Choosing where to publish: not only journals

a wrench applied to a nail, and a hammer applied to a screw
Find the right tool for the job!

There are many factors that scholars will want to take into account, when choosing where they’d like to be published. I’ve blogged a simple list in the past, of 12 questions to ask when assessing the quality of a journal, but I want to provide a lot more detail (including a look at the impact factor which I deliberately left out in my questions – coming soon!). So I’m building a little series here, starting with a look at some alternatives to the journal article. Just because you have something to say or share with the scholarly community, doesn’t always mean that you have a journal article.

Co-authors: who chooses?

I have seen a tweet from an established academic who said that since he’d got tenure, the un-tenured co-authors on his papers got final say in where their articles were published. (Sorry, I didn’t record the tweet – bad librarian! **UPDATE, I found the tweet!) That sounds rather chivalrous: early career researchers have a very urgent need to build up their publication lists in a strategic way, while the senior academics might have different agendas.

I also know anecdotally that for many researchers, the opposite is true, and the senior authors choose. If there is even a little bit of influence that an early career researcher (ECR) can exert, then no doubt that ECR will want to make such influence count. So let’s start looking at the factors that could be of interest.

Is a journal article even the right output?

Maybe you’re not sure if you’ve got a scholarly journal article in the pipeline. Or maybe you’ve already got a journal article out and just have a little bit more to add to what you said back then: these channels are not always mutually exclusive, so it’s not always a case of “either/or”, but you may need to be careful of copyright.  With the right author agreements between you and your publisher, you could use many channels for the same piece of research, depending on which audiences you want to reach. My list is not comprehensive but it’s designed to give you ideas for other valuable communication channels.

Ten other places to consider

  1. Conference papers – this is a fairly traditional route to sharing research with other scholars, and some conference proceedings are just like journals. There are disciplinary differences: some disciplines take already published research to conferences, while others take unpublished ideas to conferences and use the conference rather like a first round of peer review, polishing the work afterwards for journal publication. There are many types of conference and they need evaluating. I’ve blogged about choosing conferences before.
  2. Poster /Infographic – posters might be presented at a conference, and could perhaps incorporate or indeed be an infographic, could be more widely shared online, for example embedded into a blogpost or on Instagram.
  3. Books – there are many options here, from the academic monograph to popular non-fiction and indeed fiction itself, which could be based on real science. Not forgetting the vital textbook for your field, but the key here is to think of who your audience is, and the appropriate type of book will become apparent. There are many pitfalls on the monograph route, but you can read of 7 mistakes from Laura Portwood-Stacer, who has been there & done it. And I found a very comprehensive look at self publishing for academics.
  4. Book chapters – maybe you’ve only got one chapter but you could draw on contributions from others, and so could pull together an edited book. This isn’t easy but I found some sensible advice on managing authors. Or perhaps you could keep your eye out for a “call for contributions” from other editors. Pat Thomson outlined the different work that a book chapter does, compared to a journal article.
  5. Guest blogposts – as a guest on someone else’s blog, your content might get a polishing by them, and you benefit from all the work they do to bring audience to your work. You might need to convince successful blogs as to why they should use your post though so I found a great blogpost on what makes a good guest blogger.
  6. Your own blog – this could be all your own work, or a group blog if you have a natural team to contribute to it. Emma Cragg has good advice on starting a blog. And I’ve also written about closing a blog, in case it’s a short-term undertaking for you!
  7. Data deposit – sometimes you have to do this anyway, alongside your journal article but it could be that your data can be deposited without the article. Here there are enormous disciplinary differences, but it’s worth noting that data can be cited.
  8. Practitioner journals – this is a great way to share your research findings among a community where it can have real world impact. Look out for professional associations linked to your field: they may have suitable publications.
  9. Slidedeck / teaching materials – if you’re at an institution where research-led teaching is expected, then maybe research findings can be incorporated into teaching materials – and perhaps shared in a learning objects repository or slidedeck sharing site.
  10. Wikipedia entry – you could become one of the many participants of the digital commons, and share your expertise through Wikipedia.

Having explored these alternatives, maybe you’re sure that you really do have a journal article. Or maybe you would prefer to use one of these channels, but your research funder or institute is only interested in journal articles. So my next post will start to look at aspects of journals that you can evaluate.

Image credit: CC0, via Pixabay

Publish then publicise & monitor. Publication is not the end of the process!

Once your journal article or research output has been accepted and published, there are lots of things that you can do to spread the word about it. This blogpost has my own list of the top four ways you could do this (other than putting it on your CV, of course). I also recommend any biologists or visual thinkers to look at:
Lobet, Guillaume (2014): Science Valorisation. figshare
Lobet describes the process as “publish: identify yourself: communicate”, and points out useful tools along the way, including recommending that authors identify themselves in ORCID, ResearchGate,, ImpactStory and LinkedIn. (Such services can create a kind of online, public CV and my favourite for researchers is ORCID.) You may also find that your publisher offers advice on ways to publicise your paper further.


1) Talk about it! Share your findings formally at a conference. Mention it in conversations with your peers. Include it in your teaching.

2) Tweet about it! If you’re not on Twitter yourself (or even if you are!) then you could ask a colleague to tweet about it for you. A co-author or the journal editor or publisher might tweet about it, or you could approach a University press officer. If you tweet yourself then you could pin the tweet about your latest paper to your profile on Twitter.

3) Open it up! Add your paper to at least one Open Access repository, such as your institutional repository (they might also tweet about it). This way your paper will be available even to those who don’t subsribe to the journal. You can find an OA repository on ROAR or OpenDOAR. Each repository will have its own community of visitors and ways in which to help people discover your content, so you might choose more than one repository: perhaps one for your paper and one for data or other material associated with it. If you put an object into Figshare, for example, it will be assigned a DOI and that will be really handy for getting Altmetrics measures.

4)Be social! Twitter is one way to do this already, of course. but you could also blog about it, on your own blog or perhaps as a guest post for an existing blog with a large audience already. You could put visual content like slides and infographics into Slideshare, and send out an update via LinkedIn. Choose at least one more social media channel of your choice, for each paper.


  1. Watch download stats for your paper, on your publisher’s website. Measuring the success of casual mentions is difficult, but you can often see a spike in download statistics for a paper, after it has been mentioned at a conference.
  2. Watch Twitter analytics: is your tweet about your paper one of your Top Tweets? You can see how many “engagements” a tweet has, i.e., how many clicks, favourites, re-tweets and replies, etc it accrued. If you use a link shortening service, you should also be able to see how many clicks there have been on your link, and where from. ( is one of many such shortening services.) This is the measure that I value most. If no-one is clicking to look at your content, then perhaps Twitter is not working for you and you could investigate why not or focus on more efficient channels.
  3. Repositories will often offer you stats about downloads, just like your publisher, and either or both may offer you access to an altmetrics tool. Take a look at these to see more information behind the numbers: who is interested and engaged with your work and how can you use this knowledge? Perhaps it will help you to choose which of the other possible social media channels you might use, as this is where there are others in your discipline who are already engaged with your work.


Ultimately, you might be interested in citations rather than engagements on Twitter or even webpage visits or downloads for your paper. It’s hard to draw a definite connection between such online activity and citations for journal papers, but I’m pretty sure that no-one is going to cite your paper if they don’t even know it exists, so if this is important to you, then I would say, shout loud!

I also write for Piirus: a selection of my recent blogposts for them

As a freelancer, one of my clients is Piirus: they match researchers together so that they can work collaboratively, and I am their social media manager. Consequently, I’m writing a lot over on the Piirus blog! Lately, I’ve been participating in the Thesis Whisperer’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), called “How to Survive Your PhD“, and if you want to know what I’ve been finding out on that course then please do take a look at my latest blogpost for Piirus.

I also share a lot of my tips on using Twitter on the Piirus blog, including a kind of mini series lately on the hashtags that may interest anyone supporting researchers, or indeed researchers themselves. In other topics that I’ve blogged about for Piirus, I looked recently at motivations for digitisation and I shared tips for researchers considering crowdsourcing projects. If you’re interested in following my writing over on the Piirus blog then please do take a look. Although I will keep writing here too, of course!

A super-quick way to create a blog post!

There are 2 super-quick ways to create blogposts in WordPress that I’ve tried out, although if you read my investigations below, you’ll see why I only recommend the first one!

1) the “Re-blog” option.
Found something interesting on another WordPress blog? You could tweet about it, or you could actually re-blog it to your own blog. Here is an example of my use of the re-blogging feature, which I like but use sparingly. After all, this is my blog: it’s for my work! For me personally, re-blogging also feels a bit like cheating but I’m growing used to it. There is actually something very social about re-blogging and I wouldn’t mind at all if others re-blogged my posts. So on reflection, its OK from time to time and for particularly well written stuff!

2) the WordPress bookmarklet
This post actually began when I pressed on the “blogpost” bookmarklet, to generate a blog post from a webpage. It generated a title for me:

Researchers argue for standard format to cite lab resources : Nature News & Comment

And then in the content it simply had:

via Researchers argue for standard format to cite lab resources : Nature News & Comment.

Hmm, not so pretty or so useful to readers. This is not really super-quick because it requires me to add more content. I suppose it’s useful as a way for me to create a quick draft post that I can come back to, if I want to blog about a particular webpage.

How to spend 30 effective minutes on social media

I came across a great blog post by Kevan Lee on Buffer that outlines all the kinds of activities you could be doing on social media, and provides different types of plan for how to use 30 minutes, on social media. (There’s quite a bit of good advice over on Buffer, if you’ve got time to read around.)

This particular post helped me to reflect on my social media mini-strategy that I wrote about in May last year, along with the work I’m now doing for Piirus, managing their blog. I recognised that what I do personally with social media, is rather different to what I do for Piirus. The kinds of activities that I focus on for myself, from the list in the Buffer blog post are: Curating, Crafting and Experimenting. I keep wishing that I was more social but I can’t do everything! I focus on my online profile, and on learning.

However, when I’m working for Piirus, the way I’d spend that 30 minutes is to follow this recipe from Kevan’s blog post:

How to spend the 30 minutes:

  • 5 minutes rescheduling popular content
  • 15 minutes queueing content from your go-to sources
  • 10 minutes responding to mentions on social media

This is pretty much a daily activity for me, on behalf of Piirus, although some days I take less than 30 minutes. Other days, I spend more time, and take a look at some analytics (so that I know what is popular content) or I look for events and ways to engage.

Which “recipe” for 30 minutes might you use, and which activities do you invest most time on in Social media? Reflecting on this blog post might help you to identify the strategy you are already following, or the one which you might wish to follow.

What use is social media to a researcher? Find out at a Google Hangout event

I’m very pleased to be taking part as a panellist in an online Q&A session called “How to be a successful digital academic to boost your career.” It takes place on 27th Jan at 12 noon, GMT and is hosted by none other than the Thesis Whisperer, Dr Inger Mewburn!

We’ll be exploring the theme of social media and its usefulness to academics. Do you think social media is useful, or do you wonder how you could possibly make use of it, as a researcher? I’m sure that the expert panel will have some ideas of interest to you! Themes of online engagement through blogs, as well as writing for online audiences are bound to emerge, in addition to digital networking.

I was invited in my capacity as editor of the Piirus blog, and I’m sure I’ll explain a little bit about how Piirus differs from other online tools. It’s more of an online dating or introductions agent, and its extremely light touch. Its purpose is to help researchers make connections beyond their disciplines and beyond national borders. It also comes from the academic community itself, and is based at the University of Warwick alongside, the hosts of the Google hangout event.

If you’ve never attended such an event online before, well they are something like a webinar, and something like a live conference panel session. You get to type in questions to the host, who will pass them on to the panellists. You can even send in questions in advance. During the event, you can sign in and then see and hear the panellists discussing the questions. If you can’t attend the event live, well no worries: it will be recorded so that you can watch it later.

There is a lot more information about it, over on the event page on Google+. I hope you find it valuable!

What is a re-blog?

I’ve been blogging for  years, but this is a feature of WordPress that wasn’t available on Warwick Uni’s own blogging platform. I like it as a way of engaging with other bloggers whose content I like (like re-tweeting and blog commenting all rolled into one!), plus it’s a way of providing content to anyone following my blog, when I find something of interest from somewhere else and don’t have time to write a lot myself.

It feels a bit like cheating, to me, because of the lack of effort, but if someone re-blogged my content with proper attribution (which WordPress does) and a friendly introductory comment, then I’d be happy. I note that in order to read the full post that I’ve re-blogged, you have to visit the source blog in any case, so it ought to drive traffic to the blogs of people who I’ve re-blogged.

I noticed that my re-blogged content did not appear on my LinkedIn updates (Aside: Who sees what in my Linkedin updates is increasingly a mystery to me!), even though my fresh blog content does seem appear there. But a re-blogged post does get tweeted and it appears to anyone subscribing to my blog through WordPress, of course.

Note to self: think about tweet appearance when commenting as I re-blog!

The elements displayed in that tweet are:

Title of blog post: my twitter handle: beginning of my comment: shortened link

All in all, a re-blog is a simple way to engage with social media.

What difference does WordPress make, compared to a University’s own blogging platform?

When I worked at the University of Warwick, I used their proprietary blogging tool. This was largely because we could set permissions for blog entries to be visible only to Uni members, or a particular department or course, etc.

Now that I’ve left, I’m finally exploring WordPress. So, how is it different? Here are some things that I’ve noticed, so far:

1) It is (naturally) a place with a bigger and world-wide community. In theory, any blog could reach anyone online, but the “home” platform of a blog promotes it in its own ways, to its own community. Using WordPress helps a blogger to reach more people: if maximum audience is your goal, then this seems good. But it could be that you want to target your your audience and invest more time interacting with them. At first, on WordPress, I started to look at who was following me or who had “liked” my post. This has not been such a fruitful use of my time as it was when I used Warwick’s blog platform. Incidentally, it is not so fruitful as when I look at Twitter likes and follows, either:  more evidence of the value of tweeting from your blog.

Using WordPress has taught me that if I want to get to know someone through their blog, the best way is to comment there in a meaningful and intelligent way.

2) The obvious point: it looks different and has slightly different ways to create and edit a post, and to manage the blog. This is not a big deal as I blog in quite simple ways, and can do what I want on either platform. But there is also a lot more power and possibility with WordPress, that interests me and that might even be inspiring when I convince myself that it’s not at all daunting!

3) WordPress comes with its own blog reader tool: one of the ways it makes your blog available to others to read, and with it you can follow others’ WordPress blogs, too. This could be handy in the wake of Google Reader’s demise: I do need to investigate more, though.

4) WordPress gives me a Gravatar, which Wikipedia gives basic information about. I’m not sure how useful this will be, outside of Worpress’s own environment, however.

With more investment of time, I’m sure that I would discover more differences, but that’s what I have noticed fairly quickly.

Google yourself & improve what you find

I’ve been refreshing my online presence on all the tools and sites that I value, but it’s worth a quick search on Google to see what comes up under your own name. I had temporarily neglected Slideshare, but it has a high Google ranking in spite of my lack of effort, making it one that needs to go up my priority list for updating… many thanks to for the reminder, which I got via LinkedIn!

My search tips are:

  • use your name as a phrase search on Google, in quotation marks.
  • Don’t forget to look at the images results.
  • Google also gives you Youtube results: check there too.
  • If you’re an academic, check the results on Google Scholar too.

An online refresh, and a review of tools I value

dishcloth eloominator2

I wanted to record some of the social media related steps that I took, since leaving the University of Warwick, which researchers might also want to take when leaving an institution. Or avoid, by getting it right in the first place! Note that I haven’t been especially “social” in my use of these tools: they’re more about presenting a “shop window” image of my professional interests and work, and as tools for me in doing that work.

I’ve highlighted each separate tool or site mentioned just once in this post, so that it is possible to glance through it at the array of sites and tools I’ve explored using: obviously, the canny researcher would just use a few of these, to suit his/her own purposes and thus avoid having to maintain so many profiles! The tools that I’ve personally valued most lately are at the top of this post. Except Twitter, so I’ll just mention it here, as it sits behind (or in front of!) a lot of the other tools.

1) Starting a new blog here on WordPress because I was using Warwick’s own blogging platform before. I did that before leaving Warwick, so that I could point to the new blog from my old one. It’s been very simple and intuitive to build up my use of WordPress, and as a blogging platform it probably has a broader potential reach than Warwick blogs did, because of the WordPress community: not an aspect that I’ve exploited in particular, but I could spend some more time interacting with other bloggers and being more, well “social”!

2) Editing Twitterfeed to stop picking up on my old blog and start picking up on this one. Twitterfeed is one account that I forgot to update with my personal e-mail address before I left Warwick, but fortunately I remembered the password. Phew!

3) Install the Evernote web clipper onto my Chrome browser on my home computer.

4) Install the Diigo bookmarklet on my home computer. Both my Evernote and Diigo collections have been useful to me in writing a journal article.

5) Add Hootsuite as a homepage tab on my browser. (I also need to revise the settings for e-mails and texts from both Twitter and Hootsuite, and to generally clean this account up!)

6) Change my job title status on LinkedIn, and edited the text about me there, too.

These 6 steps were most important to me and I did them gradually, as I felt the need arose rather than all in one go but it’s anywhere between half a day and a day’s worth of time to have such a spring clean.

There are also social sites and tools that I’m leaving in the long grass a bit:

I’ve never been very active on Twitter, through Hootsuite or otherwise, but I’m aware that there is untapped potential here for me: it’s probably the place I would turn to if I intended to be more social in my use of the web.

I’m aware that I have out of date profiles on sites like ResearchGate, Mendeley and I’ve never bothered much with Facebook, since the earliest days, but they do all have my new email address.  Maybe I’ll get round to editing these too, one day. It wouldn’t be much work but they aren’t a priority for me.

I still use IFTTT, “If this then that” to link some of my accounts together a bit, but I could probably be more savvy about it if I investigated more. I know that I’m on Rebelmouse and it presents a good looking, illustrated newsletter menu of my tweets, but for now that’s all it does for me.

Without a university e-mail address, I find that I’m using Google mail a lot more than I did, and I am just beginning to use their calendar feature too. It’s not strictly classed as social media, but email is pretty social, I find! And of course Google comes with it’s own “Google+” social aspect, based on your profile. It’s increasing and pervasive, this insistence on Google+  through the Google tools and I’m resisting it for now.

Which reminds me that I have a Youtube collection that is tied to my Google profile too, which was never very work related: videos I worked on were uploaded by the Library. This probably needs some attention as I like to keep personal interests separate from professional. I can see that otherwise, I might end up accidentally tweeting my favourite knitting patterns alongside information about h-indices, and I really wouldn’t want to mix the two!

Every now and then, I remember my poor Slideshare collection. It’s a great place to upload a slideshow that you want to share, but it’s not a profile or a collection that I’ve cultivated.

You’d think that would be enough… but there’s a third tier, of Trello and Storify and Scoopit somewhere too. And probably lots of others that I haven’t even remembered, that I investigated in case they turned out to be useful for researchers, or for my own purposes. Storify was pretty useful, for collecting tweets on a topic, I remember.

Then there are the tools that I use in a more personal context but that researchers might value too: I use Skype a lot more now that I’m in Germany. I still have my (partial) book collection on Shelfari, and I do own a Kindle… ah,  but this list has to end somewhere, so enough is enough. Phew!