I'm a USA grad student in computational biology. Starting 2 years ago, I tried to get paper X published, with very little feedback from my advisor, and after a year (!) in review paper X was rejected. Meanwhile, I was working on other projects, gaining experience, and drawing closer to graduation. My advisor then asked me to submit X to a kind of shady non-journal "proceedings" (he had some hook-up), and he didn't seem happy that I objected. Now, I hope to graduate in a few months, and with the benefit of my improved knowledge of science, I'm trying to get project X published again. My advisor only cares about getting things out the door, not about the projects, and he has a connection to this Chinese journal (jmcb.oxfordjournals.org) that I never heard of. He is impressed by their impact factor because that's how he is (I can tell they are gaming their IF.). He wants me to put it there, while I think a lower IF, less obscure journal would be way better. Additionally, it appears that very few institutions subscribe to this journal (my univ does not).

It's not a spam journal, but I never would want to submit there, and I feel that I should have some control over it as it's my work. But is it worth it to fight him on this, or should I just go along with it because he's the boss? I guess if it's easy to publish there, I should be grateful not to have to keep working on it after graduation? I do want to do a postdoc.

  • 1
    The list of Editorial Board Members contains several well-known leading scientists, so I wouldn't call this journal obscure. What journals do you propose sending your work to?
    – Bitwise
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:00
  • I was thinking Nucleic Acids Research, Genome Medicine, Bioinformatics, or Scientific Reports. My lab-mate is sort of convincing me that I should go with what's easy as long as the journal meets some "acceptable threshold".
    – phdscm
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:09
  • 2
    Well NAR is from the same publisher and its impact factor is higher, so I am not sure this fits with your reasoning. Bioinformatics is rather technical and almost never read by biologists, so depending on your work it might be the wrong target audience. Sounds like your advisor is aiming for a more biological audience. I am not familiar with the other two.
    – Bitwise
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:44
  • Right, I meant, the "online methods" section at NAR. The "proceedings" that I objected to was a technical CS venue.. I think he's just aiming to get it published and he isn't so picky about where. He has plenty of papers published each year, so the stakes are higher for me than for him. I'm just trying to figure out if I should be more picky.
    – phdscm
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 20:23
  • 3
    In (some areas of) technical CS, conferences and proceedings are much more important than journals. I don't know your work (well, in theory I could have reviewed it ;-) but it seems likely that your advisor wants to choose a venue where it is more likely that you get a publication within a reasonable timeframe.
    – choener
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 20:46

3 Answers 3


Here is what I can say:

  1. There are some very respectable people on the editorial board, e.g., Rudolf Jaenisch, Eric Sontheimer, etc. That said, I haven't heard of most of the people who are editors, and editorial boards can be manipulated.

  2. Oxford University Journals are (quite) reputable - at least, Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) is looked upon very well in my part of the world.

  3. I'm not really sure what you mean by "less obscure, lower impact" journal. Like, PLOS one, or Molecular Biology of the Cell? If the latter, it might be worth fighting for, but I don't think a potential postdoc adviser is really going to split hairs between MBoC and the journal you suggest (neither is Cell, right?) I do not think PLOS One would be a better choice.

  4. Do you know the reputation of the journal your PI wants to submit to is how you perceive it, or is just your perception upon first glance? It may be that the journal is looked on perfectly fine by other researchers. It might be worth talking to a non-adviser mentor in your field about it.

tl;dr: You could fight it, but you probably have better things to do with your time (i.e., find a postdoc), and it's not an obviously bad journal, so I would say just move one.

  • Thanks. I do not know the reputation, but my concern is that it is obscure and not subscribed by libraries. But I agree the publisher is reputable. I talked to someone in my lab who was familiar with it, and he was rather neutral on it. You're probably right, if it's not awful maybe it's not worth worrying over it.
    – phdscm
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 18:37

If the journal is junk, you should not publish there, period. So, the real question is: Is the journal as bad as you think it is or this journal is just not one of the top journals in your area but still a legit, reputable journal? So, confirm which of the two applies. How to distinguish journals has already been discussed several times in this forum. Check the editors, look their homepages if they mention their editorial work there, see who else publishes there and check some of the published articles.

In case this is actually a legit, reputable journal but still not top of the line, you should really consider if your work is actually as good as you think it is. It already has got a rejection and perhaps your advisor suggests some medium (and not top) journal, since he may believe your work might actually have a chance there. So, be open about this and ask him. What does he actually think about your specific work? Is it not good enough for the top journals? If he believes it is not, perhaps you should reconsider your stance.


If it's true that few libraries subscribe to it, then I would say that's serious enough grounds to choose something else, perhaps an Open Access option.

  • Why? is there a relation between the number of subscriptions and a journal reputation?
    – seteropere
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 1:29
  • Yes, of course there is. If a title is subscribed to by many libraries, it doesn't mean it's necessarily legit. If few libraries subscribe to it, it doesn't mean it's necessarily shady, but it does mean few people will have access and you should therefore seek something else. Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 5:30

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