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I will be submitting a manuscript I have, but I am having a hard time deciding between two journals that are both suitable for my paper's topic.

Journal A has an impact factor of 5.6 but is a field-specific journal in a field I am not a part of. Researchers from my field publish in Journal A rarely. Journal B, on the other hand, has an impact factor of 1.6, is a general journal in my discipline and has a section that publishes papers from my field exclusively. Researchers from my field publish in Journal B more frequently. However, Journal B is still not a standard/well-known journal in my field. Which one would be more impactful in my CV (for graduate school applications) given that I am an undergraduate student.

I know this is hard to answer without knowing my field, but this question essentially boils down to whether a higher IF journal from another field is better than a lower IF journal that is more relevant.

  • You shouldn't base it on IF. Let's say the community of the high IF journal does not appreciate your work; e.g., too 'theoretical'. Then it will surely be rejected. – Prof. Santa Claus Nov 30 '19 at 10:04
  • What if I was definitely accepted to both? Which one would be more impactful for my research? – Starior Nov 30 '19 at 10:08
  • is there a difference between two journals in terms of accesibility? – Boaty Mcboatface Dec 1 '19 at 16:34
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Impact factors can be very misleading. Journals in chemistry or material sciences have in general higher IF than physical sciences, simply because the community, amount of academic research topics, industrial research, researchers and engineer is much higher. So more people read such journals, although the truly higher impact research is likely achieved and published regularly in physics journals, as nobel prizes even in chemistry are often given to physicists due to groundbreaking achievements in methodology and theory that advance further progress in chemistry and material sciences. This turns everything a bit topsy-turvy when it comes to judging in which journal you should publish your results.

In my opinion you have to guess in which journal you might get the most citations of your work. For a non-tenured researcher this is in my opinion by far the most important criterion/number (so rather pointing towards a gaining a high h-index). Of course it is nice to have a nature/science paper, in some scientific branches it looks even mandatory to be suggested for tenure. But I heard already in germany about a backlash of the publish or perish culture and that tenure committees again look more on the quality of publications than the sheer number or IF due to citation cartels etc. making quantities like h-index etc. inaccurate to truly judge researchers.

If you have tenure and don't need so much to networking anymore focusing on high IF journals looks common because a publication in nature/science gets more media attention/coverage than in a field-related journal and acquiring funding becomes easier with high IF publications. For non-tenured researchers or results that are really theoretically and experimentally original, personally I would always choose the journal where you guess you will get the most citations. That's in your interest and in that of the community. E.g. gravitational waves discovery could have been easily published in nature/science, but for above reasons physical review letters journal with much lower IF was chosen as this journal gets by far the most attention among physicists.

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Let me suggest that the IF of the journal overall is less important to you than having your paper seen by the people who need to see it. I assume you are interested in citations of your work. You won't get them if the people in your field don't have ready access to your paper.

I think that a specific journal is a (valuable) benefit to you, independent of IF, which is an overall measure that doesn't really impact any particular paper.

This is especially true for hard-copy journals that have wide subscription within your field. Your paper will naturally appear before suitable readers. But even for online publication, your readers need to have ready access to at least the index of the journal in order to know it exists.

The above is opinion, obviously.

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