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My colleague and I work at an Open Access journal, published by a regional scholarly association. The field is Communication and Media Studies. Recently we started to encounter problems with reaching out for authors. We use a small set of professional email lists, listservers and newsletters to disseminate our Call for Articles, which worked in the past 3 years; meaning we always had enough quality submissions from which we could build up a full and content-wise well-balanced issue.

Problem is that recently, we launched a digital marketing campaign after which we received only a handful of manuscripts with average to good publication potential compared to a swarm of plagiarized/incomprehensive/ below-standard/simply uninteresting manuscript mainly from third world countries, India and China (just for clarifications, we do not collect author fees or APCs and all content are free for our readers, so I thought it was clear for everyone that we are not in the pay-to-publish business). We desk reject the majority but enough will remain to completely drain out our reviewer pool for the next 6 months.

I'm asking the community to suggest a better way of reaching out for professional authors. Locally, we are in Eastern Europe and the journal is not ISI or SCOPUS-indexed, so it is not the best for bean-counting purposes; but we have quality content and peer review process. Are there any techniques that should help us convincing western universities to circulate our calls or publish it on their websites? Anyone in the same shoes as we are?

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    I don't really get your problem. You have too many paper submissions as-is, but you are looking for more? I don't think there is a feasible way to get word about your publication out to the wider public without at the same time also attracting really bad submissions. The trick, I guess, is to desk-reject harder. If you already know that all those bad submissions are not good enough, why even bother your reviewers? – xLeitix Mar 3 '15 at 11:02
  • My problem is that after screening out junk papers, we have too many submissions which 1. are in line with the wider profile of the journal 2. present (imho) methodologically sound science 3. does not report interesting/meaningful results or are on a topic which is only of very narrow interest. – HunSoc Mar 3 '15 at 14:10
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    @JDenes: I think most people would agree that it's totally reasonable to desk reject a paper for reason 3. – Nate Eldredge Mar 3 '15 at 14:33
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    @JDenes Sure, but why do these papers clog up the review process? Just desk-reject them if you are convinced they are bad. And if you do that, don't you just end up with at least the same amount of reasonable papers that you had before your "digital marketing campaign"? – xLeitix Mar 3 '15 at 14:35
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    @Samuel Russel: yes, this might be a solution. Till now, our approach was similar to PLoS in that matter, namely that we did not desk reject methodologically sound researches, whatever limited perceived impact they might be if published. In the past, no problem emerged from that. Some issues had filler papers, like 1 from every 10 articles or so. But now we risk to water down our future issues with filler papers if these manuscripts pass peer evaluation. – HunSoc Mar 4 '15 at 10:57
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The key for most scientists is the impact factor. Trying and succeeding to become listed will attract more good manuscripts (MS). The flood of sub-par MS you are describing comes from the fact that you are free. Unless you want to impose a fee for submitting MS you will simply have to maintain a very stringent policy for submissions and hope that the wave ceases with time. In order to attain IF status, you will need to be stringent anyway. But as you probably realise being stringent and building a reputation is a fine balance.

For a budding journal, the most important aspect is to become known and for the right reasons. For starting a journal I would stress making sure you have some good names among the editors and that the idea of the journal is supported by the community. It is never to late to start this but best before your reputation solidifies as a less prominent journal because then the climb will be harder.

So, some suggestions: Thematic issues generally tends to attract citations because they provide the opportunity for someone interested to find other articles within the same field in the same issue. With electronic publishing it is also possible to assemble virtual thematic issues simply by linking to articles with similar aspects and labelling them with a theme, and of course announcing this on list servers etc.

Attracting established, respected and widely referenced authors to provide articles for the journal is also key. You can, for example, provide opportunities to author invited papers on key issues, review articles on key issues in your field etc.

Success will, however, not come overnight and the most important aspect is to gain the interest of your community. This can be a slow process but can be aided by linking up with societies or equivalent in your field. In my field the European Geophysical Union has generated several Open Access journals that quickly has gained IF status. These journals were firmly embedded in the community and emanated from a discussion about the need for journals with a specific target community. So you need to assess your community and see if you can liaise with activities or organisations that are established in your scientific community.

Regardless how you continue, you definitely need to maintain high standards so even if you need to reject the vast majority of submitted manuscripts, make sure you only publish good quality science and make that very clear in your "advertising". Without that basis, very little success can be expected.

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The answer above is well-written and sums up some excellent tips on how to help you.

To add to this, many researchers are now pressured to publish in faculty recognised journals. When I started, I was given a list of journals and academic book publishers that would be considered high quality towards my overall publishing targets as developed by my faculty, and was told that I should aim to only publish in these journals.

There are a number of journals that cover my scope of research that are not included on this list which is highly frustrating. But as a new academic in an environment that's not just about how much you publish, but also where you publish, this means that I need to target these journals and publishing sparingly in non-recognised journals by my faculty.

This is something your journal will be coming up against (and actually, your journal's field would be something I'd publish in if it covers my particular scope of research). However, I can't, because unless it's on the list of journals I'm expected to pursue, I have to justify why I've published there and not somewhere else. Many researchers, already feeling pressured by these new systems in a highly competitive environment are going to forego journals like yours to publish in those recognised by their faculty.

So it's almost a bit of a paradox. You need quality authors to publish their work with your journal in order to strengthen your impact/prestige, but these same authors are pressured to only publish in high impact journals as recognised by their faculty. Give what Petter Jansson has suggested a go to try and raise your journal's impact.

  • I never heard of that "faculty recognized journals" list. Is this an R1 thing or fairly general just i was not aware of it? Thanks! I opened another question connected to this topic at academia.stackexchange.com/questions/41268/… – HunSoc Mar 8 '15 at 9:58
  • @HunSoc I'm not sure. It's a common practice here in Australia I think at the group of 8 universities. Basically, a faculty recognised journal is just a list of quality journals/academic book presses the faculty/university has deemed appropriate for quality publication. Researchers are encouraged to publish in journals/academic book practices from this list, and a % of journal articles published must be from quality journals for your overall publication target expectations with your current Academic level (i.e. Level B lecturer might need to publish 2.5, with 1.5 being from quality journals). – awsoci Mar 8 '15 at 20:21

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