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This question is inspired by How to make sense of a 2019 paper published in 2016 journal issue? From the comments to that question, it's apparent that publishing a 2019 paper in a 2016 issue is inconvenient for the author. This question asks the reverse: what if the journal is so "frontlogged" that it publishes its 2019 papers in 2020 issues?

I have handled such a journal at one point. The journal was receiving and accepting lots of submissions, so many in fact that it was publishing issues ahead of time. Previous editors were reluctant to increase the issue count because they feared this stream of papers would dry up, and if the journal ever struggled to fill its issues it would lead to problems like in the linked question, where 2019 papers are published in 2016 issues. The upshot was, by the time I took over the journal it was more than a year ahead of schedule.

Is the journal being ahead of schedule a problem for authors? What about librarians?

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    @Roland It could be an issue for the authors; for instance, priority disputes: it's difficult to argue that Smith (2020) was the first to introduce the method used in Brown (2019), and even if it's true other people will easily misrepresent that when they cite the method. Also, missing certain publication targets is a 'bean-counting' issue that may have heavy consequences on you as an author; if these things are used only for annual publication statistics where you work then you are lucky. – Federico Poloni Jan 30 at 8:18
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    @FedericoPoloni In my field, published manuscripts usually list (at least) the "date published" or "date accepted". There is no risk of the publication not being counted as I have to report my publications to the library. The only risk is double-counting. – Roland Jan 30 at 8:21
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    @Roland "You didn't publish enough papers in 2018, so we're going to cut your funding for 2019" is a thing in many places. If your paper bears a 2019 date, it doesn't count for this (and it's difficult to convince people to look at the accepted date, especially when this is an automated process). – Federico Poloni Jan 30 at 8:28
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    @FedericoPoloni OK, so your librarians are incompetent. Mine know that a 2018 paper can (and frequently does) appear in a 2019 issue. I admit, it's easy for them to know because they get a copy of the type-set manuscript from me as soon as it is available, which would be in 2018. – Roland Jan 30 at 8:33
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In the present day, publication year is essentially irrelevant. What matters for the job market is the acceptance date. Usually publishers put the article online within days of acceptance. At this point people begin citing it. If the paper is not assigned to an issue until the next year, the only effect will be that people citing the paper will be annoyed by copyeditors asking what the publication year and issue are.

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It's common to have some delay. 12 months sounds bad to me (as an author). Would think to move (or stop submitting). But it's a sliding scale discontent thing. Might not even notice at first. But sure, it will have some impact eventually.

Really, more annoying is not having the acceptance (long review delay). Because once the paper is accepted, one can put it on resume, etc. Plus I guess you can order prerints (do people even still do that)?

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    I didn't mean delay - the journal was ahead of schedule; it was publishing 2019 papers in 2020 issues (for example). – Allure Jan 30 at 2:19
  • OK. You're right on what you said. That wouldn't bug me as much. Still mildly annoying as someone looking at a CV or cite, might not realize a year ahead issue is actually out. But not a huge deal. – guest Jan 30 at 2:23
  • @guest - these days with many journals appearing on-line well before the actual physical issue (if those are even a thing often), it is not unusual to see complete, citeable journal issues 6 months or more ahead of time (so in September of 2019 there are issues dated in 2020). It is the same process as happened in the past, you just get to see it live now rather than waiting by your mailbox for an issue to finally come out... – Jon Custer Jan 30 at 14:10
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Apart from its positive or negative mechanical effects in gaming the bibliometrics system, it is undesirable because it's basically lying. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I don't like lies, as a general thing.

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    How is it lying? The acceptance year needn't match the publication year. Indeed, that can be impossible, e.g., any manuscript accepted in late December (after December's issue) cannot be published until the following year. – user2768 Jan 30 at 8:27
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    @Allure For 1) I think that this strategy may be used to increase the impact factor of the journal. If the journal publishes the accepted papers online (such as in an early view or in press category in their website) then those papers can be cited. IF measures the number of citations for 2 years after publication. Since the papers are already online for a year or more before actual publication they might get more cites by the time the 2 year after actual publication period ends. – CTNT Jan 30 at 8:44
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    @user2768 If you start from the idea that the year an article is labelled with is just an arbitrary number that has no relation to when the article was accepted, then it's not lying. But I don't think that this is a useful mindset. Also, it looks like you are using an edge case (article accepted on December 31) to support the idea that it's OK to artificially add months to the acceptance date in general just because it's convenient, even in much more general cases, and that doesn't look like the most honest thing in the world. – Federico Poloni Jan 30 at 13:10
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    @Allure My comment definitely also applies here assuming the citation metric uses the label of the issue (i.e., "2020") rather than the year it's actually published. Besides simple offsets like preparing an issue a couple months in advance (i.e., January 2020's issue is actually ready in Nov 2019), it seems to me like labeling a 2019 issue as a 2020 one is practically fraud. Dates have meanings. – Bryan Krause Jan 30 at 17:29
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    @Allure There's a difference between delaying stories that don't change for a day, and publishing a newspaper today with next week's date and a bunch of stories talking about stuff that happened today. And you're the one who just said you weren't talking about delays but rather labeling today's issue with tomorrow's date: which is it? – Bryan Krause Jan 30 at 19:39

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