29

Suppose one works in field X, and has say two or three manuscripts ready for journal submission. Journal A is a good fit for all the manuscripts, but journals B and C would be appropriate as well.

All else being equal, is there any benefit in having papers in different journals? Does it hurt to have all of your papers, or say a substantial amount of them, in the same journal A? For example, would it be a good idea to submit one to journal A, and the other one to journal B?

I could think of someone saying "I read journals B and C, but not A", so in this sense spreading your research in different journals would make sense. But maybe this is not so typical to begin with.

31

There is obviously no right or wrong here, one should try to publish in the best suited journal. That said, in fields where there are several options, sticking to a single journal may look a little strange. If you publish in different (but suitable) journals, it may be looked upon as that your research is accepted by a wider set of peers. Some may perhaps also think you have a special connection to the journal etc.

So the need to publish in different journals should primarily be the focus of the journal. Some people I know enjoy the fact that they are published in widely different journals and some people may see that as your research being more widely accepted (right or wrong).

3
  • 10
    The bit about looking like you have a special connection to the journal is an important point. If you publish repeatedly in one journal, people may wonder whether you've identified an editor with a soft spot for your research topic. That's not necessarily a problem, if your papers are really good, but you don't want your publication record to come across as having repeatedly taken advantage of an unusually favorable editor. Aug 5 '14 at 14:58
  • 2
    Supplementing @AnonymousMathematician very pertinent comment, I have heard editors say that exactly for that reason (they don't want to give the impression of having favorites), they are made uncomfortable by string of submissions. So it seems that from all point of views, scattered submissions are better.
    – Olivier
    Aug 7 '14 at 13:22
  • @Olivier With the exception of planned paper series, of course :-)
    – yo'
    Mar 22 '15 at 23:00
18

I will answer only in the prospect of making one's CV look good; note that I am a mathematician and that this certainly affects my answer, notably because in mathematics (at least from what I see in France) the impact factor is rarely considered.

The way a journal is seen can vary a lot from one person to another (for example, some journals cover several subfields but are important and selective in some subfields, less so in others). So, if you publish all your papers in the same journal, in addition to the effect described by Peter Jansson you will reduce the probability that any given person looking at you CV would think "wao, he or she published in that excellent journal Y" where Y will be A for some people, B for some else, and C for others.

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    Isn't this argument going in the opposite direction? If you apply for 10 tenure-track positions, you should aim to raise your probability of qualifying as the best candidate in at least one of them, not your probability to arrive in the top-5 in all of them. So any strategy that has a small probability of raising significantly your 'score' in the eyes of a single hiring committee is better than a strategy that has a uniform probability of raising your 'score' by a little in the eyes of all of them. Feb 27 '21 at 11:23
  • @FedericoPoloni I don't think my point goes in the opposite direction for several reasons. First, one starified publication influences the whole CV. If you have one Inventiones, you are stamped badass and your publications in Bulletin SMF will also look better. The second Inventiones might be good, but the effect is lesser. This works for most people, but Compositio/JEMS/CMP will work with different communities in this direction too. Second, hiring committees are diverse, for one position you need to also convince people from other communities. Mar 1 '21 at 9:57
  • @FedericoPoloni Also, I did not only though of getting a permanent position, but of other cases where your CV is evaluated and that are less cutthroat. Mar 1 '21 at 9:59
10

In additions to the existing answers:

  • CV beautifying, part 1: Publications in journals with different focus topics make you look more like an interdisciplinary person (which is usually preferred), while publishing in identically themed journals or even only one journal makes you look rather single-minded.
  • CV beautifying, part 2: Excessive publishing in one journal may make you look like somebody who never tries new things and sticks to whatever is working.
  • Publishing in different journals will give you a broader experience, though mostly with how publishing can be handled. There is one important exception to the latter, though: You may learn about advantages and disadvantages of the individual journals, e.g., if you only publish with journal A, you might never learn that journal B is better at organising and speeding up the review process, has a better style file, has better copy editors, etc.
2

Most people would base their decision on:

  1. The relative rating or impact factor of the journal compared with others relevant to the same field; and
  2. The relevance of your material to what the journal typically publishes and their audience.

The citations you are likely to get will be influenced by both the profile of the journal and the relevance of the material to its readership.

Its therefore perfectly feasible (and sensible) to publish material in a 'lower ranked' journal if the research you are looking to publish has greater relevance for that audience.

BUT - if the research in question is genuinely only a 1-shot-at-goal only situation when it comes to publication - then you would usually be inclined to go for the highest rated journal that you can as these outlets can be very selective.

Be aware however that, for better or worse, most academics will now 'salami slice' the output from their research, or different aspects of it, for different outlets. This is not always a bad thing (and may not actually constitute 'salami slicing'). For example, a paper emphasising theoretical or methodological aspects to the research may go to a different outlet to one that is more applied or gives greater emphasis to context, findings or implications in practice.

This final point does however flag that if you are only ever publishing in one journal it does convey a relatively narrow focus in terms of how you convey the relevance of your research and your willingness to engage a broader audience.

So in this case it sounds like publishing across different outlets is a good idea :-)

1

It's unlikely that two or three equally good journals exist to serve a single audience. That is: while your work may be a "good fit" to all three, it is likely to reach a somewhat different audience in each case. In my field, for example, one journal has a more "theoretical" outlook than another. Plenty of papers could easily fit in either, but theoreticians may be more likely to read them if they are in one journal rather than the other. This may be a consideration, depending on the content of your paper and what you hope to achieve with it. Equally, you may bring your work to the attention of a wider audience by publishing in multiple journals: even if people do not read your paper, they may come to recognise your name.

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    "It's unlikely that two or three equally good journals exist to serve a single audience." Maybe you could say a bit more about the particulars of your sample space. In my field -- mathematics -- for instance, there are for instance hundreds of journals with the name [State/Region/Country A] Journal of Mathematics. Of these one could identify perhaps five to ten different levels of quality. This leaves a bewildering array of choices for this kind of journal alone. There are an awful lot of math journals... Mar 22 '15 at 17:39
1

By publishing papers in different journals, you definitely gain a wider readership. Having publications in a wide array of journals gives the impression that your work is acceptable to more readers across journals, and perhaps even across disciplines. Publishing repeatedly in the same journal might give the impression that your work is valued only by a specific set of readers, and in the worst case, might also raise suspicions that you have some association with the journal for which they are favoring you.

0

Depending on your country, there might be an "official system" that classifies the quality of publication channels, i.e. ranks journals (this happens in e.g. Finland). Whether you like it or not, people e.g. outside of your field might judge your merits based on these rankings. The rankings live and might change over time, and if all of your papers are published in a highly ranked journal X today, the ranking of X might drop tomorrow.

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