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I am a PhD candidate now writing my thesis.

I have recently submitted an article to a very good journal (for a particular yearly issue). Along with the article, authors were encouraged to send "cover images" for the issue. I enjoy drawing and illustrating, so I did. First the paper got accepted (with minor revisions) and a couple of weeks later I got an email from the editorial board saying my image was selected as the cover image of the issue.

I got really excited at first, but a couple of questions come to mind now:

  1. Since authors are encouraged to send their cover images, is the selection based on paper quality or just image quality/beauty? I'm OK with being recognized as a scientist that can draw (ish), but I'd rather be a good scientist whose work "made it to the cover".

  2. Does it have any academic value to be on the cover of an issue? Aside from being featured in the issue (which should generate a broader impact based on bigger exposure?), is it valuable/acceptable to add a line to my CV?

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    In addition to what's already been said: you get to put it on a department bulletin board. Either an administrator or your advisor will do so or invite you to do so, or you can ask someone for permission to put it on some well chosen bulletin board. It reflects well on you, on your advisor, your group, your department, and your institution. Congratulations. (If you were the editor, would you choose a catchy image that goes with a weak paper for your cover? I don't think so!) – aparente001 Jan 21 at 6:49
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    Certainly not a milestone. Consider that in many journals that costs money and than the author has to bargain for reduction or no cost at all. Don't overthink. The weight of having a cover is negligible. The people evaluating you in possible future scenario would know or look at the paper, which is published cover or no cover. This said, getting a cover is certainly a good feeling. – Alchimista Jan 21 at 8:57
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    You are not getting paid for this, are you? I am sad to learn that the academic publishers have found a way to outsource another part of their job to scientists for free. (Actually, I wouldn't be surprised to know that they even asked you to pay for this 'honor'.) – Federico Poloni Jan 21 at 13:02
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    Haha @FedericoPoloni, no. I'm not getting paid (nor did I pay for it, thankfully). But I too get the feeling that academic publishers have found a way to get away with more profit for less work, hehe. – Leitouran Jan 22 at 3:04
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    @FedericoPoloni: I'd say this depends on the level of work asked from the authors. My n = 1 experience was that we were asked to submit a larger version of one image in the paper without axes/labels plus a short caption text (sufficiently self-explanatory to work without reading the paper). From that, an artist at the publisher produced the actual front cover image, which we got back for approval (like a proof). That level work by an author is IMHO entirely acceptable. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Jan 22 at 17:13
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Yes, it is a plus, and yes, you can add it to your CV. But it is (and should be) just one thing among many. It, alone, won't get you a job or a promotion, but it adds to the list of things that are positive about your contributions. The academic value will be positive, but small.

The paper is more important, of course. The image might induce a few more people to read your paper; a good thing.

Congratulations.

But your sense that you want to be known for the quality of your papers is the right attitude.

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    I completely agree. However, as far as I observed, people who got their paper featured with a cover image are usually a bit more excited/proud of it than your answer suggests. It is at least frequently showcased at conferences and also often put in a frame and placed in the office or somewhere where many people will see it. And as far as I can see, there is nothing particularly wrong about it. In some fields, it is difficult enough to have a representative and pleasant image describing what you do at a glance. – Snijderfrey Jan 20 at 14:51
  • This appears to only answer the second question? – Axeman Jan 21 at 6:55
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    @Axeman The first question is poorly written and based on subjective elements (what is the selection based on) that we cannot know the answer to unless we made the descision ourselves. The first question is predominently rhetorical as the OP goes on to state what they would like as the outcome anyway. – 10B Jan 21 at 14:18
  • Have you or @Snijderfrey seen people put this on a CV? How does one include it? – Kimball Jan 21 at 20:46
  • Indeed, first question was rhetorical. There's no way you could know unless you are in the editorial board of this particular journal (which I haven't mentioned); so I'm content with the answer provided by Buffy. – Leitouran Jan 22 at 2:59
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Several reputable journals I am familiar with ask authors to submit cover images. Once they receive the cover images, they ask the authors to pay a fee for the image to appear on the cover.

For people who know about this process, awareness that the authors may have paid a fee to appear on the cover decreases the prestige of appearing on the cover. People who do not know will be impressed.

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  • How do they decide between the authors? Is it a bidding war between people who want to appear on the cover? – meneldal Jan 22 at 5:49
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    @meneldal They set the price high enough that most authors won't do it. There is also a waiting list. In addition, sometimes there is a "front cover," "back cover," "inside cover" and so on. These journals do not print paper copies. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 22 at 9:06
  • When a paper I coauthored made it to the cover, the journal asked us for permission and a larger version of one of the figures in the paper. The actual cover image was then produced by an artist at the publisher and AFAIK no fees were involved. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Jan 22 at 17:09

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