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Tips for publishing in academic journals 2.0

A few weeks ago I attended the 28th International Congress for Conservation Biology in Cartagena (Colombia). ICCB has been, as always, a great conference, and it gave us an opportunity to repeat the session on “What editors and reviewers are (not) expecting to find in your submission”, which we held for the first time in Brisbane last year (see here a previous blog post from Bonnie Mappin).

Here is the fantastic panel that joined our session at ICCB.

This time we had a larger audience and also a larger editorial panel, including: Mark Burgman (Editor in Chief of Conservation Biology), Gillian Greenough (Executive Editor at Wiley), EJ Milner-Gulland and Mark Schwartz (both Senior Editors of Conservation Letters), Bill Sutherland (Editor in Chief of Conservation Evidence), Frith Jarrad and Ellen Main (respectively Managing and Senior Editors of Conservation Biology).

I report here a non-exhaustive list of the most relevant tips presented by the Editors during the session (in no particular order):

  • Make sure you target your paper to the appropriate journal and really think about why it's a good fit (don't just go to the highest impact factor), and pay attention to journal scope, mission and manuscript preparation guidelines, it will save you a lot of time;

  • Think about why you want to publish the paper, what outcomes you want, and target the journal accordingly - e.g. if you want to reach a wide practitioner readership, open access might be more important than impact factor;

  • Speak to who the target audience is, in other words make sure that this target audience is actually one that reads journal articles;

  • Place your work in a general context of conservation science, ask yourself why should someone who does not care about that organism or location want to read your paper;

  • Avoid conflicts of interest in recommending preferred reviewers, selecting people too close to you do not generally help and they are not typically selected by Editors;

  • High-profile scientists are unlikely to accept requests for reviews (they receive too many of those), do not list all high-profile scientists among your preferred reviews;

  • Welcome criticism, it is your best friend! Everyone gets criticised (even Einstein!); successful authors learn from criticism: if your paper is rejected, revise and resubmit elsewhere, if given a chance to revise, be courteous in replying to reviewers (and to authors, if you are the reviewer);

  • Be thorough in replying to all reviewers comments, incorporate all the suggestions that will make your paper better and all those that won't make it worse; use evidence (results, citations, etc.) to politely disprove critiques that you do not agree with;

  • If the reviewer doesn't understand something, work from the assumption that this is because you have explained it badly and revise it accordingly;

  • Think of a submission as an exam where you set the question! You need to identify the question, answer it and give balance of evidence;

  • Dedicate enough attention to the Abstract and Cover Letter, they are not always read by the Editors, but when they are this is the first thing an Editor will read (and must give a good first impression);

  • Make your Methods stand alone, do not simply refer to past papers, a reviewer might not have time to read 10 papers to get a grasp of what you have done;

  • If your institution does not give you access to a journal where a relevant paper was published, email the author of the paper and ask for a copy, you will be surprised by how quick an author is in sharing their published papers (and attract potential citations!).

Hope to repeat this session again, as I learn something new every time!

And here is a photo of the audience asking questions to the panel.

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