http://altmetrics.org/manifesto/

Research performance measurement often includes an element of output (or publication) counting and assessment, possibly including citation counts, and I've written a lot here about such bibliometrics and assessment.

The digital, web 2.0 world allows for many other, different kinds of metrics to be recorded and reported on, and could one day become a part of researchers' performance assessment, either just for themselves or indeed through more formal processes at institutional level or through an excercise like the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

I've linked to the altmetrics manifesto, and that has some very interesting contributions to the exploration of other kinds of metrics and measurements.

Note that PLoS One are running a special “collection” on altmetrics with a submission deadline just passed in January. And that if you’re an author with an article published by PLoS One, then the number of views for your article are displayed along with the metadata for your article. Warwick’s repository, WRAP, also shows download stats for articles these days, in the metadata records… eg: http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/933/

The problem with web stats and altmetrics is that there are potentially a lot of sources which will all measure the stats for different versions of the same item, or different elements of the same output, in different ways. This sort of thing is a driver for publication in an open access (OA) journal with one canonical copy of an article in just one place online: the so called "gold" route to OA.

Authors of the future will want all web visitors to go to the publisher’s site, in order to boost the no. of viewers stated there. Well, some already do! But that rather assumes that the publisher will also provide all the functionality for commenting and reviewing and interaction with the research that the authors might like to see, and that the publisher will provide suitable measures to the author, and that the only route for publicising and making your work discoverable that is necessary, is the formal publication route...

The other route to OA is known as the "green" route, and it involves putting an earlier version into an OA repository (or more than one!) in addition to the canonical published version. All such versions should be clearly described and should point to the canonical one, ideally. This would allow for your work to be made available and promoted by all those repositories where you have deposited a copy or allowed a copy to be harvested, eg your institution and a subject specific repository.

The green route follows the "lots of copies keep stuff safe" mentality and contributes to ensuring the longevity of your research's availability and discoverability. And it could also enable new research techniques such as text mining to be employed on your outputs and thus build on your contribution to the discipline, if you've given suitable permissions at the deposit stage.

So, when it comes to altmetrics what we ideally need is some way of recording visitor stats and other metrics for all versions of one article, and collating these into one report.

The altmetrics site I've linked to has a page of tools which I had a play with recently: http://altmetrics.org/tools/ Here is the story of my "playing"!

I gave Total Impact my (rather scrappy) Mendeley profile. I have 3 articles to my name on Mendeley, and Total Impact picked up on 2 papers: in the event, only one of those was actually mine (something wrong in the metadata, I think), and that has had only 2 readers on Mendeley. Which is entirely believable, but not likely to be the “total impact” of my article!

Actually, I know it’s not the "total impact" because the same article is in WRAP and I can see additional visitors to the paper there, without even considering accesses on the journal's own site, but I guess that Total Impact doesn’t know about the other versions of that object.

I tried giving Total Impact a DOI instead… None of my articles have DOIs (I'm not an academic author: practitioner stuff only!), so I gave it the DOI for a different article (the record linked to above), and you can see the report: http://total-impact.org/collection/UMpoWa

Not much more impressive than my article, yet the WRAP stats are more impressive! So it could be that the problem is the size of the Mendeley community, and the fact that Total Impact is not picking up on visitors from elsewhere for articles.

I thought I’d give Total Impact another shot with my Slideshare profile. I’ve not been especially active in Slideshare either, but I have seen healthy stats for my handful of presentations last year. And Slideshare has a relatively large community of users. I like the Total Impact report structure for the Slideshare report: http://total-impact.org/collection/McWgLs It gives info on tweets, facebook likes and other sources of data about the Slideshare items. That’s what I thought altmetrics ought to be!

Some of the other sites that Total Impact can work with are probably worth investigating, too: I don’t know about GitHub or Dryad. I looked GitHub up: https://github.com/ and it seems that’s what I need to try next, to visit there to collate all versions of my articles!

There are other tools on the Altmetrics site that I wish I had time to try out, too!

This week, discussion on UKCoRR's mailing list raised the following altmetrics tool to my attention: http://altmetric.com/bookmarklet.php I installed it on Chrome but couldn't get it to work with the articles I tried on Web of Science and on Cambridge Journals Online. The UKCoRR community are reporting that it doesn't pick up on the DOIs from their repositories either, so I guess it's just another thing that is in development.


February 10, 2012

High acceptance rates & any almost any topic: bulk publishing journals

My thoughts on a new breed of online journals...

SAGE Open and Springer Plus look to me like similar journals the PLoS One model (both were launched relatively recently). PLoS One was launched in 2006: 6 years ago, and it has an impact factor of around 4. Not bad, but is the bulk publishing model something that has worked for the science and medicine community but might not work in other disciplines?

PLoS One are said to have a 70% acceptance rate, and Springer Plus are currently tweeting about how they publish on any topic, but they are also publishing in the sciences. SAGE Open are for the social sciences and humanities in general, and all three of these journals charge authors fees of around $1000.

PLoS claim to discount or waive the fee if the researcher cannot pay, and Springer Plus also offer discounts for those from low income countries. SAGE Open are cheapest of the three, at $700 and are offering an introductory author discount rate at the moment of $395… but who is going to pay, with what?!

We don't have a central authors' fund at Warwick. I'm not sure what the latest news is from institutions that have tried them, but I did hear a while ago that they were under-used by authors.

BioMed Central also publish journals on open access with fees set at journal title level: most in the region of $2000, but the library’s subscription entitles authors to a 50% discount. This is an area for me to investigate in future, because we do get stats from BMC about authors' take up of that discount... and that might be an indication of authors' willingness to use a central fund in some way. That and the handful of enquiries that reach me each year.

But are the biomedical sciences different? The Wellcome Trust not only mandate that research outputs should be made available on OA, but that the publisher should be paid to do this. They pay for it: we have a Wellcome Trust fund at Warwick, for authors whose work is funded by them. Another possible indicator of authors' interest in central funds to investigate... So one major funder could be forcing the publishing environment, and publishers like BioMed Central (incidentally, part of the Springer stable) and PLoS are able to charge fees and get them paid.

So, I also need to watch what funders in the other disciplines are mandating.

What is different about PLoS One and Sage Open and Springer Plus though, is not that they are open access journals which charge authors a fee, but it is their lack of subject specificity which interests me… bulk publishing is a model that would not work if you’re charging traditional subscription fees, but it potentially works on the digital, OA environment.

Lots more space to watch!


December 15, 2011

Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: journals

Follow-up to Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: books from Library Research Support

This is the second (final) part of my write-up of the Springer Authors' workshop, held on 30th November 2011 at the Research Exchange. The workshop itself covered a great deal more than the themes I have picked out here and these are my own highlights.

What type of journal does Springer publish?

Springer publishes many journal titles (visit their website for details: here is a link to their Author Academy), including some society journals which cover the same subjects as their own titles. Authors and readers in that subject can benefit from Springer's involvement in both journal titles, ensuring that they are complementary to each other.

Types of journals published by Springer include:

  • Society journals
  • Professional journals
  • Review journals
  • Open Access / Hybrid journals

Choosing a journal: Impact factors

Authors may want to use impact factors (IFs) as a guide to the quality of a journal: there was an interesting slide of the mean impact factors for different subjects, with 1 being average for Economics and 3 for Biomechanical Methods, for example.

Impact factors alone don't help much to differentiate between journals because you need to know what's good for your own subject area, and quite often all the journals you are interested in are likely to be around the same whole figure, as impact factors are displayed on Web of Knowledge to three decimal places. So you'll probably need to consider a lot more than just impact factors as an author:

Choosing a journal: Other factors

  1. Different impact factors. This wasn't a part of the workshop but I recommend authors to read about the different types of impact factors and journal rankings available, so that they an understand which "score" reflects the features of most relevance to them. The traditional two year impact factor published by Thomson Reuters in their Journal Citation Reports is the one most often referred to, but it is certainly not the only one you can look up, for a journal.
  2. Look out for download rates advertised on publisher websites. I don't think it is possible to actually browse, filter or sort journal titles by download rates on SpringerLink, but you can see which articles in a journal are most downloaded on the journal home page at Springer, because these are available for free and they show the actual download numbers of these most highly downloaded articles. This sort of thing might help you to differentiate between two journals if you can't quite choose!
  3. Rejection rates: see section below...
  4. Time to publication: see section below...
  5. Not only journals: some other routes are described below.
  6. Marketing resources and activity of the publisher, for your work.

Of course there are lots more factors than this, some of which were covered in the Springer workshop itself and some of which I cover in my own workshop. But anyway, these are some key points.

Rejection/acceptance rates

My notes say that authors should expect a rejection rate from high quality journals of around 70% and that any drop in this rate has a corresponding drop in impact factor of the journal, and that the impact factor drops quite significantly before the rejection rate does fall below 70%.

This is probably a good guiding principle for authors to know what to expect, especially for those in Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) disciplines, although I would expect a handful of exceptions and a little variability and of course PLoS One springs to my mind as a blog article at the Scholarly kitchen from 2010 reported that they have an acceptance rate of nearly 70% and a "stunning" impact factor of 4.351. I checked the latest IF of PLoS One and it's at 4.411

I usually warn authors that when/if they find out rejection rates, they may need to check what this actually means: for some journals it is the number of articles turned away in total and for others it is the number turned away after peer review, even though they also turn articles away without peer review. Articles sent back for revision are probably not be counted as rejected, even though authors may feel that they are not being accepted!

Catherine Cotton suggested that the rejection rate without even peer review might be as high as 50% of articles, and that authors could avoid such rejections by making sure that their article is within the journal's advertised aims and scope, and by following the instructions for authors. Some editors with thousands of articles to wade through might reject an article for not being formatted properly. It sounds a little harsh but it makes sense if your journal is inundated: authors who are determined to get published should fit their article to the journal they are approaching.

Tips for getting accepted

Other than ensuring that your article fits the aims and scope of the journal and is formatted according to instructions, you can:

  • Make your abstract exciting! Explain what your article brings to knowledge in this area.
  • Include a covering letter tailored to the editor/journal you are approaching.
  • Make it easy for the editor to notice and remember your article.

I'm not sure how to achieve the last tip exactly, but I guess if you can introduce yourself to an editor at a conference or any other opportunity, and perhaps make a good impression then it might help a little.

There were also some interesting slides on plagiarism and ethical considerations for authors, around how they should be careful of how they slice their own work for publication: authors should be sure to read submission agreements

It all takes time...

Authors can look out for advertised "Time to first decision". This is the decision as to whether the article is put into the peer review process or not, and is only advertised by the very top journals at the moment.

Springer take an average of three weeks from acceptance to publication (OnlineFirst), and this includes 7-8 days for the author proofing stage. This is only an average figure: authors should really be looking at the time taken at the journal they wish to be published in, but perhaps this average will give them a perspective as to whether things are taking longer than usual!

Other routes to take/work you can do!

  • Become a peer reviewer if you can because this will:
  1. raise your profile with a journal publisher: it demostrates that you contribute ,
  2. increase your understanding of the publishing process,
  3. bring cutting edge research to your attention before it is published,
  4. and it could be a step towards getting onto an editorial board.
  • But if you do peer review, you should know that editors can see data about how long you take to review and so on, so make sure you use it as a way to show your commitment and time management at its best!
  • Create/edit a special issue or section for work that doesn't fit well in the mainstream journal scope. This will raise your profile as you will get to write the editorial. It will also be good experience for understanding the publishing process. To get such an opportunity you will need to be able to demonstrate that can co-ordinate the work of other academics and get stuff done, so experience of having organised a symposium or similar event might help.
  • If you organise a symposium, then you could also seek to get the proceedings published.

Look out for:

  • SpringerVideo - a bit like YouTube but for serious content. Another channel for disseminating your research?
  • SpringerTheses - a series which is a publication route/competition for the best PhD theses.
  • SpringerBriefs - for scholarly items longer than a journal article but shorter than a book
  • Author mapper - great for tracking which authors have co-authored with others in Springer journals.
  • Springer Images - an image library: some free content but also plenty more that you can pay to use!


  • Latex Search - search for equations in scholarly texts. Not so relevant to authors but still pretty nifty!
  • SpringerExemplar - a tool in beta at present, where you can look up words in scientific context and track them as trends in Springer's scholarly literature.

December 13, 2011

Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: books

We invited Springer to run an authors' workshop in the Research Exchange on 30th November. I learnt lots... this is a summary of the stuff relating to book publication, with some of my thoughts and extra links thrown in. More to come on other themes!

why write a book?

It can make your name in your field, even if it isn't going to be a publication that will count towards the UK's Research Excellence Framework.

Also, don't forget that books are now being included into a citation index published by Thomson Reuters, publishers of Web of Knowledge and the Journal Citation Reports which have held so much sway over the journal publishing sector with their impact factors based on citations data. Books also accrue citations on Google Scholar, and so they are certainly not to be dismissed as a career-raising way to publish your work: you will be able to track those who cite your book(s) and others may also do this in future.

Electronic format: e-books

Springer are really going for e-book publication and if you're an author with a current book proposal then, if it is accepted for publication by Springer, it's more than likely to become an e-book. Springer's e-books are published in html and pdf format now, and we can look forward to ePub format next year.

Why do we want ePub? Well, it's an open standard format and it's the format used by iPads, Sony ebook readers and others to help you in handling the text so that you can download an entire text and read it comfortably. Kindles use a proprietary format instead of ePub, which is why folks buy all their Kindle content from Amazon... but that is for another blog post!

E-book download statistics from the University of Liverpool's study indicate that books published in all years are well used, whilst the traditional publishing cycle would see older titles selling less and less well, dwindling into ignonimity with age! So, e-book publication looks like a good option for authors who want to ensure that their work is going to be available to scholars in the (at least slightly) longer term.

Before e-books, scholars have had to visit libraries and archives that have carefully built and curated print collections of valuable knowledge waiting to be discovered, and to hunt down their own copies in second hand book shops! Now it seems that e-books will open up access to scholarly research, making it more easily discoverable and readable, although I'm watching with interest to see how we can handle longer term preservation issues for e-books.

Future generations may miss the joy of discovering gems while browsing shelves, but I'm sure that they will have their own joys instead. Perhaps one will be finding the one thing of true value amongst the plethora of digital information we are now busy creating!

Rise of a new kind of research monograph?

E-books could also be the answer to the reported decline in monograph sales. I couldn't find the THE article referenced in the workshop but it's been written about many times that publishers nowadays might only expect to sell around 200 copies of a research monograph. This study by CIBER at UCL covers such themes: there are many likely reasons for such a decline, such as the restrictions on Library budgets just as journal subscription costs have risen so much. Others have pointed to the consequences of the RAE and REF in the UK and other countries' similar exercises such as the ERA in Australia, and their emphasis on journal article publication. I believe that it might also be because of the plethora of research to be published and the guys from Springer did point out the rise in research outputs from South America and Asia these days: these can increasingly be found online.

Whatever the reason for the decline in traditional research monograph publication, that it exists is a problem for authors who wish to get published because publishers have not been so keen on investing in monograph publication, but the e-book offers hope to book authors because publishers are interested in this kind of publication.

I am intrigued as to whether author agreements for e-books are as favourable for authors as the traditional print publications: are the same kinds of agreements used? Something I might investigate one day!

E-books offer new types of format and possibilities. Springer have launched a different series called "Springer Briefs" for publications of around 50-125 pages: this would not normally be considered long enough for a monograph (200-250 pages would be more normal, for a Springer book) but it's too long for most journal articles so there are new possibilities in the electronic format. This is one of the simplest variations on a book that is possible in the electronic environment, in my view, and I've always thought that e-book readers rather restrict the possibilities for research books in electronic format, but again, it's a space that I'm watching with interest!

print on demand & copies

In theory, with print-on-demand, books need never go out of print again and we could have lots more print copies of books floating around as they will be made affordable through library subscriptions. This is the model available at the moment with Springer. Libraries like ours at the University of Warwick subscribe to Springer's ebook material and our members/readers can access that material online at no cost to themselves but they can also pay to have a print copy created especially for them, if they want one. Since the intellectual property has already been paid for by licence then the fee paid by the reader for a print copy is not astronomical: approximately £22, apparently. It's a price that sounds good in comparison with some text books which can cost upwards of £100 but also not good in comparison with many titles available on Amazon for your Kindle! And not good when you're a cash strapped student struggling to find your University fees...

For old titles, second-hand bookshops are still likely to be cheaper, and I never thought to ask at the time whether the print-on-demand copies might be passed on to others on the second-hand market. They have their own separate isbns so they would be identifiable from any traditional print runs of the same title.

When it comes to saving and downloading copies for your personal use from e-books, Springer are fairly generous in comparison with some other e-book publishers, in not applying restrictions. Readers ought to still be respectful of copyright laws, but it's nice that Springer aren't creating so many barriers.

Although, perhaps one of the biggest barriers of all to electronic content could be that libraries won't be able to share their collections with walk-in users in future, if they are mostly electronic. Retired academics, conference attendees and researchers from other institutions here to access our archive are not going to be able to access all these e-book titles under many current Library licencing arrangements. Although I can't comment on Springer's licence arrangements as I haven't read them: it's just a general concern about e-books that I have.

discovery of e-books

We've had e-journal access for some years and the Springer presentation pointed out that whereas most e-journal accesses are coming from search engines, most e-book accesses are coming from library catalogues. Good news for libraries, perhaps: our role as guides to information seems to be continuing, but I am watching Google Books and Amazon developments very carefully! (Not part of the Springer presentation, but Amazon are apparently selling more e-books than print books in the US: Guardian article on ebook sales)

writing a book proposal

Some tips from the workshop:

  • include endorsement(s) for your book from prominent scholars in the field in your proposal
  • know the market: who might buy your book? Is it going to be a text book, or for professionals, or a reference work, or are you looking at a monograph to be sold to libraries and why might they buy it?
  • know related titles and other content.

What kind of book are you proposing?

  • part of a series?
  • a monograph where you are the sole author?
  • an edited book?
  • a reference work?

copy editing: costs to the author?

Assuming that your book proposal is accepted, you cannot expect extensive copy editing from Springer. They don't want to interfere with the intellectual content, so if you can produce polished text yourself then great, but if not then you might wish to pay for someone to copy edit your work.

Also, if your book is going to be published in a traditional print run and you want colour illustrations then this is a cost that publishers like Springer may pass on to you as the author. If you can be happy with black and white or with electronic only, then perhaps it won't be a cost.

Finally...

Springer offer a discount of a third off the cost of their books, to their authors: if you're an author, it sounds like it is worth investigating, and I believe they said that it applies to authors of journal articles as well...


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