I’ve got a paper almost ready to be submitted. The co-authors are taking one last look, I’m making a few minor changes to figures, and I need to do the final formatting of the references. In order to do that last step, though, I need to decide to which journal the paper is going to be submitted.
There are two journals which would be appropriate for the paper. Both of them are well respected in the field and their impact factors are nearly identical. Both are run by large private publishing houses, one of which used to be involved in the arms trade. I haven’t heard any negative mutterings about either one, and my PhD advisor/co-author didn’t try to steer me to either of them.
So how’s a girl to choose? What my PhD advisor suggested was looking at the time to publication of both journals and selecting the one where things got through the pipeline faster. Seems like as reasonable criteria as any, so I did. And like a good scientist, I made a graph of the data.
Hypothesis: I will submit my paper to Blue Journal, because I like the title better and I vote Democratic.
Methods: I pulled up the two most recent issues (at the time of the analysis) of each journal and randomly selected five articles from each issue. (OK, not so random, I picked the titles that looked the most interesting.) One the front page of each article, I found the information on when the manuscript was received, when it was accepted, when it appeared on line, and when the print issue was produced. (Note: I threw out one data point where the paper spent >3.5 years between submission and revised submission. I suspect that there were other issues at hand.)
Figure 1. Time to publication for selected articles in Blue Journal and Red Journal.
As shown in Figure 1, the two journals are pretty comparable. The average time from submission to print is 478 days for the Blue Journal and 492 days for the Red Journal. When talking on the scale of 1.3 years from beginning to end, I’m not going to sweat a 14 day difference in average publication time.
A closer examination of the data, however, reveals a divergence in the data. There are appreciable differences in lag times at different points in the publication process between the two journals.The time associated with the review process (manuscript submitted to revised manuscript received) was only 145 days for Blue Journal as compared to 235 days for Red Journal. Conversely, Blue Journal was slower getting accepted articles to print than was Red Journal.
Discussion: The process of going from manuscript submission to revised submission depends on three players: the editors, the reviewers, and the authors. I don’t have enough data yet to say where the sticky wicket is in the process, but I suspect from my own experience that it is the reviewers or the authors and not the editors, who should have a relatively minor role to play in this stage of the game. As an author who has sat on revisions for months (shame on me, I know), I am inclined to give less weight to the receipt to revision time lag than I am to the accepted to in print time lag, where the major player is the publisher. Again, this is tempered by my own experience. I don’t know too many authors inclined to sit on uncorrected proofs.
Conclusion: Based on the rate at which accepted papers appear in print, I am compelled to submit the paper to Red Journal, even though it has a slightly longer overall time to publication. An additional factor is that as I was pulling articles for the analysis, I was much more excited by topics in Red Journal than Blue Journal. It’s nice when quantitative and qualitative analyses confirm each other, even if the hypothesis is proven wrong.
Future Research: Results of a test case of submission to Red Journal will be reported in approximately 1.3 years.