A journal is issuing a new issue which is related to my research area. I was planning on submitting my paper to this issue, but my advisor told me instead to submit the paper in a regular issue, due to the fact that special issue papers are usually accepted by reviewers without the reviewers giving them the required peer-review attention, and that it is known that publishing in a special issue is not as good as publishing in a regular issue.

Can someone please confirm or deny this information?

2 Answers 2


This might be field dependent, and it is good to follow your advisor's advice as they know the field better than you (or I) do. But I find it a bit strange.

The one thing that would seem to support the statement is that, having a firm date for publication, there are probably fewer review-rewrite cycles for special issues so that weak or marginal papers don't get improved much. But, they are also much more likely to get summary rejection early.

If a paper is good, then the venue in which it is published doesn't change the quality of the paper. It is what it is.

Moreover, in some fields, special issues have special editors that are top-level academics in the theme of the issue. They are in a good position to know what is important/interesting/novel in that field.

Frankly, I'd prefer a special issue for my own work since it is more likely to be seen by those who care the most, since a special issue is normally theme restricted.

But, your advisor is probably referring to a "perception" problem that they (and maybe others) have with special issues. If we "think" the papers are lesser quality then we won't consider them important, independent of the actual quality.


My perception is that for "ordinary" journal special issues in high quality journals, they are a bridge past editorial desk rejection. In that sense, it's less difficult to get a paper into a special issue in the same journal as a regular submission. I disagree with Buffy's suggestion that these papers have strict editorial review and more lenient peer review; I get the opposite impression (as Buffy mentioned, this may be field dependent). My colleagues have used and recommended using special issues for some of those papers where people we know in our subfield have seen and like our work, but we just can't seem to find an editor that finds it interesting enough. The options then are to send it to a journal that doesn't make editorial decisions about paper impact or to try a special issue where the editor is likely to be closely interested in the same field.

That doesn't really say anything about quality, though, it's just that a journal that publishes general basket weaving papers all of the time may not find your specific underwater basket weaving paper to be of interest to the broad journal readership, but when they're preparing a strictly underwater basket weaving issue, their expected target audience shifts a bit.

There is another category of special issue, though, which are those in lower quality journals where they've somehow snagged an editor to be a special issue paper wrangler or just have one special issue after another to try to convince authors to commit to that journal by making it seem like this is their special chance. These are just money grabs and the editors have other motivations than quality. Stay far away from those journals, but further away from their aggressive special issue editors.

As for papers I read, I can't recall ever paying a cent of attention to whether they were published in a special or regular issue to decide whether it was worth reading.

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