Publishing in The International Literature

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Why publish?
We have already suggested that researchers publish to share ideas and results with
colleagues. These are some other reasons for publishing:
. to leave a record of research which can be added to by others;
. to receive due recognition for ideas and results; and
. to attract interest from others in the area of research.
However, there are two additional reasons that are very important for internationally
oriented scientists:
. to receive expert feedback on results and ideas; and
. to legitimize the research; i.e. receive independent verification of methods and
results.
These reasons underscore the importance of the refereeing process we discussed
above. However, there are difficulties associated with getting work published:
difficulties that operate for all scientists, plus some that are specific to scientists
working in contexts where English is a foreign or second language, which together
are known as EAL contexts.
4
A framework for success
Why is it difficult to publish?
In addition to the language-related barriers that spring to mind, it is also important
to realize that writing is a skill, whatever the language. Many of the points
covered in this book are equally important for EAL scientists and those who speak
English as their first language.
Getting published is also a skill: not all writers are published. Some reasons for
this fact include the following.
. Not all research is new or of sufficient scientific interest.
. Experiments do not always work: positive results are easier to publish.
. Scientific journals have specific requirements which can be difficult to meet:
publishing is a buyer’s market.
These issues will be addressed as you proceed through the book.
Another reason that researchers find the writing and publication process difficult
is that communicating your work and ideas opens you up to potential criticism.
The process of advancing concepts, ideas, and knowledge is adversarial and new
results and ideas are often rigorously debated. Authors facing the blank page and a
potentially critical audience can find the task of writing very daunting. This book
offers frameworks for you to structure your thinking and writing for each section of
a scientific article and for dealing with the publishing process. The frameworks
provided will allow you to break down the large task of writing the whole manuscript
into small tasks of writing sections and subsections, and to navigate the
publishing process.
What does participation in the international scientific community require?
A helpful image is to think about submitting a manuscript to an international
journal as a way of participating in the international scientific community. You
are, in effect, joining an international conversation. To join this conversation, you
need to know what has already been said by the other people conversing. In other
words, you need to understand the ‘‘cutting edge’’ of your scientific discipline:
what work is being done now by the important players in the field internationally.
This means:
. getting access to the journals where people in the field are publishing;
. subscribing to the e-mail alert schemes offered by journal publishers on their
websites so that you receive tables of contents when new issues are published; and
. developing skills for searching the Internet and electronic databases in libraries
to which you have access.
Without this, it will be difficult to write about your work so as to show how it
fits into the progress being made in your field. In fact, this knowledge is important
when the research is being planned, well before the time when the paper is being
written: you should try to plan your research so it fits into a developing conversation
in your field.
Active involvement in international conferences is an important way to gain
access to this international world of research in your field. Therefore you need
both written and spoken English for communication with peers. This book aims
to help with the written language, and some ideas for developing spoken science
English are given in Chapter 16. As you become a member of the international
research community in your field in these ways, you will develop the knowledge
Ch 1
How the book
is organized,
and why
5
How the book is organized, and why
base you need to help you select the most appropriate journal for submission of
your manuscript: we call this your target journal.
What do you need to know to select your target journal?
. Does the journal normally publish the kind of work you have done? Check
several issues and search the journal website, if it has one. It is helpful if you can
cite work from the journal in the Introduction of your manuscript, to show that
you are joining a conversation already in progress in the journal.
. Does the journal referee the papers? This is absolutely imperative for enhancing
the international credibility of your work. It may also be important to check the
journal’s impact factor, if this measure is important for assessing research
outcomes in your country or research context. (See Chapter 12 for more
information on impact factor, citation index, and other similar measurements.)
. Does the journal publish reasonably quickly? Many journals include the dates when
a manuscript was received and published underneath the title information, so you
can check the likely timeline. Others include this information on their websites.
. Are there page charges? Some journals charge authors a fee to publish, or to
publish coloured illustrations. Check whether this is the case. If so, you can ask
whether the journal is willing to waive these charges for authors in some parts of
the world.
. Are members of the editorial staff efficient and helpful? Some journals have
information on their website with targeted advice for authors from EAL backgrounds,
or you may be able to ask colleagues who have submitted to particular
journals about their experiences. It can be especially useful to share this kind of
information among colleagues in your laboratory group or work team, perhaps
as part of a program to encourage international publication of the work of your
institution or group.
More detail about evaluating different journals and selecting your target journal is
given in Chapter 12.
How can you get the most out of publishing?
Publishing quickly is often helpful. In addition, publishing in a widely read
journal is better for you (higher citation index; see Chapter 12). However, if
you aim too high in relation to the international value of the work you have done,
you may be rejected, and resubmission takes more time. These two issues have to
be balanced carefully to determine an optimal strategy for your own situation.
Finally, publishing where your peers will read the paper is important.
Once you have thought about the issues raised above, and made some preliminary
decisions about a possible target journal, you are ready to move on to
consider the aims of this book.

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