I read an extremely good article this week on Strategic Approaches to Getting Published, written by Phil Ward (University of Kent) as well as a presentation by Frances Bell (University of Leicester) (Developing a Publication Strategy). Now that we’re in the assessment period for the next REF exercise (likely to be REF 2020) we need to focus on personal publication strategies. This post shares some of the key messages and advice on personal publication strategies:
Have a publication strategy and review it every year or two – Try to keep in mind the direction in which you want your research to develop, and what publications will help to build your profile. Try not to be diverted from this! Your strategy should include different media and channels. It should include information on your goals (what will you publish in the next week, year, five years, etc), uncertainties and development needs, and resources available to you (e.g. a mentor, peer review of your paper prior to submission, access to funds for open access charges, etc). You should regularly check progress against your goals.
Balanced publications portfolio – Try and develop a balanced publication portfolio. You don’t always need to be targeting top journals, and sometimes you need to balance several factors:
- Audience: who do you want to appeal to? Should you be thinking beyond your narrow disciplinary boundaries, or focussing more intensively on it?
- Impact: do you want the findings of your research to be felt outside of academia?
- Career Progression: will the publication help in the development of a strong CV?
- REF: will the publication be a strong, positive contribution to your discipline?
- Timing: do you need to get something out quickly, or work longer on a discipline-changing piece of research?
- Co-authorship: would co-authorship help or hinder your publication record?
- Open Access: will be increasingly important for the REF, but is it worth considering to help with your citations and the impact of your research?
Choosing the right journals – the ‘right journal’ is often viewed as being one with a high impact factor however this is an archaic and somewhat controversial system, and is based on the average number of citations over a two-five year period. The system is open to abuse, and varies widely between disciplines. However, it is still seen as a rough and ready indicator of esteem.
The following video is by Karin Dumstrei, Senior Editor at EMBO Journal. It is worth 3 minutes of your time to watch and listen to the tips she gives!
Her advice for writing a journal article is to always:
- Choose a project that excites you;
- Tell a good story;
- Select the right journal;
- Avoid the three ‘don’ts’, namely: dont’ overstate your case, ignore others, or hold back data;
- Be responsible with your data – i.e. say what you see rather than what you want to see.
High impact journals tend to have broader audiences, so you need to:
- avoid jargon;
- concentrate on the message;
- write shorter articles (e.g. Science articles are generally 3-4 pages);
- avoid too much detail. Additional data can be provided in ‘supplementary material’.
- Title: make it engaging but keep it short, and avoid technical terms. Also avoid terms which might give the impression of limited reach and significance of your research, e.g. ‘a local case study’ or ‘a small investigation’;
- Story: structure your article round a good, cohesive, logical ‘story’;
- Step Change: emphasise what makes your research important. Talk about ‘step changes’ rather than ‘incremental progresssions’;
- Conclusion and Evaluation: a strong, persuasive and critical conclusion is essential for giving your paper clout;
- Cover Letter: ‘sell’ your article and particularly why it is right for the journal you are targeting;
- Feedback: get as much critical evaluation as possible;
- Rejection: never take no for an answer. Rejection is an inevitable part of the process. Don’t be discouraged, but take on board comments and criticism and keep trying be resubmitting.
Consider the role of social media in your publication strategy – social media has been shown to dramatically increase the academic and societal impact of research (see my previous posts on the benefits of using Twitter). Social networking platforms such as Twitter are excellent for promoting and sharing your research, as are blogs either by writing your own blog, contributing posts to other blogs, or commenting on posts written by others. Your publications strategy should include social media outlets. For advice on using social media as part of your publication strategy please contact Sally Gates in the R&KEO.