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I have a paper that has never been submitted elsewhere. Now my advisor thinks that this Elsevier journal called Chaos, Solitons and Fractals (CSF) is a good fit. A cursory search shows that this journal has had a history of misconduct involving the chief editor. When I brought this up, my advisor told me that this happened over ten years ago and the journal seemed to be doing okay after the relaunch. He tells me that his peer had a good experience with them and peer review seemed to be at work.

Obviously, I don’t want to argue over things like this with my advisor. After all my paper might not even get published there. But I am also worried about ruining the credibility of my work given the reputation of this journal. Should I go with it? Is it okay to publish in a journal with such a history?

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    Can people change? If they can then can journals change? Perhaps your advisor knows more than you. – Solar Mike May 26 at 4:17
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    If Max Tegmark can publish there, you can publish there, too... – Captain Emacs May 26 at 13:56
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    It’s always hard to assess at a single option in isolation — what are the alternative options? Are there other journals where your paper would be a good fit, in either your or your advisor’s judgement? You will be able to make a much better case to your advisor if you can propose an alternative — “Journal XYZ seems a good fit too; it’s slightly lower-impact than CSF, but avoids the danger of getting tainted by memories of CSF’s scandals, so I’d prefer to submit there” is a much more constructive suggestion than just “I don’t want to submit to CSF.” – PLL May 26 at 14:35
  • Ignoring the simple fact that you are arguing with your advisor, why not choose three to six journals in that field which are respected, and ask their submissions editors? You don't need to give your real name or get specific about your project, but you could simply share exactly what you've already Posted. – Robbie Goodwin May 27 at 22:39
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Why not? A quick look at the controversy indicates that the disagreements were entirely around the editor-in-chief publishing his own papers in the journal, papers which were lightly reviewed + indulged in a lot of self-citation. This means:

  • It's only the editor-in-chief's papers that are affected; none of the papers by other authors published in the journal are;
  • Once the editor-in-chief changed, it's no longer a problem.

So even if the editor-in-chief was in the wrong (which is not certain), it should be fine for you to publish there.

If it still concerns you, note that Clarivate Analytics / Web of science still has the journal indexed, i.e. they think the journal still meets their standards, and it has an impact factor of (as of time of writing) 3.064 which is good for the field.

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    The controversy was not entirely around those papers being published: the point is that those papers had a high amount of self-citations, and as a result CSF gained a disproportionate impact factor. This is mentioned here and here. What might still be true is that the journal has a place where it does not belong in ratings, and a reputation acquired with fraud. – Federico Poloni May 26 at 6:35
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    it has an impact factor of ... 3.064 --- Interestingly, Annals of Mathematics has an impact factor of 3.027, and its reputation is light years higher. However, I do believe CSF has been OK since the controversy with the former editor-in-chief. I suspect the impact factor "paradox" is due to the fact that CSF publishes many papers not purely devoted to mathematics, which skews the values upward, as such papers tend to get cited more widely and sooner than mathematics papers. And maybe, as @Federico Poloni suggests, the former issues also play a role. – Dave L Renfro May 26 at 14:53
  • @DaveLRenfro Annals of Mathematics is not in the same field. CSF is in three categories: "Physics, interdisciplinary", "Mathematics, interdisciplinary applications" and "Physics, mathematical". Annals is simply in "Mathematics". Further its impact factor is 4.165, not 3.027. – Allure May 27 at 0:03
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    @DaveLRenfro also impact factors are calculated using only the past two years' data only. There should be no impact from the controversial issues anymore. – Allure May 27 at 1:21
  • @Allure Sure, but impact factor is a rich-get-richer reputation system: journals with a high impact factor attract better articles, which in turn push the impact factor. Would CSF have the same impact factor today without everything that happened 10 years ago? – Federico Poloni May 27 at 17:25
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I have absolutely no idea about the journal in question, so I will provide a more general answer on how to guide the issue. I agree with the comment by @Dave L Renfro.

You are a co-author, which means that you need to agree with the choice of journals. No matter how experienced the advisor is, and regardless of being correct (he may be perfectly right!), he does not have a carte blanche.

I would suggest a very thorough search around that journal, especially on the publications of the last 10 years. Rumours and hearsay, or even solid reporting, can only provide so much information, so try to dissern any pattern between the journal, authors and institutions. Something might be out of place, such as the turnover time of certain papers. If you have a personal connection with someone who has published there, it is worth asking. An email to an unknown, however, may seem strange unless you find a hook such as a social media post.

Also, flat-out refusing to submit is counter-productive. You should try and find 2-3 journals with relevant interests and comparable reputability, which may not translate to an equivalent impact factor. You can press for your favourite, especially if you have cited papers from that journal.

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    In addition to asking about it here, it may be worthwhile to ask your adviser to explain in more detail why s/he feels it is okay to publish there. I assume the current perspective of adviser is that there is no disagreement about where to publish and that it has been explained. If you need more explanation, I suspect the adviser would be willing to give it. You might learn some useful things about academic publishing in the process and ultimately may come to agree with the adviser's point of view. – commscho May 26 at 22:53
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I don't know to what extent the journal has recovered its reputation (I was aware of the controversy, but it's not remotely in my area). However, a good place to look is the Scimago journal rankings, which gives you quite a lot of information. In particular, looking at the graph of "cites per doc" vs "external cites", you can see that the steep rise in citations during the period 2003-09 was largely driven by an increase in internal citations. These dropped off completely in 2010, and in recent years there has been a rise in citations driven almost entirely by external citations. That looks to me like a sign of a journal which is strengthening its reputation.

But, as others have said in comments, the best course is to discuss it further with your supervisor, who is likely to have more specific insights into how it is currently regarded in your field.

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