How to target a journal that’s right for your research

(The article below was originally published on SciDev.Net on 15 December 2014.)

Hitting a target is not easy, and neither is selecting a journal for your research paper. An appropriate target journal is one that publishes work on the subject your paper addresses and which, because of its various qualities, serves your needs and aspirations.

Some researchers are under pressure to publish anywhere, while others are lured by prestigious but often unattainable journals. Either case can lead researchers away from journals that might give them the audience and impact they need. Here I outline how to target a truly appropriate journal for your research.

Stay away from predators

Academics involved in research are often evaluated based on their research output or publications. Whether they get a degree, get hired, get promoted or get tenure is often tied to the quantity and quality of the publications they have recently authored. And in some countries quantity takes precedence over quality and becomes a defining factor in career progression.

Researchers working in such environments may be tempted to publish more and faster. Thus the demand for publication outlets increases, and so does the supply — in the form of more academic publishers and journals.

In scholarly publishing, no overall body sets standards and processes. Anyone can buy a domain name and set up a journal with a name of their choice. The sole motive may be making money by charging authors for publishing articles. These publishers may have an editorial board, but its members may be complicit. Such publishers tend to name their journals in a grand way, with meaningless words such as ‘global’, ‘international’ or ‘advanced’. They may also have an overly broad title or scope that includes many areas of research (to attract more papers).

Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado in Denver, United States, maintains a list of such ‘predatory’ journals and publishers. [1]

These journals may publish papers after cursory or no peer review, despite claiming otherwise. Researchers may send their papers to predatory journals either knowingly or naively buying into the false claims made. [2]

And although poor peer review actually suits authors who have not done work of a sufficiently high quality to get published in established journals, many more are victims. [3] Researchers in developing countries often do not receive adequate research guidance early in their careers. They work in resource-poor environments and they lack research writing skills. Yet they face the same pressure to ‘publish or perish’ as their counterparts in developed countries.

“When you choose a journal, don’t stop there. Keep asking yourself, ‘How can I best communicate my work today?’”

Ravi Murugesan

However, publications in such journals eventually lose value and may even bring harm. Some researchers may be able to temporarily advance their careers on the strength of their publication count, but they may be shamed later on in front of their colleagues and students as awareness of predatory publishers increases.

Others may face disciplinary action by promotion or tenure committees that are already aware of predatory publishers. And, of course, serious researchers are likely to ignore papers published in suspicious journals, so these papers may not be read or cited.

Look for verifiable claims

Don’t be swayed by grand claims made on a journal’s website or in calls for papers unless those claims can be verified. Being ‘under the indexing process’ with ISI, Scopus and so on. is an example of an unverifiable claim that often appears in calls for papers from suspicious journals. In fact, receiving a call for papers out of the blue is a warning sign. Unless you receive the call in a discussion list you are a member of, or from a journal you have submitted papers to or published in, or from another trustworthy source, you should be wary. I regularly receive calls for papers from random journals because they have harvested my email address online and have added me to their bulk mailing list without my permission.

Some claims can be verified: for example, a journal’s membership in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA), and INASP Journals Online (JOLs). These are notable collections of open access journals, and the DOAJ is putting in place more rigorous criteria for membership.

A journal’s membership in publishing societies such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is also a good sign.

However, newly established journals may not be quickly indexed in academic databases or may only slowly become part of publishing societies. New journals are set up all the time to address new, neglected, regional and other kinds of research that are not well served by existing journals. You should definitely consider new journals that are relevant for your work but first evaluate the editors who run them.

Look at the editor’s profile on a university website, links to their online profiles (for example, on ResearchGate, Google Scholar or LinkedIn) or evidence of their dedication to the profession of journal editing, for example, membership of organisations such as the Council of Science Editors (CSE), European Association of Science Editors (EASE) and World Association of Medical Editors (WAME).

Understand the open-access model

Academic publishers typically operate their journals using either the traditional subscription model or an open-access model. In subscription journals, readers pay to access papers. In the open access model readers are not charged — but somebody has to pay to keep the journal running. So open-access journals either ask authors to pay article processing charges (APCs) or are supported by higher education institutions or funding bodies. Some journals use a ‘hybrid’ open-access model: authors can choose to make their work freely available by paying an article APC, or if they don’t pay this their article will be available only to subscribers.

The open-access movement aims to make research accessible to anyone who needs it. This is a noble mission but is misused by predatory publishers. They ask authors to pay article processing fees, knowing that they have very few readers who would pay for their journals under a subscription model.

But remember that the open-access model is not necessarily predatory. Far from it. There are many excellent open-access journals that charge APCs, such as those in the PLOS family and from publishers such as BioMed Central. Authors who wish to publish in open-access journals should try to include APCs in their research budgets and should check to see if fees are waived for authors in developing countries.

Don’t be swayed by the impact factor

A journal’s impact factor is a measure of its quality or prestige. This metric, owned by Thomson Reuters, is commonly used by researchers to identify appropriate target journals, but this approach can be problematic.

Impact factors are rigorously calculated from citations, as described on the Thomson Reuters website. Journals with a high impact factor quickly convince readers that they are reputable or prestigious.

There are other metrics that measure journal quality, such as the eigenfactor score and SCImago journal rank.

The impact factor has become the hallmark of journal prestige — so much so that it has even spawned misleading ‘fake’ metrics in which high ranks can be bought by unethical publishers. [4] There’s even one called the ‘journal impact factor’, which can be easily confused with the Thomson Reuters impact factor.

And the impact factor itself has received criticism from Nobel laureate Randy Shekman and from articles published in a number of leading journals, including some with high impact factors. [5,6,7,8]

Be aware that impact factors are not comparable across fields. The journal Applied Physics Letters is the highest ranking journal in its field, but still has a much lower impact factor than the highest ranking journal in microbiology, Nature Reviews Microbiology.

You also need to be aware that much of the information you need to interpret a journal’s impact factor may be missing. Journals with high impact factors often promote them on their websites but this doesn’t convey the full picture. For example, you may need to know what other journals have similar impact factors. But if you want to know about all the impact factors of journals in your field, you’ll need access to the Thomson Reuters’ Journal Citation Reports, which are not free.

In some niche fields, reputable journals may not even have an impact factor. This can be because their topics interest only a small community. But they might still be the best place to publish if you are going to reach the right audience.

The impact factor is a complex metric that should be used for specific purposes and by people who are fully aware of its intricacies. If you use it to evaluate journals, there are many caveats to take into account. Certainly, a journal’s impact factor is inappropriate for evaluating individual articles or authors. And when authors treat it as the most important criterion for selecting a journal, they have not fully understood the point of research communication.

Care about your audience

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is to know your audience.

When considering a journal, be prepared to ask yourself some questions. Who are its readers? Are they part of your research community? Would they be interested in your paper? Would they be able to build on your findings or implement any recommendations?

If you don’t have answers to these questions, speak with your senior colleagues, look for advice on online networks such as AuthorAID and ResearchGate and join scientific societies to learn from researchers in your field.

“Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is to know your audience.”

Ravi Murugesan

Remember that with so many papers published every day, keeping track of the relevant literature has become a big challenge. It would be naive to think that a paper, even one in a ‘big-name’ high impact factor journal, will attract interest from everywhere. (And be aware that predatory journals may have few or no serious readers.)

Develop a research communication strategy

These days you should think beyond conventional publications, for example by promoting papers on social media and archiving them and their data.

You may be able to upload full texts of your papers on a digital repository at your institution or on portals like ResearchGate, as long as you follow self-archiving rules set by your publishers. SHERPA RoMEO offers an online tool for finding these. Once archived, your full texts may become discoverable on academic databases such as Google Scholar, potentially becoming more accessible to scholars who don’t have access to subscription journals.

Portals such as figshare and the Dryad Digital Repository make it easy to share data as well as polished publications, and this is being increasingly encouraged and even mandated by journals and funders. Sharing your detailed research data makes your work more usable and may even attract more citations. [9]

If your research paper addresses a development issue, you might need to think about reaching policymakers. The main messages may also need to be put in different words for non-academic audiences. Some advice on this can be found in an AuthorAID presentation on making research relevant for policymakers and SciDev.Net has a practical guide on How to tell policymakers about scientific uncertainty.

This might seem like a lot of work, and it is — if you are concerned only about publication and not communication. But research should be communicated, and publishing is only a means to that end. So when you choose a journal, don’t stop there. Keep asking yourself: “How can I best communicate my work today?”


[1] Jeffrey Beall Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access journals and Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers (Scholarly Open Access, accessed 12 December 2014)

[2] Jeffrey Beall Sudanese researcher falls victim to questionable publisher (Scholarly Open Access, 23 September 2014)

[3] Ravi Murugesan For open access. Against deception (23 September 2014)

[4] Jeffrey Beall Misleading metrics (Scholarly Open Access, updated regularly)

[5] The impact factor game. (PLOS Medicine, 2006)

[6] Kai Simons The misused impact factor (Science, 2008)

[7] Beware the impact factor (Nature Materials, 2013)

[8] Arturo Casadevall and Ferric Fang Causes for the persistence of impact factor mania (mBio, 2014)

[9] Heather Piwowar and others Sharing detailed research data is associated with increased citation rate (PLOS One, 2007)

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

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How AuthorAID offers you the chance to be a mentor

In an article published on the Wiley Exchanges blog last week, INASP’s AuthorAID director Julie Walker explains the AuthorAID mentoring process and how learned societies can encourage their members to get involved

AuthorAID workshop Source: INASP

At this time of year, many of us turn our thoughts to how we can make positive changes in our lives and the lives of others. Some of us long to provide practical help and support, but feel we lack the necessary skills or time commitment. For experienced researchers, editors and librarians there is a great way that you can give practical, hands-on support to others and one that doesn’t need to take up a lot of your time or require you to travel. You can support a researcher in a developing country through INASP’s AuthorAID project. The support and advice of people who are more experienced in research communication can make a huge difference in helping these researchers to publish their first papers or develop the confidence to present their research findings at a conference.

AuthorAID aims to support developing-country researchers to publish and communicate their research. Mentoring is one of the key components of the project and volunteer mentors play an essential role. Mentors come from diverse backgrounds and include journal editors, science communicators, librarians, senior researchers, retired academics and postdoctoral students. They can decide on the level and nature of support they want to give, whether it’s short-term, task-based support or longer-term, mentoring support. They can also choose the tasks they want to accept and decline any they don’t have time for, or don’t feel comfortable with. Support could be as simple as answering a query or proofreading a manuscript, or as complex as guiding a researcher through the whole publication process. Some mentors also provide support through the AuthorAID discussion list where they can share knowledge and expertise in an ad hoc and informal way.

Through mentoring support, AuthorAID researchers develop the skills and confidence needed to publish in reputable journals, to win awards and scholarships and, vitally, to disseminate and increase the impact of their research findings both in their own countries and globally. Much of the research being undertaken by AuthorAID mentees is development focused and has real implications for economic growth and health in developing countries.

A great example of the potential benefits of the process is the story of AuthorAID mentee, Rhoune Ochako from Kenya. She is carrying out research on maternal and child health issues and first joined AuthorAID in 2010. She wrote “My experience with AuthorAID has been great! … My advice to young researchers is that there is help out there, go look for it; it will not come knocking on your door…” Since joining AuthorAID she has published six papers in high-quality journals, has been promoted to Senior Research Manager within her organization, and is now a mentor herself.

Although the satisfaction of giving back to the academic community is a key reason mentors join the programme, a recent survey that INASP carried out of AuthorAID mentors revealed that they feel they get much more out of mentoring than they were anticipating. Mentors also get a chance to refresh or expand their existing publishing skills, add to their own research knowledge, and make new academic contacts across the globe.

Dan Korbel, an AuthorAID mentor, explained, “…being an AuthorAID mentor goes beyond a conventional teacher-student relationship – it is a really stimulating and worthwhile learning process for both mentee and mentor.”

We are also delighted to announce a new partnership with Wiley to work with the company and its society partners to recruit new mentors. To support this partnership, we have developed a society toolkit (see links below for any society wishing to promote the programme to its members).

To find out more about AuthorAID, or to sign up for the mentoring programme or discussion list, please visit: You can also find us on Twitter.

Wishing you all very happy holidays!

AuthorAID society toolkit
AuthorAID A4 mentoring ad
AuthorAID A5 society leaflet
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“Evidence-informed policy making is still a very new concept for a lot of policy makers in Zimbabwe”

In an interview with Research to Action, Ronald Munatsi, Director of the Zimbabwe Evidence-Informed Policy Network (ZeipNet) discusses the role of ZeipNet in facilitating the inclusion of evidence into policy-making processes in Zimbabwe.

ZeipNET is one of INASP’s partners, working on the VakaYiko consortium.

In this interview with Research to Action, Ronald discusses the structures that currently exist in Zimbabwe to support evidence-informed policy making (EIPM), highlighting that EIPM is still a very new concept for many policy makers in the country.

Part of the interview discusses the gap that still exists with regards to robust research evidence within Zimbabwe. Work is being carried out within think tanks and other institutions but there is a lack of coordination between the various think tanks or research institutions and the Ministries. Ronald describes how ZeipNET is looking at ways of trying to coordinate policy-making institutions, research institutions and think tanks.

He also provides information in the interview about the various elements of ZeipNET’s work, which include many capacity-building activities such as training workshops where ZeipNET collaboratively develop content modules with the Ministries.

Read the full interview here.

Managed by INASP, VakaYiko is a three-year project involving five organizations working primarily in three countries; Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Vaka is Shona (Southern Africa) for ‘build’ and Yiko is Dagbani (Ghana) for capacity. Together, these words depict the specific goal of the programme, which is to increase the capacity of policy makers to respond to research uptake needs.

The VakaYiko project is funded by DFID under the Building Capacity for Use of Research Evidence (BCURE) programme.

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Bringing African research out of the shadows – Part 3

In the third and final blog in this series, Miriam Conteh-Morgan, Head Librarian, Institute of Public Administration and Management, University of Sierra Leone, wraps up her discussion on the routes for researchers to improve visibility of their research and tips on how researchers can use 2.0 technologies to bring their findings and ideas into the global academic conversations

Visibility through greater representation in the global research community and recognition of one’s (or in this case, a continent’s) contribution to knowledge production are basic to measuring scholarly impact, and these are more easily achievable these days because of new media.

The subtitle of a book by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison — The power of pull: How small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion – captures the essence of what researchers in Africa can do to join global academic conversations. “Pull,” the authors argue, is built on 3 A’s: access (that is, finding and getting to people and resources), the ability to attract potentially valuable people and resources, and how these can help one achieve new levels of performance and influence. If practiced well, especially by developing a “share research and flourish” agenda, some potential benefits of pull to African and developing-world researchers include:

  • Increased participation in and contribution to the global open knowledge commons;
  • Taking responsibility for shaping one’s own academic profile and expanding one’s global reach;
  • Increased ROA (return on awareness), manifest through enlarged networks and new collaborations; and
  • Receiving constructive (particularly pre-publication) feedback on one’s research in a timely manner.

There is a lengthier discussion of the topic by this author, and a handy guide to managing one’s academic online presence put out by the University of Cape Town.

What do you think?  Have you used any of these tools to share your research and meet fellow researchers? Are there any you would recommend?  Is this an effective approach?

A Spanish version of this post is also available on the AuthorAID website.


Gregg, Melissa. (2006). Feeling ordinary: Blogging as conversational scholarship. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 20 (2), 147–60

Hagel III, John, Brown, John Seely, & Davison, Lang. (2010). The power of pull: How small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion. New York, NY: Basic Books

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A Q&A with Sue Corbett, Executive Director of INASP, part II

Last week, the Wiley Exchanges blog posted two interviews with INASP’s Executive Director Sue Corbett. We share those interviews in this post and the previous one.

(The Wiley Exchanges version of part 2 is here).

Here we continue our interview with Sue Corbett, Executive Director of INASP. In part I yesterday, we learned how and why INASP is working to improve accessibility to research in the developing world. More below on the success of the program and how you may be able to help.

The signing of Memorandum of Understanding in Tanzania for the programme to strengthen indigenous publishing.  Source: INASP

Q. Can you share a success story or two about the outcomes of INASP initiatives?
An exciting new venture that illustrates some of the ways that publishers can be involved is a collaborative project that we are doing with Elsevier, VSO and a local partner COSTECH. The aim of this project is to train local publishers in Tanzania to strengthen local academic publishing across Tanzania and it grew out of work done by an employee of Brill while on a VSO placement in the country. Now Elsevier editors and publishers are also involved in training and sharing their own approaches with those on Tanzanian journals.  See this recent news story for more information.

There are many exciting developments with our longer-term projects too. I was recently in Bangladesh (where I saw all the rickshaws that I mentioned in the first part of this interview) speaking about the BanglaJOL platform. This provides a route to 129 journals and more than 13,000 articles from Bangladesh, and helps to increase the visibility of the very valuable research that is going on in the country. I was able to share the impressive traffic figures for the platform – nearly one million article views each quarter; my Bangladeshi audience gave the numbers a round of applause.

Another example is INASP’s recent pilot project in Sierra Leone, in collaboration with Research4Life, which aimed to increase awareness of the online research literature available in the country and enable researchers to make better use of it in their work. The pilot brought together different people involved in different aspects of research access and communication to identify the needs and opportunities within universities. It involved training librarians and IT staff in how to manage access to online literature, training researchers in search skills, and offering subsequent support in research writing. There was real enthusiasm for this approach and for INASP’s role is as a catalyst and convener.

Online training for researchers, which is one component of our AuthorAID project and part of the Sierra Leone pilot, enables people to learn the skills they need at their own pace. This process can continue to happen even when travel or online access is restricted, a situation that, sadly, people in Sierra Leone know all too well with the current Ebola outbreak.

Journal editors at a recent INASP workshop in Nepal. Source: INASP

Q. What is AuthorAID?
A. Great research can – and does – go on everywhere in the world. Too often, however, valuable research in the developing world remains unpublished because researchers do not have good writing skills or the mentoring and support that researchers in the developed worldroutinely get from their supervisor and peers.

AuthorAID is a global online community (9000 members and growing) of researchers needing and offering support. We provide online and face-to-face training in research writing skills; online one on one mentoring; an active discussion list; an online library with a wide range of resources on writing and publishing in seven languages; and small grants for travelling to conferences and running writing workshops.

Q. How can researchers, academics and others from the developed world get involved with AuthorAID?
A. Currently, we have over 5000 researchers waiting to connect with someone who can offer them short- or long-term mentoring support. If you are a published author, we would welcome you as a mentor and you can sign up right now at

We are also very excited to be working with Wiley to develop a new way to connect society members who are interested in offering their skills with researchers in their subject areas.  More details will follow in a future Wiley Exchanges blog post.

You can follow AuthorAID on Twitter (@authoraid) and Facebook.

You can also follow the latest news from INASP more generally at @INASPinfo and on Facebook.

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Putting research knowledge at the center of development: a Q&A with Sue Corbett of INASP, Part I

Last week, the Wiley Exchanges blog posted two interviews with INASP’s Executive Director Sue Corbett. We share those interviews in this post and the next.

(The Wiley Exchanges version of part 1 is here).

It’s easy to take access to research, and all that comes with it, for granted in the developed world, but as this interview with Sue Corbett, Executive Director of INASP, reminds us, there’s still much work to do in improving access and services for researchers in developing countries.  INASP plays a critical role in this, so that countries can solve their own development challenges.


Q. Can you tell us about your background and how and why you got involved with INASP?
A. My first career was in scientific publishing and I spent almost 30 years at Blackwell Publishing and then at Wiley.  I enjoyed it immensely and it’s great now to have an opportunity to greet some of my ex-colleagues and some of Wiley’s society partners and their members who follow this blog.

In late 2011, I was in the Himalayas in India when I got a call from a Wiley colleague who is also a trustee of INASP, asking if I would be willing to take on an interim CEO assignment at the organization.  I was just about to leave for a two-week silent meditation retreat but something in me was prepared to say “yes” despite knowing very little about it.  After six months, I was caught by the significance of INASP’s mission. I was excited by the opportunity to engage with partners in many countries who are passionate, energetic and really committed to developing research, higher education and the good of their respective nations.  It is a huge privilege to have this fascinating second career.

Q. What is INASP and how is it helping improve access to information in the developing world?
A. INASP is a charity that was born in 1992 from the vision that research should be at the heart of development.  The early goal was to enable developing countries to access the world’s scientific literature – something that could start to happen once journals went online.  Many publishers have been very supportive from the start. Their consistent support of discounted pricing has meant that libraries in many countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America now have access to a wide range of literature.

But a productive, scientific culture is about much more than having books and journals in the library. We also support researchers in communicating their work; ICT staff to ensure literature can be downloaded; and journal editors and local publishers who need to publish online to international standards.

Recently, we began a major program of work with government policymakers in Africa to understand and use research evidence in decision making. This “evidence-informed policymaking” work helps to close the loop and ensure that research really will be at the heart of social and economic development.

Rickshaw photo

I am sure this all sounds like a Good Thing. But I want to go further and suggest why it is important and urgent for the world as a whole. I can illustrate this with a story from my recent visit to Bangladesh. At left is a photograph from the rickshaw we were sitting in, stuck in a traffic jam in Dhaka that consisted of nothing but rickshaws. For me, it was an in-your-face realization of what faces a city of 15 million people, set to grow to more than 30 million in the next 10 years. The decisions made about water, food and energy for Dhaka will ripple out, not just to the region, but also, in a world of finite resource and global markets, to all of us.  It is in the interests of everybody that relevant research should inform those decisions.

Q. What role do publishers currently play in your work and do you expect this to change in future?
A. We are very grateful for publishers’ continuing support for discounted pricing. We recently proposed a set of guidelines for responsible engagement for those publishers that are now moving toward direct, commercial relationships in some countries. We urge everyone to read and consider those guidelines and to continue supporting affordable access in all those countries that cannot yet find the funding for direct purchases.

Our Publishers for Development forum enables publishers to engage with those issues and with the bigger picture of our work. Our annual meeting in August was a great opportunity to discuss the vital role that publishers play in maximizing access to research to support academics in developing countries. You can read more about this in our recent newsletter, and watch the presentations.

Below are some of our guidelines for publishers about responsible engagement in developing countries

  • Make an effort to understand the country context, which institutions are members of the consortium, and what their needs are. Try to look beyond the capital city – connectivity for each is often very different. You can do this through direct discussion with the consortium, but also by participating in Publishers for Development events.
  • Where a country wishes to negotiate as a consortium or purchasing club, respect this– don’t try to find alternative routes and don’t withdraw access before or during negotiations. It could damage reputations and relationships.
  • Don’t make sudden changes – if you wish to develop a direct relationship, communicate with the consortium or national coordinating body early to explain your plans, and give them time to prepare. A three to five year plan for engagement is likely to make for a more effective transition.
  • Think medium to long term on pricing and be realistic about your sales expectations. Budgets won’t have increased just because countries are able and willing to deal directly with publishers. Where increases are needed, make these affordable, incremental and predictable.
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