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I'm an undergraduate student looking to publish 2 papers in materials physics on novel research. I've lead the project on my own as an independent research, but have worked with the departments and faculty to gain access to several of my universities labs to conduct the research. I have no clear supervisor or adviser for the project though, and have a few questions regarding the submission of papers to journals as an undergraduate.

  1. Would I be discriminated against due to the lack of qualifications

  2. Is it appropriate for an undergraduate student to submit a manuscript to a journal.

  3. What journals have low to no cost for manuscripts, the project is self funded and I doubt I'll be able to financially support the extraordinary fees I've seen from some journals.

I understand the paper can be posted on ArXiv or ResearchGate, but that nullifies the legitimacy of it being called a publication. The professors I've spoken to have suggested the paper could be submitted to well ranked journals, and wish to have it published in a well respected journal. Frankly I'm just unsure how I should approach submitting my manuscripts as an undergraduate.

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    1) No. 2) Yes. 3) This is a "shopping question" (off topic). My advice is to ask your professor what journal you can submit to, and discuss the fees with them. Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 16:58
  • Well done doing original research as an undergrad. Take a moment to contemplate the allowances your university has given you and well done them also.
    – user94256
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 18:26
  • Even if you haven't had a clear advisor, you should ask at least one of the professors you have been involved with to help you with the publication process. They are the one that can answer these questions for your specific work: we can't help with your specific work here, only answer questions that are more broadly applicable to other people.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 19:17

3 Answers 3

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Editors don't normally look at your "qualifications" when evaluating a paper. It is actually unprofessional. The work should stand on its own.

You don't need degrees, or specifically advanced degrees to submit. Again, the work...

The costs are a different matter. I can't know the policies of all journals, but for some, at least (I hope it is still true), the following applies. First try to charge the funding agency of the research. Second, to charge the submitter's institution if available. Third (maybe second), charge the submitter. Fourth, if no one pays, absorb the costs internally.

I'm especially not certain of the fourth point, but it used to be true for some reputable journals.

My advice would be to submit the paper to the most appropriate journal, ignoring costs. But also ask your department if, in the eventuality that it is accepted, they would pay. If they say no, submit anyway.

Deal with the issue of getting a personal bill only when it arrives. Possibly just by saying it is impossible for you to absorb the cost as an unsponsored researcher. If they then refuse to publish it, you have at least benefitted from some review of your ideas.

Journals normally expect that researchers have some funding and that the funding includes covering page fees for the resulting research. Funding agencies benefit from being mentioned in the papers produced. But that doesn't apply to you and journals may still be able to make exceptions "for the greater good."

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    Costs shouldn't be a matter. Just submit to a subscription journal. There're plenty of researchers from developing countries who simply cannot afford to publish open access; that doesn't stop them from getting published entirely.
    – Allure
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 21:29
  • It is important to define what “work” means. It is not the written paper which is a 20 pages PDF file. “Work” means, the group interaction with professionals. That are the numbers of e-mails send back and forth, and the number of personal talks the undergraduate was involved. Or to be more specific: if somebody has written a nobel-prize ready paper alone and was not involved in any group activity it will never get published. Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 8:38
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1) No, not specifically because you are an undergrad. Often peer-review is conducted on anonymized papers. Your lack of experience might play against you but you should by all means try.

2) Yes it happens, although usually it is with support from more established researchers.

3) It's a pity that thanks to the "open access" hype, people now wonder how they can afford to publish papers. Just pick a subscription-based journal that will publish at no cost to you.

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  • About #1, I think in most fields double- blinded peer review is the exception, not the norm.
    – Allure
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 21:23
  • @Allure thanks for you comment, I have edited accordingly.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 18:50
  • Since this question is about material physics, from my experience in physics reviews aren't double blind, only the reviewer is unknown. Often I may be able to find the full paper by searching its name in arxiv before accepting or rejecting it. Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 23:26
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With regard to the cost issue, you should probably research what precisely those fees you mention are charged for. At least for the fields I publish in, many if not most reputable journals have a path to publish at zero cost to the authors, providing you:

  1. Don't want colour plates in the paper version of your article
  2. Keep the submission below a certain length
  3. Accept very bad terms regarding open access (i.e never, or with a very long embargo)
  4. Don't use any of the optional, fee-driven methods to increase exposure.

Number 3 in particular is an example of an airline style method of charging. Public funding bodies tend to demand open access on publications, but then provide the money to pay the publishers to allow it.

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  • I think #3 is too strong. Most publishers are fine if the author distributes preprints.
    – Allure
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 21:28
  • @Allure Preprints are not the published paper, and if not in open access give no mechanism for others to confirm their legitimacy and accuracy. Fairly frequently they don't meet funder requirements either, which need the published version archived in repositories.
    – origimbo
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 22:37
  • I haven't heard of a preprint that's substantially different from the published paper. If substantial changes were included during copyediting etc, then surely the authors can also update the preprint. Also, if a funder is involved, then they should have provided the funds to make a paper open access, so the author never has to pay the costs.
    – Allure
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 23:07
  • @Allure That sounds like you're talking about what I know as post prints (i.e. author post acceptance) if you're talking about copy-editing. There's a fairly sharp drop-off in how acceptable publishers view distribution around this point.
    – origimbo
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 15:48

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