Choosing scholarly journals: reaching the (right) audience

Reaching the right audience is important to authors, and when you check out a journal’s ability to do this, you may come across other clues as to quality along the way.

cardboard silhouettes of people in black, and shades of grey

This blogpost is part of a mini-series I’ve been writing about choosing academic journals to publish in – or at least to send your manuscripts to because of course it’s not only author choice. As a librarian, I know about assessing journals for quality, and also about sources of information about journals, and working with both authors and publishers has also informed me. This post is not about defining the right audience (perhaps my piece about alternatives to scholarly journals might help in that arena), but this post focuses more on the question: How do you know what audience a journal has?

Below you will find out about some of the promotional activities that journals and journal publishers may do, but also things you can do yourself, whichever journal publishes your work.

Draft your article – with title & abstract

This is something of a chicken-and-egg thing, because of course you will want to write specifically for your journal of choice. However, your first draft could be revealing, about what sort of audience may be interested in your article. Have you written for an audience from within your own field, or do you think that it has an appeal beyond your own discipline?

Having a title and abstract (see below my tip about fitting keywords into these) may also help as you can use them in publisher tools that suggest journals to you, like these two:

I’ve not personally used either of these, so I don’t know how helpful they are: what do you think?

Read the journal: does it speak to you?

I am repeating one of my earliest tips here, and it is pretty obvious, but reading the journal is possibly the most important thing you could do, before submitting your manuscript (along with reading the instructions for authors). You will find out whether the journal speaks to scholars like you (or the audience you wish to reach), in a language that you understand and find helpful – or not.

I recently came across a great listing of “The shortest papers ever published“. I love the example of the co-authors who apparently deliberately set out to write the shortest maths paper ever, with two words and two figures. It makes little sense to me, but I wonder if it could also be of interest to fans of patchwork and other crafts. Perhaps this paper has some more accessible material written about it as well, but the presentation of this article makes me think that the journal is intended for scholars rather than crafters.

Don’t just read, however: dig around on the journal website. Familiarise yourself with the journal(s) on your shortlist and how they present and promote their articles. This will give you a good idea of how your own paper could be presented or promoted to others. If there is an “editors highlights” section then your article could be promoted in this sort of way.

Also, if you want to know the “market share” or readership of a journal that includes advertisements: you can sometimes find this out by looking at their information for advertisers.

Standards used

This will vary across the disciplines, but does the journal use standards which are common for your discipline, in the way that it presents article content? This might be about particular scripts, language or terms, display of formulae, diagrams or even referencing formats. These are all things which will speak to the expected audience of the journal.

Instructions or information for authors will also help you to see how rigorous a journal is in applying standards.

planet earth opened out flat, with blue ocean and white landmass

Who subscribes?

Journal home pages may boast of how many subscribers they have, and whether these are individual members or institutions. If this information isn’t on the home page, look out for annual reports. Such data might help you to compare two or more journals, in terms of the width of audience they can reach. Maybe you might want to be a bit more narrow and strategic, however. If there are certain researchers or research groups in your field, who you know you definitely would like to have read your article:

  • Search their library’s catalogue or journal listing: Will your target scholars have access?

You can also search union catalogues like WorldCat for your journal title, to see for yourself how many academic libraries provide access to the journal.

Open Access

If a journal is Open Access (OA), it won’t have any subscribers: instead, it may boast of website visits and download or citation metrics. Theoretically, the OA journal can reach a bigger, unlimited audience, but in practice you may want to dig around a bit more. (Open Access has its own entry in my mini-series, because it might be more important to you than other criteria.)

If the journal is not OA, you can also check out its policy about green OA deposit, on the SherpaRomeo site, so that you can see whether there is anything that you as the author can do, to broaden readership and promote your article through repositories and their communities.

Journal’s promotion to readers / discoverability

Whether the journal is a subscription or OA one, it’s worth digging a little deeper to find out more than just such numbers. In a way, this is about asking, what is the journal publisher doing with your content: are they offering a real service to their authors, making it discoverable? My bullet points below talk through some clues you could look for, but in order to know what is particularly important to your target audience, I recommend reading “How readers discover content in scholarly publications” – or at least look at the figures which are very revealing, by discipline and by high/low income countries. Figure 28, about how researchers discovered the last article they read is particularly interesting!

    • Where is the journal indexed? By this, I mean can you find it on abstracting and indexing or citation databases where scholars in your field search for literature? Is the journal “search engine optimised” for academic search engines? Check this out by visiting the databases and places where you search for information, and either:
        1. look at their list of journal titles/search for your journal by title
        2. or try to find one or two of the articles that you’ve read, from your journal of choice (try this on Google Scholar, for instance)
    • Promotional campaigns. You might not know if a journal does this sort of promotion, but if they don’t tell you on their website, or you didn’t find out about them through promotional activity then some clues include:
        1. Publisher website: what are they promising to new journals that want to join their publishing house, in terms of marketing for journals?
        2. Conferences: do they sponsor or are they present at/associated with any particularly important meetings for your field?
        3. Social media channels: if the journal uses Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, take a look at how they are using it. Do they tweet about topical world events and use this to promote articles to wider audiences, for instance? Do they use well-known hashtags for your discipline or field and appeal to academic audiences?
        4. Google searching: if you do a search for content in a journal, do you get a sponsored result? Keep an eye out for this!
        5. Call for papers / journal news /press releases : these things aren’t all going to promote your article exactly, but if they are handled well then they will raise the profile of the journal. The journal may also boast of press or media interest in their articles, which might broaden the audience of your article – if your article attracts media attention.
        6. Perhaps the journal has a way of making articles free to read once they have surpassed a certain number of downloads, as a promotional tool.

      stretched out globe with contintents in dark blue and the oceans full of radiating white arrows to indicate a network

  • Table of Content notifications /RSS feeds/ Search alerts are supported. If your journal offers a range of options for people to be told about their latest articles, then this will help to boost the number of visitors to their site – and therefore possible readership for your article when it appears in their notification.
    1. A Table of Contents (ToC) might be offered to visitors to a journal site, as an email update. Also, if your journal is listed on the JournalTocs site then this is a good sign in my view: it means that their ToC is accessible to discovery tools.
    2. I’m a bit old-fashioned in my use of the web, apparently: my RSS feed reader is now called “The Old Reader“!
    3. Search alerts are most likely supported on the indexing databases and academic search engines anyway, but some publisher platforms also offer search alerts.
  • Are Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) issued for articles? These help by:
    1. providing a permanent link to your article so that readers can share it with others
    2. making it easier for others to cite your work: they enable data importing into reference management tools & DOIs are even required in some citation styles (eg APA).
    3. enabling tracking of links to your article, so that readership & altmetrics for your own article can be calculated… among other benefits.

Which reminds me: does the journal make it easy for others to cite your work, for example by including a “how to cite this article” link or formatted reference?

Society members

Like the math journal I mentioned earlier which featured one of the shortest ever papers, journals which are published by membership organisations and societies will presumably bring a readership to your paper from among their members. If so, you might want to consider:

  • How many members do they have, and do all members get copies of or notifications with ToCs from the journal?
  • Are you yourself a subscriber/recipient of the journal – and are your peers? (Do YOU read it?!)
  • Does the journal come in print as well as electronic format? (See below for why I think this matters)

Print runs or e-only?

Most journals are available online, as e-Journals. Fewer are available in print as well, but journals which do have print runs will probably have been around for longer, so they have had time to establish good reputations. Journals with print runs may be more strict than other journals in their instructions to authors, due to page space and the cost of colour printing, etc. However, the print version is an opportunity for your article to reach audiences that the e-version is less likely to reach.

Advantages of print include:

  • Some readers prefer paper
  • Print journals can be very attractive items
  • They may reach general readers at the newsagents on the high street/at the airport, etc
  • Paper can be taken anywhere (OK, so can a tablet, but paper needs no battery and it’s less costly if your paper item gets wet!)
  • Those without reliable and fast Internet access, such as in third world countries (and remote areas of first world countries: but does the print copy reach them?)

For many researchers the ideal would be a journal with both print and electronic versions. But others find print too restrictive and the electronic journals do support new functions, so this is something for you to consider: what suits your research best?

Promote your article yourself

I usually finish my training sessions with this thought, but I’m going to mention it here instead this time. I know that publishers should be doing this for you, but even best selling authors do promotion of their work: so think about what you might be prepared to do yourself. Perhaps choose something from my list below – or read what advice your journal gives to authors, for promoting their articles. I like the advice on Nature’s website for authors.

  1. When you write the article, in the title & abstract, try to use all keywords which researchers with an interest in this topic might type in a search engine.
  2. Deposit your article into a Green OA repository: they will probably promote your article as well, such as on social media or their “latest additions” page.
  3. Put a citation for your latest journal article (or output) into your email signature
  4. Update academic profile sites: doing this through ORCID will make it easier, with one site to update & other profile sites can draw on that.
  5. Promote your article through social media: maybe you don’t have your own Twitter account or blog, but does someone in your department or institution have one? They will probably be glad to have content to send out! If you do use academic profile sites and social media channels yourself, then I recommend IFTTT as a place to tie them all together and optimise your posting to one channel so that it gets spread into other channels too.
  6. Create slides explaining/summarising your paper: these can be uploaded to slide sharing sites, also promoted through social media channels and perhaps also used in teaching or speaking opportunities. You don’t have to stop at slides: you could do a video clip or a podcast, or whatever suits your skills.
  7. Send links or actual print copies to colleagues who are working in similar areas. I personally find it harder to ignore paper on my desk, so for a really key contact, I might use the old-fashioned print option!

Finally, one of the ways you can ensure discovery of your article, is to do everything possible to make sure that it is cited. This is not so easy, it is slightly frowned upon as “gaming” the system, and my blogpost here is not about how to get cited. However, if you come across advice that might tip the odds (such as clearly stating “how to cite this article”, or choosing OA publishing), or if you are not sure about whether or not to self-cite, do bear in mind Figure 28 from that report I mentioned earlier! In the Humanities at least, following a citation is the second highest discovery route, after searching for articles.

A final thought

cardboard cutout silhouettes of people in grey and black, but one figure is bright green, standing out

I’m going to play devil’s advocate: perhaps it’s enough if your article is read by your co-authors, proof-readers you call on, the journal editor and their peer reviewers. It might depend on how specialist your research is, and how important to your field (and influential to your career) those co-authors and peer reviewers are! Perhaps you have bigger plans for your next article anyway: a good strategy is probably to publish in different types of journals. An article from earlier this year on InsideHigherEd urges scholars to broaden their focus, in terms of target audiences.  Just another reason why I’ve left impact factors and bibliometrics for last, in my mini-series. Watch this blog in the New Year for the next installment!

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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!) 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

How do researchers share articles? Some useful links

This is a topic that interests me: how do researchers choose what to read? Where are the readers on our platforms coming from, when we can’t track a source URL? What are researchers doing in collaboration spaces? (Research processes are changing fast in the Internet era.) Is journal article sharing that is taking place legal and/or ethical? I’m a big fan of Carol Tenopir‘s work investigating readers’ behaviours and I think there’s much to learn in this area. Sharing an article does not equate to it having been read, but it is a very interesting part of the puzzle of understanding scholarly communication.

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Usage is something that altmetrics are displaying (the altmetric.com donut has a section for “Readers” which incorporates information from Mendeley), and it’s just possible that usage would become a score to rival the impact factor, when evaluating journals. It does often seem to me like we’re on a quest for a mythical holy grail, when evaluating journals and criticising the impact factor!

Anyway, what can we know about article sharing? In my last blogpost I highlighted BrightTALK as a way to keep up to date with library themes. The LibraryConnect channel features many useful webinars & presentations (yes, I spoke at one of them), and I recently listened to a webinar on the theme of this blogpost’s title, which went live in December 2015. My notes & related links:

Suzie Allard of the University of Tennessee (colleague of Carol Tenopir) spoke about the “Beyond Downloads” project and their survey’s main takeaways. These include that nearly 74% of authors preferred email as a method of sharing articles. Authors may share articles to aid scientific discovery in general, to promote their own work, or indeed for other reasons, nicely illustrated in an infographic on this theme!

Lorraine Estelle of Project COUNTER spoke about the need for comprehensive and reliable data, and to describe just how difficult it is to gather such data. (I can see that tracking everyone’s emails won’t go down well!) There are obviously disciplinary and demographic differences in the way that articles are shared, and therefore read, and she listed nine ways of sharing articles:

  1. email
  2. internal networks
  3. the cloud
  4. reference managers
  5. learning manager
  6. research social networks
  7. general social networks
  8. blogs
  9. other

Lorraine also introduced some work that COUNTER are doing jointly with CrossREF: DOI tracking and Distributed Usage Logging that are definitely worth further reading and investigation!

Wouter Haak from Elsevier spoke about what you can see about readers of your articles on Mendeley’s dashboard, as an author. He also spoke about a prototype they are developing for libraries, on which institutions could see the countries where collaborations are taking place from within their own institution. More intriguingly (to me), he talked about a working group that he was part of, whereby major scientific publishers are apparently agreeing to support sharing of articles amongst researchers within collaboration groups, on platforms like Mendeley, Academia.edu and ResearchGate, which he describes as “Scholarly Collaboration Networks”. Through such a collaboration, the sharing activity across these platforms could all be tracked and reported on. Perhaps it is easier to lure researchers away from email than to track emails!

 

[Photo credit: Got Credit]

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. figsharehttp://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1057995
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, Academia.edu, 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.

PUBLICISE

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.

MONITOR

  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. (bit.ly 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!

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.

Thanking for re-tweets: efficient, friendly & worth a try

Twitter is really social media and not just a broadcast & info consumption channel. Sometimes though, it’s hard to find time to invest in being more social. Saying thanks for a re-tweet is something I’ve already blogged about, but I’ve never felt that I’ve got entirely the right approach. What happens when I’m on holiday, or ill, or just too occupied with other things?

Recently I saw a thank you to me, and I noticed that it was from a service that auto-tweets, but I still thought it sounded nice so I investigated. In general, I don’t value auto-tweets, and I don’t want to automatically, meaninglessly thank folks for everything, but I really like what Sumall do. Here is an example of a tweet that they sent out on my behalf:

My best RTs this week came from: @aleebrahim @SciPubLab @ilk21 #thankSAll Who were yours? http://sumall.com/thankyou 

This was favourited and re-tweeted by one of the recipients, so I’m not alone in liking the way these tweets are written!

Be sure to investigate the settings if you use Sumall. You might want to unsubscribe from the daily email reports if you’re not a social media pro. You can also edit your Twitter preferences and tell it not to bother bragging about your Twitter performance every week/month. And you can perhaps use it to investigate some stats so that you know which are your high-hitting tweets, so that you can strategically brag to your own managers!

 

Digital tools for research #ECRchat yesterday on Twitter

I took part in this online twitter chat yesterday, which discussed tools that researchers might find useful. There is a storify summary:

[View the story “Digital tools: ECRchat 23 April 2015” on Storify]

It was interesting to see how the chat built up, and people got more involved at the end of the hour, rather than at the beginning!

There have been quite a few useful ECRchats, and it’s one of the more active twitter hashtags that I follow, along with #phdchat, #openaccess #altmetrics and #peerreview

Academic blogs: they risk plagiarism, don’t they? Three key aspects to consider.

After attending the Digital Academic event in Warwick on 23 March, on behalf of Piirus, I reflected on one of the conversations relating to plagiarism. Should researchers worry about plagiarism, if they begin to blog? Here are my thoughts on three important aspects of this concern:

1.  Hey, that was my idea!

There are academics who would not put their ideas into a blog post, because releasing them into the open is to run the risk that others will get a journal article or book out on the ideas before they do. And its the journal articles and books that are the real currency of academic reputation, not blog posts. The argument against this concern is that a scholarly idea would be based upon substantial research: how could others re-do your research and publish before you? But there are times (perhaps discipline dependent) when a particular phrase or way of interpreting known research is what really makes a research output “zing”, and others could steal such a phrase or perspective.

Other researchers take the view that, if you blogged your idea, then you already claimed it as your own, so blogging is actually protection against plagiarism. This is great in theory: it’s publicly seen to be yours and so not even those with low moral standards would risk their reputations by plagiarising it. And if they did, you can prove that the material was yours first, with the date of your blog post’s publication.

Another reason to blog your ideas first, are apocryphal tales of papers languishing in peer review for just long enough for the referee to get their own paper on the same theme published. A quick blog post about your recent submission to a journal could be in your best interests!

However, we often say in English that “great minds think alike”, so in a case of apparent plagiarism, it might be just that someone else happened on the same idea. Your complaint that it is plagiarism might never be heard, or might be seen as sour grapes over what is mere bad luck. If you never let your idea out in the first place, you could at least be sure in such a scenario that it was just bad luck. On the other hand, if you blogged your idea then perhaps the person who stumbled on it too would get in touch and together you could create a richer, collaborative research output. Perhaps!

I can only conclude from these perspectives and scenarios that reaching the right audience at the right time is really crucial, and how you choose to do this will be a personal and discipline-specific decision. This is nothing new, but now there is the blog as a possible channel too. For some authors the only way to reach the right audience is in traditional journals, so those “zing” ideas are omitted from their blog, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t blog too! Maybe they could use a blog to promote a paper or book after publication. Blogs can be a great way to provide “teaser” content for a book, to promote it, if your publisher approves.

2.  Traditional publishers can provide protection

Some authors feel safer when their output is taken on by an established organisation, rather than releasing their work in what is essentially self-publishing through a blog. Even if you could prove that someone has plagiarised your work (from a blog, a journal article, a conference paper or any source), then you would need the scholarly community to recognise that someone else had committed bad practice, to get any kind of redress. To achieve that recognition could take considerable energy, time and resources to even attempt to achieve.

If your idea was first published by a society or publisher then they might have processes and resources with which to negotiate with the producer of the plagiarising article, and so provide you with support in your complaint. It is possible, but of course not guaranteed that you will find this supportive: your interests and the publisher’s interests might not coincide.

A case of plagiarism may also be a breach of copyright, and you may have the option of engaging a lawyer to defend your copyright. But remember that copyright law is all about the right to make money from your intellectual output. Perhaps a publisher will protect your work by way of protecting their own income: they will certainly understand commercial aspects, but of course their interests and yours might differ.

3.  Rejected for self-plagiarism

It could happen: your journal article is submitted to the most prestigious journal in your field and you get a rejection because substantial chunks of the the content is found to appear elsewhere. Or perhaps worse: your article is published but then retracted as it is recognised as a redundant publication, with content that has previously been published. What a mess!

Of course, this regrettable situation could happen from one journal article to the next and not only from blog content. In fact, if your blog is aimed at a different audience, then you’re less likely to inadvertently repeat phrases in what amounts to self-plagiarism than when writing traditional outputs. There is also always the option of saving your blog post for after the publication has come out.

Final thoughts

The risk of plagiarism from others reading your blog post is no worse than when you have a conversation with someone at a conference, and in fact openness can lead to collaborations and other benefits, which is why that conference conversation might have happened in the first place. The risk of plagiarism is one that you need to weigh for yourself, and as the speakers at the Digital Academic event described, blogging brings opportunities that traditional publications alone might not do, so that risk might be one worth taking.

My favourite social media “rules”

If you’re thinking of creating your own social media strategy (or updating an existing one), then you could do worse than read through these 80 “rules”. It seems aimed at companies using social media for financial gain, and some of the advice seems suitable to those building social media tools. A lot of it is focussed on the role of the audience or tool users, and much of it is just good advice for us all. Here are excerpts from a few of my favourites:

  • No. 9. “Go wherever your audience is”: So, choose Twitter or Facebook, or Google+, according to the people who you want to reach.
  • No. 12. “Update your page or delete it”: Easier said than done, but definitely good advice!
  • No. 23. “Just because you can measure everything doesn’t mean that you should”. They also develop the point to say that “likes and mentions look good on a report, but will not keep you in a job”. They suggest that ROI (Return on Investment), or NPS (Net Promoter Score) will, but perhaps your own job will depend on other criteria!
  • No. 24 Social media is not cheap or easy. (It later explains in rule 74 that Gangnam Style was a carefully planned success, rather than a viral success!)
  • No. 42 “If fans start publishing and sharing your content without permission, offer to help”

Finally, lots of these rules seem to say that it’s all about speed, not perfection, and that you should have a higher purpose. To paraphrase: get stuff out there, and make sure it’s going to make lives easier, happier, or more rewarding!

 

Further thoughts on Peer Review & speeding up traditional journal publication

Back in January, I wrote about Peer Review. It’s a big topic! Here are some more reflections, following on from my last blog post about it.

Speeding things up, in journal article publication. (On “Peer review takes a very long time”)

picture of a pocket watch

I wrote that peer review “takes a very long time” because many scholars want to get their work out there to be read, as soon as possible. Of course, this is a loose concept and “a very long time” is relative. Some might think that I am criticising publishers for being slow, but I’m not pointing the finger of blame! I know that publishers have been addressing the issue and peer review has sped up in recent times, especially since there is now software to can help track it: SPARC has a handy round-up of manuscript submission software. However, the peer reviewers themselves must respond and they are under a lot of pressure. The system can only be as fast as the slowest reviewer, and there are all sorts of (entirely understandable) circumstances that might slow an individual down.

I should take a look at some of the developments that have helped to speed up traditional scholarly communication, though:

Scholarly publishers have invested in initiatives like Sage’s OnlineFirst to help peer reviewed research articles to reach audiences before journal issues are complete, thus cutting publication waiting periods.

Some publishers have also introduced mega journals with cascading peer review systems, which are also often based on Gold Open Access. Impact Story’s blog has a great post about how authors can make the most of these types of journal.  These speed up an article’s time to publication because after a peer review that led to rejection from one title, your paper can get fast-tracked through to publication in the next “tier” title at the same publisher, without the need to submit again and start the process from the very beginning.

And of course, as a librarian I should mention the sophisticated alerting services that help researchers to find out about each others’ papers as soon as possible: researchers are no longer dependent on the print copy landing on their desk, and finding the time to browse through the table of contents!

Putting it online yourself is quicker: why not try that?

Some research repositories might take non-peer-reviewed content, and in theory, authors could always put a copy of their work on a personal web-page before peer review if they’re confident in it and just want it out there. There are disciplinary differences in authors’ reactions to this idea. This article in PLOS Biology makes the case for the biology community following in the footsteps of physics, in using pre-print servers to share such early versions. Its authors point out that there are benefits to doing this, including:

Posting manuscripts as preprints also has the potential to improve the quality of science by allowing prepublication feedback from a large pool of reviewers.

Many authors would not share their early manuscripts in this way, because they value peer review as a process of polishing their work. I think this is a reason for peer review to take place in the open, because then it becomes apparent just how important a contribution a peer reviewer might have made to a paper. As I said in my previous post, peer reviewers should get credit for their work, but perhaps I should have made it clear that I’m not talking about it looking good on their CV, or their peer review activity going down well with their Head of Department!

 

Even authors who are happy to share un-polished pre-peer-review versions of their work (aka pre-prints, aka manuscripts) might be wary if it is not the norm in their discipline, because it might prejudice their chances of publication in the big-name journals of their field. Authors will likely have to agree to clauses stating that the work has not previously been published elsewhere. When I worked at the University of Warwick, in the early days of their institutional repository we surveyed a number of big publishers to ask if they would consider repository deposit to constitute prior publication, and thus a breach of this kind of clause in their authors’ agreement. Some said yes, some said no.

This is not such a clear area for authors, and for many it’s not worth the time of enquiring or the risk of finding out the hard way, i.e. through rejection of their article because plagiarism detection software identifies it as previously published online. Researchers need the quality “badge” that a journal gives them, for their CV and their institution’s performance review processes: publishing articles is not all about communication to other researchers, but it is also about kudos.

 

For some authors therefore (I would guess most), the earliest version they might share would be a post-peer-review version (sometimes called a post-print, sometimes called an author’s final version), which if there are no embargo periods from the publisher, would become available at the same time as their article became available through an OnlineFirst scheme.

 

 

Post peer review: commentary and altmetrics

I mentioned post publication peer review in my previous post: I thought about it as an alternative to peer review then, and perhaps I should think about it more as something that is complementary to peer review. Perhaps peer review doesn’t need to be either traditional or post publication but it is already really a process that doesn’t end with publication.

 

There are many ways that researchers are sharing and commenting on each others’ work after it has been published, therefore after the peer review process for traditional articles. We can track these interactions on sites like Researchgate and Mendeley, and through altmetrics software that collates data on such interactions… but altmetrics and its role is a subject I’ve looked at separately already, and it’s one I’m likely to return to again later!