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Financial terms, content quality, etc, is not a problem. The author has a contribution that will significantly impact the advancement of human knowledge about a particular topic.

Can anyone submit a paper? Or does it require some affiliation with a larger group such as an educational/governmental/corporate institution?

I am talking about journals of such clout as the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Physics of Fluids, etc.

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    Everyone can submit papers to peer-reviewed journals, if he has something valuable to submit. – Enthusiastic Engineer Dec 13 '14 at 7:02
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    "The author has a contribution that will significantly impact the advancement of human knowledge about a particular topic.": In general, this would look like a presumptuous claim from an author: the largest majority of papers are just tiny advancements in the human knowledge. – Massimo Ortolano Dec 13 '14 at 7:47
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    ..."The author has a contribution that will significantly impact the advancement of human knowledge about a particular topic". According to who? Himself? Sounds like a crank. I have never heard such "outrageous" claims even from successful professors with multiple highly cited publications. – Alexandros Dec 13 '14 at 9:21
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    As my doctoral advisor told me once, anybody can submit a paper, but actually having it accepted for publication is a whole 'nother story. – Koldito Dec 13 '14 at 9:29
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    @Massimo: It may be immodest for an author to say it, but nonetheless that phrasing is typical of how journals describe their standards for accepting an article. If you honestly think your contribution is insignificant, you probably should not submit at all. – Nate Eldredge Dec 14 '14 at 19:14
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Anybody can submit to almost any journal (there are some out there where some sort of existing membership is a pre-requisite, but they are rare exceptions).

There is, however, an additional barrier that an author has to overcome if they are not known and/or they are not affiliated with some reputable institution. In essence, peer review of a journal submission is attempting to evaluate credibility of the arguments presented in the paper. Authors who are known in the community that they are submitting to or who are coming from highly reputed institutions have an inherent advantage in that they already have some credibility simply through their reputation or affiliation. An author who does not have these advantages will naturally be faced with more skepticism about their statements, particularly when dealing with an experimental work where the paper cannot contain every relevant fragment of information about the work being reported.

What this means, in practice, is that when a submitted paper has flaws, an unknown and/or unaffiliated author is more likely to get rejected whereas a author drawing on prior credibility is more likely to get asked to make revisions. This might not be ideal, but pragmatically it is fairly reasonable: there is a lot of really bad stuff submitted to journals, and the quality of a submission is typically fairly well correlated with author and institution.

So how should an unknown and/or unaffiliated author go about publishing? First off, it's very useful to get feedback on pre-submission drafts from trusted colleagues, so that the initial submission can be as good as possible. Second, it's rare that any major development is contained within a single paper. Rather than trying to publish "the one big paper," one can build up credibility by publishing a sequence of manuscripts, starting in still-credible but less prestigious journals.

For example, if the work is about a general new principle, there could first be a paper proposing the principle and analyzing its implications, followed by another paper making experimental tests of some of those implications, followed by a bigger paper pulling it all together an demonstrating the general power of the principle with more diverse experiments. These are all perfectly reasonable papers---no LPU dishonesty needed, just an understanding that most significant ideas usually result in more than one journal paper worth of work, and some idea of how to segment the work sensibly.

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    It's not clear how your statements about author reputation apply for anonymous peer review. It's certainly possible for reviewers to deduce authorship in some cases, but I don't think a reviewer will assume an author is a nobody just because the reviewer doesn't recognize the writing style/material/whatever. – BrenBarn Dec 13 '14 at 21:27
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    @BrenBarn For double-blind, of course you are right. But lots of journals aren't double-blind. – jakebeal Dec 13 '14 at 21:53
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    @BrenBarn Don't forget about desk rejections, too. I don't think these are double blind, even if the subsequent peer review is. – user9646 May 21 '18 at 7:58
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Anyone can submit a manuscript to a peer reviewed journal. The challenge that face persons without training in scientific writing through, for example, a PhD, is that the manuscript is probably far more likely to be rejected because of poor writing or other mistakes. The key issues for authoring a good paper is to have a good grip on the literature in the field, knowing the sources that should be referenced to provide the basis for the own work, to know how to write clearly, concisely and precisely, and to understand any specific publishing aspects of the field.

It is not rocket science but usually requires both good coaching and training. Approaching the authoring with care is therefore a good strategy.

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    +1 for The key issues for authoring a good paper.... Thanks. – Enthusiastic Engineer Dec 13 '14 at 9:57
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My initial reaction to this question was that the only requirement for submitting a paper to a typical journal is that one has to be a human being. But then I remembered Shalosh B. Ekhad, which, in addition to numerous papers with human co-authors, also has a few solo papers.

5

Anyone can submit a paper to a journal. Author institutional affiliation rarely if ever plays a role in the peer-review and acceptance/rejection of a paper. The gold standard for high-quality research is that the paper makes a significant contribution to the field, advances theory or practice, has a high degree of rigor, and is written using formal, scientific, though accessible language.

2

As other has pointed out, the affiliation is not mandatory, although it might help. I have recently found a paper in a leading top-tier journal in physics, Physical review D, a leading journal in elementary particle physics, field theory, gravitation, and cosmology, which appears monthly. The impact factor for PRD is high, 4.5, with Article Influence® Score: 1.105. There it can be seen a recent paper titled "Comment on "Fermion production in a magnetic field in a de Sitter universe"", by Nistor Nicolaevici, Attila Farkas. The second author is currently unaffilitiated, as you can see from arxiv version of the paper, or the published version: "Attila Farkas unaffiliated, Alte Strasse 42, 89081 Ulm, Germany".

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