The confluence of two experiences motivated this post. First, I was involved in a conversation on Twitter (below) that was reacting to suggestions (in a commentary in Nature) that the high volume of open-access papers was the cause of the reviewer fatigue that so often bedevils journals and editors (such as myself). At one point in this thread, someone pointed to a blog post titled “Why I Published in PLoS ONE. And Why I Probably Won’t Again for Awhile.” The main point of that post was to contrast the desire of young scientists to better the world by publishing in open-access journals with the perception that senior scientists don’t view a paper published in open-access journals as equivalent to a paper published in a more traditional journal. This latter sentiment was similar to my own experience on search committees in which candidates would be considered less impressive if they published too much in open-access journals.
.@BrunaLab @EcoEvoEvoEco @PLOS @NatureNews Ummm...in 2013 PLOS One published over 31K articles. More than Elsevier's entire output?
— Adam P. Summers (@Fishguy_FHL) November 27, 2014
@Fishguy_FHL @BrunaLab @EcoEvoEvoEco@PLOS @NatureNews Elsevier published 250,000 in 2013 http://t.co/78RYgVoB22
— Trevor A. Branch (@TrevorABranch) November 27, 2014
@Fishguy_FHL @BrunaLab @PLOS @NatureNews #OA jour. (note: many more than just PLOS) decrease reviews b/c they don't reject = less re-review
— Andrew Hendry (@EcoEvoEvoEco) November 27, 2014
The second motivation came from our weekly lab meetings. Near the start of each meeting, we go around the room asking “Who had a paper or proposal accepted or published this week?” And then, after a hopefully long discussion, we ask, “Who had a paper or proposal rejected this week?” I kind of like this two-part question because it enables us to get excited about our successes while also making the failures seem more acceptable. (“Oh, it happened to her too, so my own rejection is OK.”) And we can also complain about reviewers and can discuss how we will make our papers better in response. It just so happens that, over the past few months, no one has been able to speak up for the first question and pretty much everyone has spoken up for the second. One lab member even noted that rejection seemed to be a recent trend in the lab.
|My previous two PLoS ONE papers are cited (Web of Science) least among all my papers published in those two years.|
|Acceptance rates for papers submitted by the most successful ecologists. From Cassey and Blackburn (2004).|
|Rejection/acceptance stats for my own submissions.|
While letting this post mature for a few days, I came across a great video of famous failures by people that went on to become wildly successful. This video also reminded me of a story about Tim Mousseau failing (or at least not immediately passing) his qualifying exam at McGill and having to write a remedial paper that has gone on to be cited more than 1000 times. How’s that for turning failure into success? I have heard of many other instances of papers getting rejected from a journal only to be greatly improved, some so much so that they end up getting published at a much “better” journal, such as Science/Nature.
|Articles published on their first submission (first intents) are cited less often than articles published in the same journal/year that were first rejected from elsewhere (resubmissions). Data from Calcagno et al. (2012 - Science.)|
My favorite route, though, is society-based journals, like Ecology, Evolution, American Naturalist, Proc Roy Soc B, J Evolutionary Biology, J Animal Ecology (I still haven’t cracked the last of these nuts), and so on. These journals are where I want all of my work to end up (and you should too) – it looks good on your CV, and many more people see it and cite it. But, wait, I hear you saying: those papers won’t be accessible to the rest of the world because it requires an expensive subscription. Nonsense. Anyone can get access to any paper from any journal – many papers are posted on someone’s website and, for those that aren’t, all you have to do is email the author to ask for a copy! (I admit getting papers is harder – but certainly not impossible – without institutional access.) Moreover, you can pay for open access in those journals at a cost that isn’t much higher than at PLoS ONE or many other open access journals.
Note added Dec 3: see my follow-up post (Where to submit your paper - response to reviews.) that responds to post-publication comments on the present post.
Just for fun:
Invited by journal to review your own paper? More common than you think. Here is 1 way to respond. via @danielbolnick pic.twitter.com/Qxq8qTyImz
— Andrew Hendry (@EcoEvoEvoEco) November 24, 2014
@PLOSONE No apology needed, as long as you aren't annoyed by the tongue-in-cheek response.Speaking of tongue-in-cheek, see my parody of open access journals here:
— Daniel Bolnick (@DanielBolnick) November 25, 2014