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I know that certain journals are often lauded by academics as being highly prestigious (e.g. Nature/Science/etc).

However, how important is journal prestige really? Is it absolutely life changing? Is it the difference between being taken seriously or outright dismissed by the larger community? Or is this just a fad in certain elitist circles and doesn't really impact the reception of the research?

What has been your experience like with prestigious journals in general? Are they all that people make them out to be?

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    It's somewhere between "fad" and "extremely important". On the one hand, technically it doesn't matter where you publish: As long as the community somehow gets wind of your work (e.g., through your communication), and the work is good, you won't be ignored. However, in reality, there are all sorts of second order effects, such as: By publishing in a prestigious venue, you're helping not just yourself, but also everyone "downstream" of your work (i.e., those who continue it or answer your questions), as the prestige bleeds onto them (e.g., they get much better chances at publishing ... Jul 18 '20 at 0:15
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    ... their work in the same prestigious journals as you, since journals tend to publish work that builds upon existing papers published in themselves). And you want to reward people building on your work; it's not just altruistically advantageous. And of course, there are all the situations where you have to impress people unfamiliar with your research topic (e.g., hiring committees), and since they cannot assess the quality of your work independently, they will try to judge it indirectly based on the status of its venue of publication. So I understand why people ... Jul 18 '20 at 0:18
  • ... spend a lot of time munchkineering their papers into high-status journals, even though I am somewhere between too lazy and too proud to do so myself most of the time. Jul 18 '20 at 0:18
  • @darijgrinberg That should all be posted as an answer. Jul 18 '20 at 3:05
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In principle, publishing in a prestigious journal may help reach many readers and/or boost your career. The practice of judging articles by the journals they appear in is widespread although also widely denounced (cf the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment).

In practice, a lot depends on your field of research, your career stage, and the organizations that pay your salary and/or grants. At one extreme, some people would boycott "luxury journals" as a matter of principle (Randy Schekman) or ignore journals altogether and just post their results on arXiv (Grigori Perelman). At the other extreme, some will tell you that their careers entirely depend on how many articles they publish in their discipline's elite journals.

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    Schekman and Perelman can do that because they are already famous. If you are not famous, don't try it. Jul 19 '20 at 11:18
  • Don't exaggerate. Non-famous people also do that, but in situations where recruitment depends on prestigious journals, you can afford ignore them only after obtaining a permanent position. Jul 19 '20 at 18:32
  • Most academics do not have permanent positions, and many who do have just learned that even faculty with tenure can be laid off. Those with permanent positions may also wish to apply for grants. I'm not exaggerating. Jul 20 '20 at 3:31
  • Still, you are implying that the careers of all but a few famous researchers are driven by prestigious journals. I could easily cite counter-examples to this overly broad claim, but by definition these counter-examples would not be as well-documented and verifiable as the famous examples. Jul 20 '20 at 7:18
  • I'd put it over 90% of researchers (not the same as academics), especially the younger ones. They say "publish or perish" for a reason, and it doesn't mean publish just anywhere. I'll limit my opinion to developed countries that I'm familiar with. Jul 20 '20 at 8:32
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I am completely disillusioned with prestige at this point in my academic career. It is all about the strength of the peer review committee for me now, nothing less.

I work on the intersection between engineering and computer science, so I get to read literature from both community and I cannot tell you how many completely **** paper makes it through the "peer review" process at top ML conferences/journals such as ICML, JMRL, ICLR, AAAI and NeurIPS. These "prestigious" journals are publishing crank-level papers with extraordinarily poor citation practices.

Of course, if you look at their peer review process then it is all revealed: two-three reviewers (possibly students) not too familiar with the field or the literature giving superficial and uncritical reviews to not hurt any feelings. There is an over-emphasis on simulation results, which are barely reproducible. Finally these reviews are rarely completely blind as well, because a paper is almost always simultaneously uploaded to Arxiv. Just because they are Google employees doesn't make their research good.

The same probably can be said for a minority of journals in engineering. I have definitely seen a share of bad papers here but I always ensure that they do not make it through.

It is all about the peer review process.

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  • I agree with this assessment. It is also frustrating dealing with 'students' who have no idea about writing or good research. They simply regurgitate poor practices, and reject good work or feel that they are have the power to do so. Jul 19 '20 at 0:47
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By comparing the CVs of academis who have permanent jobs with those who do not, you can show that publishing in a prestigious journal is, in fact, career changing. Having publications in prestigious journals is strongly correlated with later receiving a stable academic job.

This in no way means that everyone should spend all their time on trying to publish in those journals. For many people, worrying less about prestige would be life changing in a good way.

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From my perspective, you shall choose the journal that meets your research field and direction. It should be peer-reviewed and respected in your narrow area of research (ask your advisor/colleagues).

Many groups prefer to publish mostly in Nature-like journals. I would say that there you see more like a future prospects rather than full results with explanations. Language there is not specifically scientific as it is expected to be read by people from all possible spheres of life and work.

Journals directed to full research description are less read by the "wide" audience - that's why you can freely use "dry scientific language" and explain results and your work in details.

Good research will be found by the ones who are interested. Just be sure to create an adequate title and keywords. In addition, send out your paper to colleagues and post it via social networks to spread further.

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