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I am a recently PhD graduate student in computer science.

In the last months, I wrote a paper about an aspect of my thesis, with the collaboration of my former supervisor. We found a call for papers for a "special section" of an important journal, that is a section focused on the data set we are exploiting. The submission deadline was set to the end of November 2014, but surprisingly we just discovered that it has been post-poned to the end of March 2015. So a 4 months delay.

Our paper is ready and I don't know what to do with the submission.

I would prefer to submit it now to the "normal" track of the journal, to move on to new projects and close this. But my former supervisor thinks that it's better to wait and submit it to the March 2015 "special section", because he says we will have more likelihood to get it accepted, even if this will make our paper more outdated.

What should I do?

Submit it to the "normal" track now with less chances to get it published, or wait 4 months and submit it (more outdated) to the easier "special section"?

  • Primarily opinion-based; because it is your choice. – Enthusiastic Engineer Nov 25 '14 at 19:57
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    One consideration is that for an early-career academic, it is desirable to have as many quality publications as quickly as possible. For example, if you are applying for jobs in the near future, it may be much better to have a paper accepted than one that is simply under review. – Nate Eldredge Nov 25 '14 at 20:01
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    @EnthusiasticStudent, if you haven't noticed, most questions on Academic SE are opinion-based. – James Nov 25 '14 at 21:03
  • @James This question is opinion-based, because the answer depends on the OP's preferences and conditions. He may need his paper to be published faster (because of some marks he may receive, he may have to submit a paper because of his scholarship, etc.), so he may submit it sooner. On the other hand, he may have some more time, he may not need a publication out of his PhD work, etc. so he may wait for the later submission... So I don't really know what Is it better.. is really better for him. – Enthusiastic Engineer Nov 25 '14 at 21:11
  • @James Also, If you really think that most questions are opinion-based and the close option "primarily opinion-based" is useless, you'd better to submit your thought about it in the meta.academia website and help to improve the website about it. – Enthusiastic Engineer Nov 25 '14 at 21:13
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There's another alternative. You can submit to the special issue early.

Usually journals don't have "easier" submission to a special issue or section. Most journals try to have the same review and editing criteria for such contributions as they do for other articles. (Consider that having different criteria makes it harder for them to process and track such articles.) I can attest - I had a manuscript that was asked for significant revision and it didn't make the "special issue" by the time we'd revised it.

But you can submit the article and ask for inclusion in the special issue and explain that you have the manuscript done now. They will probably send it for review, etc. but it won't be published until the remainder of the special section is finished as well.

I've done this. It gets the paper off your desk and lets you move on to other things.

What are the pros and cons?:

  • Pro: Usually a special section or special issue gets added attention and publicity. I haven't seen analysis, but one would hope that articles in this section or issue would have more readers and potentially more citations than in a normal issue.

  • Con: You will have to wait for the special issue to finalize, while if you submit to the "regular" journal, publication will probably happen sooner. On the other hand, if the journal publishes accepted articles before publication, or you can put the manuscript on a pre-print server, there's little downside.

Personally, I'd submit early, indicate in the submission letter (and online forms) that the article is for the special section and be done with it.

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  • Thanks Geoff, very interesting. Do you mean that we should ask to the "special section" editors to start the review process immediately, have all the notification and re-submission dates as they were not post-poned, except the final publication date? – larry Nov 25 '14 at 20:44
  • Yes. In many cases, you may not be alone - that other authors may wish to submit and process soon. That is, the deadline for submission is the final deadline, but some articles may be submitted sooner. – Geoff Hutchison Nov 25 '14 at 21:34
  • Thanks Geoff. Check here for the next part of the story: [academia.stackexchange.com/questions/32656/… – larry Dec 3 '14 at 15:14
  • Sorry to bump an old answer, but what does it mean for a journal to "publish accepted articles before publication"? – Azor Ahai Jan 7 '17 at 1:10
  • @Azor-Ahai - many journals will put up "just accepted" or "ASAP" articles in either the accepted or page proof form before they appear in print. Since special issues sometimes have a longer lead time, this practice is useful - there is a DOI and citation available, even if issue or page numbers are not finalized. – Geoff Hutchison Jan 7 '17 at 18:51
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I would strongly recommend choosing the special issue unless you are studying something time sensitive due to competition (e.g., you have a known competitor who might publish tomorrow) or emergence (e.g. an ongoing natural disaster).

First, depending on how the journal works, you might not actually have any delay in publication. Check and see whether the journal has a "just accepted" or "online first" section. If so, then your article will not have to wait for a special issue package to become available and citable. Instead, special issue articles will become available asynchronously as they are processed, and then packaged later.

Second, special issues, while they are reviewed no less tightly, have a specified audience that improves your chance of acceptance. You can much more readily pass the "audience interest" bar that many high-profile journals apply, since somebody else has already made the case that work in this area is of broad interest. Also, because reviewers are picked with expertise in the subject, you are less likely to get a bad match with a reviewer who knows little of your subject.

Third, you are likely to have a higher long-term impact from the publication, as it is grouped in a package with others like it, where it will be easier for people to discover or seek it out.

Finally, in most fields, four months is just not a long time. Finish your paper now, send it to the journal special issue before the deadline, and move on with your work.

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  • Thanks for your answer. But, as @NateEldredge correctly pointed out, waiting too long for a paper to be published may be deadly for your new job interviews and fellowship applications. – larry Nov 25 '14 at 20:53
  • @larry Do you know what is "too long" for your particular personal time schedule, and how it relates to either review schedule? – jakebeal Nov 25 '14 at 21:03
  • "Normal time" for a paper review is normal; "normal time" + 4 months is too long ;-) – larry Nov 25 '14 at 21:28
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    @larry I've dealt with some journals that went from submission to publication in 6 weeks and others where it took more than two years. Both were considered "normal" and it matters a lot what you're dealing with. If you're worried about job applications this year, even submitting yesterday is probably too late unless you're dealing with a superfast journal. If you're thinking about next year, a 4 month delay is unlikely to affect things. And will there even be a delay, unless it comes from you procrastinating? – jakebeal Nov 25 '14 at 21:52

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