An Editor in Chief of a journal ought to be proud of their journal and consider it a good place to publish their own work, so not publishing in the journal that they edit suggests a lack of confidence in the journal. On the other hand, is publishing regularly in your own journal ethical? Can we reasonably expect the Editor in Chief's papers to be handled with the same rigour as for anybody else? Wouldn't there be implicit pressure on the handling editor to accept a paper that might be rejected had it come from an external author? It seems to me that it would be better to be seen to be fair by publishing elsewhere (or at least only publishing occasionally in one's own journal), but I was wondering what the balance of opinion was on this.
There are of course no laws against it but as Editor-in-Chief (EiC) myself I would never do it, or would at least think twice about doing it, particularly as first author. My reasoning behind this is that it could reflect badly on me, but particularly on the journal, and send signals that all is not necessarily well. I have to point out that in my case we are two and we have an agreement that we do not touch manuscripts from our own spheres of influence (basically departments). Nevertheless, what actually happens within a journal and how people perceive it are two different things and it is my opinion that as EiC one must safeguard the journal's reputation as objective. So if the community expresses some form of trust in the editor for publishing in their own journal, this could be perfectly fine.
So when an EiC publishes in "their" journal it is not wrong but potentially "dangerous" and can be perceived as poor judgement. They would jeopardize the journals reputation. So even if there are no legal problems, there are ethical problems. I doubt anyone would have second thoughts about the quality of a journal if the editor does not publish there: after all, if the editor has a solid reputation, associating with a bad journal would jeopardize that.
Can I see any exceptions? Well, co-authorship may be less serious but in the end even that should be avoided. I also think that if an editor publishes a single paper in a thematic issue of the journal (where someone else has suggested a theme) and this is the only paper by that editor in the journal for years, I would not think much about it. Obviously frequency of publications is also a factor.
So, in conclusion, I consider it unwise under most circumstances.
There have been only a few times in my career when I've run across an EIC who regularly published in his/her own journal, and in each case it looked like something was seriously wrong.
As a first constraint, it's absolutely unethical for editors to play any role whatsoever in evaluating their own papers. I.e., they should not suggest referees, solicit or have access to referee reports, participate in the decision making, or even discuss the decision with other editors. Furthermore, this lack of involvement should be made clear to the referees when the reports are solicited and to the public (for example, by including a paragraph in the journal's web site about how editorial submissions are handled).
Ideally, there should be strong safeguards. For example, one journal I'm associated with takes the following approach. If the editor in chief submits a paper, the journal's sponsoring organization appoints a few associate editors to evaluate the submission anonymously and make individual decisions. If any one of them recommends rejection, then the paper is rejected and the rest of the editorial board never finds out who rejected it. This avoids the danger of feeling pressure from the EIC, but it leaves open the possibility of favoritism or bias, perhaps even subconsciously.
Because it's difficult to avoid bias and impossible to avoid the appearance of bias, editors should rarely submit papers to their own journals, and EICs almost never. Aside from special cases such as issues in honor of someone, the only time I think it really looks good for an EIC to submit a paper is if the paper is amazing, far above the usual level of the journal, and it's clear that the EIC is trying to raise the journal's profile by sending a paper there that could easily have been published somewhere more prestigious. This is risky: it can come across as condescending or self-aggrandizing, it looks strange if done more than very rarely, and others may disagree on how amazing the paper is. However, if the paper is indeed great then it at least avoids controversy over whether acceptance was appropriate. The really dangerous scenario is borderline-appropriate papers, where reasonable people could disagree about acceptance and it's natural to wonder whether favoritism might have tipped the balance.
I'm going to chime in with a slightly dissenting answer - I think it's perfectly acceptable for an EiC to publish in their own journal, given some caveats.
I think they should be very careful in doing so, and the journal should have a mechanism for handling their submissions that doesn't involve their input in any way - one of the other answers mentions a panel of reviewers to evaluate whether or not the paper gets over the "editorial interest" hurdle, or possibly purely anonymous review. The reasons I think that being the EiC alone is not cause to not submit to your own journals are as follows:
- "Publish elsewhere" doesn't necessarily work - first, you've cut the number of journals by one, and for some specialty fields, that's a rather big deal. Additionally, the EiC of a journal is likely working in a field that is particular suited to that journal - "publish elsewhere" forces scholarship into potentially awkward fitting publications for the sake of avoiding the appearance of impropriety. I'd much rather any such risk be addressed head on.
- What about collaborators? For fields where papers often have one or two authors, perhaps this is more clear, but my field routinely has papers with a great many more authors than that. Is any study that recruits one of the finest minds in their field (presumably) then inevitably doomed not to be able to publish in the journal that might fit their work best? What about their graduate students?
- Many journals are society journals - you are effectively denying a scholarly society the easiest access to the work of one of their most prominent members (again, presumably). Yes, it could get published elsewhere. But there's no promise I read elsewhere.
In essence, drawing a hard line and saying "No" is counterproductive - I'd rather have a journal come out with a clear and open policy that says "This is how we handle submissions from our editors" - all of them, than to issue blanket bans.
According to page 5 of A Short Guide to Ethical Editing by New Editors by the Committee on Publication Ethics,
Can editors publish in their own journal?
Editors should not be denied the ability to publish in their own journal, but they must not exploit their position. The journal must have a procedure for handling submissions from the editor or members of the editorial board that ensures that peer review is handled independently of the author/editor. This process should be detailed once the paper is published (see: http://www.wame.org/wame-listserve-discussions/should-editors-publish-in-their-own-journal)
That said, in my experience, people tend to look down on editors who publish in their own journals. The implication is that they published their papers in their journals because other journals wouldn't publish them.
The conflict of interest between editor in chief and intelectual ( author ) in publish papers in self journals is evident. But, it is aggravated with share of the members of editorial board and editor in chief participate as authors in the same journals because it may be to establish an enormous bias in the choice of the papers with impairment of the others authors. Surely, the peer review of the papers of these authors might have be difficulties in withhold the paper.Though, this behaviour isn`t considered illegal, it is ethically abominable, and detrimental for the concept of the journal.