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I have published a paper in a then new journal about 2 years ago. As my paper is one of their most cited so far, they have since invited me to publish another article (fully open access, waiving the APCs) last year. I took the offer and published another paper there (the BA thesis results of a student I suupervised). As this paper was also well received, they have extended another invitation to publish a paper, again OA and with waived APCs. As this is new (now about 2 years old), it does not have an impact factor nor does it appear in any journal rankings, yet with a reputable publisher.

I do have some results from my PhD research that I plan on publishing in the near future. I now wonder if I should take them again up on their offer, as it makes things considerably easier - the scope fits, and there is no cost (my uni also has an open access fund, but it is not limitless and the portion I would not use could benefit others without the possibility of cost-free publication). Other, more established journals (with impact factors) on the other hand would probably look better on a CV, or wouldn't they? But then again, if many high quality papers will be published in the new journal, it will get more recognition and by the time it will be of importance to me, the journal might get listed in rankings and will be positively viewed. After all, if everyone takes their good papers only to the established journals, newer journals do not really have a chance to rise. Then again, publishing many papers at just one journal may be perceived as being lazy or unambitious (I don't really know if that is the case).

So I guess my question is, is it a bad idea (academic career-wise) to publish for free at not yet established journals (especially as a PhD student)?

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    In other words, "Why do people bother trying to publish in Science, Nature, or NEJM, anyway?" Oct 6, 2023 at 13:05
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    Two thoughts on "After all, if everyone takes their good papers only to the established journals, newer journals do not really have a chance to rise": First, you can leave this to problem to senior academics, possibly your future self, to fix, who don't need to worry about a competitive job market. Second, there might be room for a balance of having some papers in highly competitive venues and some in new ones--as a PhD student, you should mostly worry about the former. Oct 7, 2023 at 8:37
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    Also, before worrying about "newer journals do not really have a chance to rise", ask yourself whether there's any particular reason to want this new journal to rise, e.g. is it a not-for-profit or a diamond-open-access job that therefore doesn't suck resources out of the research ecosystem the way some more established journals do? Oct 7, 2023 at 9:43
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    @Dilworth there are myriad journals that are pay-to-publish. They call it "open access", but depending on the journal, it can range from legitimate, to a pure money-making exercise.
    – masher
    Oct 7, 2023 at 13:13
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    @Dilworth But not immediately; most make authors who don't pay the fee wait a year or two before publishing on an institutional repository. Oct 8, 2023 at 10:50

3 Answers 3

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Journal prestige matters. One Nature/Science/etc paper counts way more than five papers at less reputable journals. The question is whether you can get your ideas published at more prestigious venues. If this open access journal is the only place that’s reasonably going to accept your work, then you don’t really have a choice I suppose. If you can adapt your results and aim higher - do so. It’s great that you support open access and a new journal, but it will be at some cost to your career if you keep publishing at low tier journals.

Future employers will assume that you published your work at the highest tier place that would accept it. That is, you “went down the list” until you found a venue that accepted your work. They wouldn’t know you went for this journal because of some special relationship.

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    I don't think that this journal is my only option, I just wonder if chosing this option is bad. I have already published at other journals as well.
    – Sursula
    Oct 6, 2023 at 13:10
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    So yeah, it’s hard to make specific recommendations, but people do care about publishing in tried tested and true venues
    – Spark
    Oct 6, 2023 at 17:59
  • ah! sorry typo - corrected
    – Spark
    Oct 6, 2023 at 19:49
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It depends on the field and whether other people in your field are using this new journal, too. As your past works where cited, you did get the attention needed. I assume you got proper peer review with helpful comments that helped you to improve your paper.

You have to balance two factors against each other:

  1. How much more work and waiting time would it take you to publish elsewhere? How would this effect your next paper or your work on your PhD thesis?
  2. Would you really get more readers and potentially more citations from publishing in a more established journal?

A lot of work would never be accepted in Science or Nature, as they are eager to publish results that are of general interest to non-scientist readers. These papers get mentioned in news papers. Do not think you have to publish there ever.

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I think this is a bad idea, almost irrespective of how good the journal actually is. If someone ends up with almost all their (recent) papers published in a single journal, that looks like they have found a journal that isn't very discriminating and are continuing to submit there as a way to avoid having to produce good papers. So just from seeing this sort of pattern on a CV, my expectations of both the journal and the researcher would be reduced.

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  • Before people have their PhD, I wouldn't be that harsh. For an application to a tenure track this might be different. I don't disagree with your answer, but it depends on the stage of career.
    – usr1234567
    Oct 8, 2023 at 17:41

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