Journal Impact Factor: All That Matters

The impact factor, often abbreviated as IF, is a measure reflecting the average number of citations that a paper published in a journal receives over a defined period of time. Conceptually developed in the 1960s by Eugene Garfield, founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), IF is now frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field. Journal impact factors are published annually in Science Citation Index (SCI) Reports.

Researchers are often conditioned to believe that IF matters the most. Publication in journals with a high IF is regarded as an indication of the quality of the research published, and by implication, the quality of its authors. Therefore, it is not surprising that publishing in high IF journals is an aspiration for most scientists as it often plays an important role in their career prospects and progression.

High IF journals are widely read. But there has been a discrepancy regarding the importance of journal IF among researchers. Journal ranking systems have evolved in the present-day world and allow for better comparisons. Sadly, they are often ignored even when such rankings may benefit a given journal. But even these systems are not foolproof and can be quite flawed, especially those assuming that the scientific value or quality is less if the scope of a discussion is small. A more appropriate approach could be to say that the best journals are those that can rank high in one or more categories or ranking systems, rather than reducing the overall journal quality and usefulness to a single number.

IF, originally designed for purposes other than the individual evaluation of the quality of research, is undoubtedly a useful tool provided its interpretation is not stretched far beyond its limits of validity. Having said that, the research quality cannot be measured solely using IF. It should be used with caution, and should not be the dominant or only factor accounting for the credibility of a research.

How to resurrect a rejected manuscript?

Rejection of your research paper by a journal does not necessarily imply that your research is fundamentally unsuitable for publication. This is because rejection depends on several factors that might not be solely linked to the main thrust of your research. Besides, the reviewers who evaluate your paper are not familiar with your credentials and therefore might not emphasize the positive factors in your paper. Therefore, it is important that you do not get disheartened or overly disappointed. With certain modifications and perseverance, it is definitely possible to resurrect your research and see it through to publication.

In fact, there are several positive takeaways from a rejection. The well-known chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie carried out a systematic study of the rejection procedure and concluded that most manuscripts do not go through large-scale modifications on their way from a rejection to eventual publication. Therefore, a rejection does not signify that your paper is beyond redemption. In fact, there is every chance that the paper will ultimately find its destined forum for publication.

On the other hand, a study by Vincent Calcagno, ecologist at the French Institute for Agricultural Research in Sophia-Antipolis, has concluded that a research paper goes through several iterations and modifications from the time of its first submission until its final acceptance. These changes contribute significantly to the improvement of the research. The study also observed that research papers that have gone through one or more rejections before publication tend to be cited more than those that have been published following their first submission. This trend is evident after about three to six years following publication.

Calcagno argues that the influence of peer reviews and the inputs from referees and editors makes papers better and each rejection improves the quality of the manuscript from the last attempt. There is also a theory among certain editors to “reject more, because more rejections improve quality.”

Therefore, instead of giving in to despair, it is important to patiently evaluate the reasons for rejection and the associated comments, and to act on them in future submissions of the paper. You can also take recourse to professional editing services to refine your manuscript and help in the submission of the paper to other journals.

The following are some guidelines for first-time writers in making their papers more acceptable:

  • Select an innovative and interesting research topic.
  • Ensure that your writing is well-organized and lucid as it flows from its aim to the conclusion through the methodology, results, and discussion sections.
  • Stay away from plagiarized text and ensure that your research is original and unpublished.
  • Select the most suitable journal that has a good scope for your research topic.
  • Follow the reviewer’s suggestions on your paper in case of a rejection, so that it is in better shape for the next submission.

In case the reviewers cite the reason of unsuitability of your research for the target journal, it is important to prepare and resubmit it to another more suitable journal. If it gets rejected again, keep working on your paper and make repeated attempts at submission until it gets accepted. After all, patience and perseverance are two important virtues of any writer. As the well-known 19th-century American writer Elbert Hubbard said, “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”

Why journal articles face rejection?

When a manuscript is submitted to a journal, it undergoes a thorough quality check under the peer review process before being sent to the chief editor. Most articles face rejection during this process. There are several reasons for this.

1. The article is beyond the scope of the journal

Your article can be immediately rejected if it is not appropriate for the journal’s readership and does not meet the journal’s aims and scope. Besides, it is also likely to be rejected by the editorial board if it does not match the specified journal format. For example, if a review article is submitted to a journal that does not have the scope for publication of such articles, the editorial board is likely to reject the paper summarily.

2. The paper lacks key elements

The paper is unlikely to be approved if it is incomplete and lacks any important information, such as author’s affiliations, e-mail address, keywords, figures and tables, in-text citation of figures and tables, references, a proper structure, etc.

Lack of novelty and originality in the paper or suspicion of plagiarized information can also lead to an almost instantaneous rejection. Incomprehensible articles that show poor language skills of the author are also not acceptable.

3. The paper failed the technical screening process

If you have submitted your paper to more than one journal simultaneously, a particular journal might consider it unethical. Consequently, the paper is likely to fail the technical screening process. Even papers that do not meet the technical standards of the preferred journals are also rejected in the screening process. For example, a paper might be rejected for non-compliance with certain points in the submission checklist.

4. The paper is conceptually weak

While conceptualizing the paper, the author might fail to resolve certain fundamental problems that could result in unoriginal or impractical results. These problems include flaws in the study design, incomplete data analysis, use of an inappropriate method for statistical analysis or a poorly formulated research question. These basic defects might lead to rejection of the paper.

5. The paper is not well prepared for the journal

A paper is liable to be rejected if it is not formatted according to the journal guidelines. Disregarding such guidelines might result in excessive use of jargons, deviation from the focus of the journal, improper formatting of figures and tables, poor organization of contents, inadequate description of the methodology, poor writing standards, complex and convoluted sentences, and frequent grammatical errors. These factors will have a negative impact on the reviewers and will probably contribute to a rejection.

6. The journal is overloaded with submissions

Sometimes, a journal receives a flood of submissions within a short period. This restricts the available space to include papers in several forthcoming issues. Consequently, rejection is inevitable for many submissions, including some high-quality manuscripts. Conversely, a journal might receive several papers on the same or related topic. In such a situation, the journal will be forced to cherry pick and might return some well-conceptualized papers in the process.

7. Journals have their decision-making policy

Rejection of the paper also depends on a journal’s decision-making policy, which varies from journal to journal. Some journals forward the paper for a second screening if they are unsure about the quality of the manuscript. On the other hand, editors of certain journals aim to publish papers that are related to current research topics and their acceptance rate is directly proportional to the number of articles received in this genre.

As evident, there is a gamut of reasons for the rejection of a paper and the author needs to take cognizance of these facts for a better understanding of the rejection process. The author needs to keep in mind that the quality of a paper is not the sole reason for rejection; several other reasons can also contribute to the rejection of a submitted paper.

Effective Peer Reviewing

What do you mean by “Peer Reviewing”?

A peer review is a planned and well-organized process that aims to improve the quality of a research paper. It is the most effective feedback-generation system that takes place during the development of a research paper.

Who is considered as a “peer”?

A peer is someone who is related to the field of study, doing similar kind of research, and an expert in the mentioned area of research. A peer is neither the author nor the person who has provided grants for successful completion of the research paper.

Types of Peer Review:

In broader terms, peer reviews are classified into two types: internal peer review (which includes the editorial team members) and external peer review (which includes experts in the particular field of study).

The peer review process looks for:

  • Suitability of the paper for the target journal, which may include cross-checking with the journal requirements and scope of publication of the research article. The reviewer’s objective is to identify the uniqueness of the conducted study.
  • Relevance of the intext citations as well as those in the reference section.
  • Accuracy of the statistical analysis and correct presentation of the data.
  • Proper and accurate formatting of the text, tables, figures, references, etc.
  • Confirmation of the inclusion of the conflict of interest disclosure, copyright forms duly signed by the authors, citation of the ethical consideration, etc.
  • Relevant citation in the conclusion.

There are several advantages of peer reviewing. The process:

  • Leads to the generation of a high-quality publication by improving the contents.
  • Helps in the improvement of the structure of the paper.
  • Provides a logical view of the research paper.
  • Enables the author to use critical feedback in a productive or constructive manner by incorporating important changes in the research paper.
  • Helps authors by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the research work.
  • Helps authors in their learning process for future research.

 

Conversely, an inadequate or below-par peer review might lead to the following problems:

  • Poor error and fraud detection.
  • Slower process for finalizing the paper.

 

Nonetheless, the advantages far outweigh the cons. Therefore, the peer review process needs to be adopted by research writers as it helps them improve the quality of the research writing.

The Knowledge Web: Illuminating Your Research

The scope of research is beyond measure and cannot be structured or contained in a single research guide for which knowledge web is need of the hour. Considering the vast well of information, researchers often face problems in zeroing-in on articles that are most suited for their research area. They often take recourse to the World Wide Web in their quest for articles of interest. In this process, researchers use the web crawlers of their favorite search engines. This generates hundreds of sites that store information on the topic of interest. Usually, the first few search results show articles that are cited repeatedly and are the most relevant references for the research. This leads researchers to the important journals and authors related to the field of interest and helps them adopt strategies accordingly.

Although the search results are displayed within few seconds, the researcher needs to devote considerable time in building a mental model of a research field and giving the most apt query for the search engine to return the best and most relevant results. Therefore, a mechanical search on the Web will be grossly insufficient. Instead, the researcher needs to conduct a search for material other than that found on the Web, and must follow up with a wide reading on the subject. That will help the researcher identify the precise data or information require from the search engine. Even after thorough scrutiny of the material, there is a high risk of information masking that could lead to missing out on an important piece of work.

The best way to obtain an overview of a research field is to conduct knowledge domain visualizations. This process expands the ability of researchers to recognize and analyze a knowledge area through several quantitative and qualitative methods. They are able to use tools such as visual analytics and information visualization to analyze data, retrieve information, and mine text from available sources. This process will answer most of their research queries and help avoid repeated searches on the Internet.

Knowledge domain visualizations save valuable time of the researcher in searching, indexing, and structuring data. Knowledge domain visualizations are not only beneficial for individual researchers or a single subject, but also provide a platform for accessing specific publications. It even provides a quick overview of a research field.

In searching for research material on the Web, the automated or mechanical procedure falls woefully sort. On the other hand, manual interventions can improve results significantly and lead to a more substantial research output.

Scientific Journals: The Knowledge Storehouse

Scientific journals date back to 1665, when the publication of research results began. A scientific journal publishes scientific data periodically on recent breakthroughs in the field of science.

Who benefits from scientific journals?

At present, there is widespread acceptance of scientific journals and articles published in them. This magnifies the importance of the researches brought to light in such publications. It has been proven that scientific journals are of great import for academicians, researchers, and students of science and allied fields. The journals also have a profound impact on the overall educational system.

Advantages derived from scientific journals

  • Scientific journals promote and develop active learning skills among students and researchers. In fact, current research shows that reading journal articles provides an impetus for deeper thinking.
  • As you start browsing different research articles in journals, you will notice that the findings are  well organized and the overall conclusions are backed by evidence. The scientific articles carry research-oriented analyses or findings of researchers as well as students.
  • The research papers tend to keep pace with recent developments in the relevant field.
  • Researchers or students can derive valuable information for their own research area because they come across timely updates through these publications.
  • Scientific journals widen the scope for exploring one’s own research subject.
  • They help readers gain in-depth knowledge, especially through citation of case studies that can act as a research base. This encourages a thorough analysis and often leads to the formulation of novel hypotheses.
  • Even if you are engaged in research toward the submission of your doctoral thesis, you can benefit from valuable feedback if you publish papers in relevant scientific journals.
  • It is possible to search for and access the latest research topics easily from scientific publications.
  • Academic credentials of researchers receive a major boost from published papers in scientific journals, which stands them in good stead for their career objectives.
  • Scientific journals provide a platform for research scholars to express and pen down their research ideas at length.
  • Scientific journals represent a varied spectrum because each journal represents a specific stream of research. Such scientific publications bridge the gap between articles and books by publishing the researches of different authors, thus creating a single interactive platform.

BioArt from a Bio-artist’s Perception

BioArt is broadly defined as an imaginary live art form that involves micro-organisms; living, semi-living, or assisted living tissues; tissue-cultured cells or tissues; transgenic tissues; biological life processes; dead plants, animals, or even insects; body fluids or serum; and other living organisms.

Bio-artists collate the above-mentioned elements in terms of the technological aspects of science. Often, BioArt raises ethical queries related to the subject of the art.

History of BioArt

The term “BioArt” was coined by Eduardo Kac in 1977 in the context of his famous artwork Time Capsule.

Alexander Fleming was one of the early bio-artists. In fact, Fleming is arguably regarded as the father of BioArt because he was the first scientist to work on micro-organisms (especially bacteria) that were being differentiated by color when grown on a petri plate.

Scientific Domains of BioArt

Domains of BioArt or image making involve descriptions garnered through different scientific methods like genomic mapping, Electrocardiograph (ECG) Electroencephalograph (EEG), Magnetic Resonance Imaging  (MRI), electrophoretic patterns, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques, protein synthesis and visualization, and phenotypic or genotypic variations.

Advantages of BioArt

  • Artists have succeeded in making BioArt a platform for sharing the beauty of the research field and related innovative scientific ideas.
  • This type of biological art captures the essence of nature.
  • Although BioArt is a recent art form, it has encouraged a healthy debate among scholars, media, and the laity.
  • BioArt can also be used to represent complex scientific researches in simple forms such as visual or performing arts.
  • BioArt is a fusion of art and science because it is concerned with the presentation of complex life processes as well as vital interactions experienced in the environment.
  • Besides the scientific arena, BioArt has carved a niche in literature, psychology, and allied disciplines.
  • BioArt has led to the introduction of a sub-field called Biocouture, which is implemented in both fashion and textile industries. Biocouture has also reinvented the concepts of bio-designing and presentation of the art forms.

Dark Side of BioArt

  • A major concern regarding BioArt is the disposal of living tissues that are included in the art process.
  • Without the use of laboratory equipments and basic scientific expertise, creation of BioArt is a distant dream.
  • Many bio-artists transform their body into a work of art. One of the burning examples is the work of Stelarc. In his “Ear on Arm,” he incorporated a live tissue BioArt that resembled the shape of an ear and surgically introduced it into his left arm.
  • In some instances, manipulation of the genetic constitution of an organism was done for the sake of introducing an effective BioArt, just for entertainment and pleasure.
  • Many research scholars consider BioArt to be an unethical practice.

How does the publication cycle work?

What is the publication cycle?

The publication cycle is an inseparable and critical aspect that every researcher or writer needs to understand. This is because the publication cycle gives a tangible form to a theoretical concept, an idea, or an expression of writing talent. To use a commercial term, it is much like an assembly line where an idea passes through various inter-related processes and iterations before it develops into its final published form.

Content and medium: Two determinants of the publication cycle

The publication cycle differs based on two factors: the nature of content and the medium of publication. A writing output can belong to one of a myriad range of topics and publication mediums.  Some writers present their ideas in the form of research articles on various topics in, inter alia, journals, dissertations, conference papers, and scholarly books. Conversely, the output of other writers might be in the form of informal writings that appear in magazines catering to the general reader.

Apart from the nature of content, publications also differ in the medium selected for publication. Unlike most of the 20th century, publications are no longer limited to the print medium. In fact, the digital revolution and advent of the Internet have given an entirely new dimension to publishing with the popularity of articles and even books published on the web and in the electronic medium. Therefore, one needs to understand that the publication cycle, or the intervening processes for an idea to reach the reader, is determined by several factors. These factors determine the processes and the time cycle for a writing to be published in its final form.

Electronic publications include two categories. The first is the category of online publications on the World Wide Web. These include personal web pages of the author, individual blogs, online videos or presentations, as well as online research journals or periodicals. The second category includes electronic books, often referred to as e-books, which are bought and sold in the market, but the reader can access them only by using software on a digital device or a personal computer.

Conversely, the more conventional publications in print include research papers or reports published in journals, magazines, and books.

What does the publication cycle involve?

The publication cycle starts with the generation of an idea by the author or writer. This first step toward publication is basically an individualistic approach in the sense that it is a creative process and not a time-bound phenomenon.

After an idea takes root in the writer’s mind, the next step is to undertake the research that will help develop that idea into a well-constructed piece of writing. In this step, the authors search for existing literature on the relevant subject and identify the lacunae in such writing. This helps them make a useful contribution to their area of research.

The research work is followed by an informal communication among the authors (in case of multiple authors) that includes regular conversations on the phone and meetings for discussion of their research output. This stage provides a common platform for different authors to share ideas and views on a particular topic or idea of research.

The next major step involves report research. This could either be an informal approach adopted by the author or authors to share their research on their individual blogs or web pages, or a formal approach that includes white paper publications, report publications such as lab or research reports, and presentations at conferences and colloquia.

The next step is to report the findings as a publication in journals and/or magazines. Such publications provide a platform for popularization of the authors’ work, or to bring the research to the notice of a wider readership.

The culminating point of the publication cycle of a research idea occurs in a book or encyclopedia publication.  This is the most formalized medium of publishing a research work, and is recognized as the ultimate achievement for a researcher.

Each stage of the publication cycle is relevant because it constitutes a step in the ladder toward the final form of a research idea. Considered holistically, an understanding of the publication cycle facilitates the development of an efficient strategy for publication of a research work in an organized manner.

Conference papers vs journal publications: Which is the better publication route?

In course of their research, academicians often need to interact and exchange views with their colleagues to provide a firmer ground for their inferences. Such meetings help them debate their research topic with other like-minded participants and then assimilate the information that is presented through audio-visual media to produce a more conclusive finding. Therefore, seminars and colloquia are an essential part in the growth of any research. Often the proceedings of such meetings are recorded in the form of a collection of papers that were presented during the event.

On the other hand, a journal publishes research work, either on the web or as printed copies, after a rigorous process of review and a long approval cycle. However, once published in a reputed journal, your paper has an audience that you would otherwise have never had access to.

Why opt for conferences?

Conference proceedings have several advantages for a researcher. This is because conferences:

– Give a platform for interaction among research scholars who share a common interest.

– Have a faster review process and generate a faster feedback.

– Are often characterized by short presentations, so they manage to present the aim of the research clearly without consuming too much time.

– Include discussions sessions, which encourages exchange of views and ideas on the presentations.

– Allow interaction of scholars from all over the world who are engaged in the same or allied research fields.

– Have a predictable and time-bound review time.

– Help the presentations to be properly archived for reference in similar events held elsewhere on related research topics.

– Involve sponsors, who allure researchers with publishing credits and personal and professional benefits for attending the conference.

– Have high visibility and often leave a greater impact on the academic fraternity.

– Mainly focus on recent researches or up-to-date academic endeavors, unlike a journal that often takes a long time to finally publish a research.

Demerits of a conference publication

On the flip side, conferences have the following drawbacks:

– The review process is often superficial or cursory, i.e., there is no second round of reviewing.

– They have a low acceptance rate.

– The feedback from the research fraternity may be lukewarm compared to a publication in a journal.

– Economies of scale work against good quality publications because the publication is one of many expense heads for the organizers. Therefore, the production quality often leaves much to be desired.

Why opt for a journal publication?

A publication in a reputed journal presents the following advantages for the researcher:

– Research papers that are published in journals are thoroughly peer reviewed, including multiple review phases.

– The quality of research published in a journal is of a high standard.

– Journal publications carry deep analysis of a research work.

– Useful feedback is received from the reviewers, which help bring about substantive changes in the paper to improve the research analysis.

– Word and page limits are longer in the case of journals. This gives more scope to the researcher to express his or her thoughts and interpretations.

– A journal gives a chance to authors to revise their work based on the feedback and then re-submit it for further review and publication.

– Conference papers are never considered the ultimate in publishing a research. Often, conference papers can be converted to journal papers and published in reputed journals with a high impact factor.

Demerits of journal publications

There are also few demerits of journal publications. These include:

– The publication process is time-consuming.

– Due to such delays, the research topic might get outdated.

– Selection of journals is a difficult task. Sometimes, a good research is published in a sub-standard journal.

Both these routes to publication have their pros and cons. It must also be noted that conference proceedings and journal publications are not mutually exclusive; a situation may arise where one form of a research work might be published in the conference proceedings and another, perhaps more developed, form might be published in a journal. Therefore, for a more diverse and in-depth research output, both conference proceedings and journal publications need to play a significant part.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure

A fundamental requisite of a publication in any reputed journal is the need to provide readers with unbiased and unambiguous research. Toward this objective, a published article should disclose whether the author or authors had any competing interest or conflict of interest while preparing the article. Consequently, the onus is on the journal to publish such disclosures in the paper so that readers, who include researchers, professionals, practitioners and scholars, are aware of them while evaluating the paper.

According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), there is a case of “competing interest” or “conflict of interest” when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Such conflict is likely to affect the credibility of the journal as well as that of the author(s).

Conflict of interest may arise from potential relationships or allegiances, or from hostilities against particular groups or organizations. It may occur when a specific factor influences one’s judgments or actions significantly. In such situations, personal gain has an ascendancy over scholarly output.

Today, most journals publish papers that are not only based on the output of the authors, but also largely impacted by the inputs of peer reviewers, editors, and editorial board members of the journals. All such participants, who play a critical role in the process of finalizing a paper for publication, also need to seek any disclosure from the authors that could be perceived as a potential conflict of interest.

The general format of the conflict of interest form includes:

  • Author and co-authors’ conflict of interest.
  • Statements declaring whether the supporting sources are involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data.
  • Explanation regarding the authors’ access to the study data, including the nature and extent of the authors’ access and validity.

Declaration of any conflict of interest is an ethical requirement for researchers at the time of submitting their manuscripts for publication. Being upfront about any potential conflict of interest is likely to increase the trust of the readers in the publication and places them in a position to make an honest evaluation of any likely bias in the research findings.