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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 ese? Wouldn't there be implicit pressure on the action 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 al least only publishing occasionally in ones own journal), but I was wondering what the balance of opinion was on this.

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    Why the votes to close? This sounds like a perfectly good question to me. – Nate Eldredge May 18 '13 at 13:35
  • I'd be interested to know as well, I asked the question to find out whether my intuition was reasonable. It is difficult to find that sort of thing out without asking other people! – Dikran Marsupial May 18 '13 at 13:37
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There are of course no laws against it but as Editor-in-Chief (EiC) myself I would never do (or at least think twice about doing) it, particularly not as first author. My reasoning behind this is that it could reflect badly on both me but particularly 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 journals reputation as objective. So if the community expresses some form of trust in the editor to 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 jeoparize the journals reputation. So even if thetre is 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.

  • +1, that is pretty much my intuition. Even if one was confident of the fairness of the action editors it seems to be putting undue pressure on them, when the question could be easily avoided by publishing elsewhere. – Dikran Marsupial May 18 '13 at 10:42
  • I heard of an example where the editor knew they had a truly great result and wanted to make their journal benefit from it by publishing it there. Would you consider this an exception? – Ri49 Jun 19 '14 at 23:14
  • I think it would depend on the field. If the current editor in chief is chosen by a previous editor in chief or by someone else, (s)he is most likely an authority in the field and a regular author in the journal. If, next to this, the field also is limited in important journals, it would be hard for the editor in chief to find another good outlet. – Maarten van Wesel Mar 24 '15 at 17:53
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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.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful answer, the last paragraph raises another issue, which is what would happen if the paper were flawed? Could a comment paper be rejected without it reflecting badly on the journal, even if the comment itself were questionable? – Dikran Marsupial May 18 '13 at 15:43
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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.

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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.

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    What about their graduate students? -- I directly heard from the EiC of a very prestigious specialized math journal that he forbids his graduate students to submit to his journal. I know many of his former students, and indeed they didn't publish their papers there. I don't know how common this practice is in other subfields of mathematics or in non-math fields though. – Yuichiro Fujiwara May 20 '13 at 5:27
  • +1 for your helpful answer. Yes, in relatively obscure fields, there may not be a realistic option to publish elsewhere, but it seems to me that isn't such a health state of affairs either, as it is largely the competition for reputation that is the driver for quality in journals. I don't think I am in favour of a blanket ban, but currently I still think it is a practice best avoided where possible. – Dikran Marsupial May 20 '13 at 10:44
  • @DikranMarsupial It's not even relatively obscure fields that have a small number of journals. There are, for example, three major "methods-heavy" journals in Epidemiology. Eliminating one is a 33% reduction in the available places you can submit. Even good papers may get rejected from one for one reason or another and find themselves up against the wall. This is also true for fields with clear "quality breakpoints" between journals. – Fomite May 20 '13 at 16:58
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    I would have thought that if someone is sufficiently eminent to be an EiC their work ought to be of sufficient quality not to have to resubmit a paper to a different journal more than once! While luck is an element, to a large extent the author makes their own luck in writing the paper so that it is difficult for the reviewer not to appreciate it. For fields with "quality breakpoints", it seems to me if you can't convince the reviewers of two top quality journals, the paper probably belongs in the next rank down. – Dikran Marsupial May 20 '13 at 17:44
  • @DikranMarsupial And what if it's their grad student? See the first comment to my answer. And my actual thought for the quality breakpoint example was a field where there is a very clear 1st, 2nd, 3rd type of ranking, instead of ranking categories. Basically, I think a blanket ban is more trouble than it's worth. – Fomite May 20 '13 at 17:55
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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.

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