Some days ago I made an YouTube live about this topic (in PT-BR, sorry). This blog post is a text version of that video.
Perhaps one essential part of the scientific endeavor is to communicate what you found in your research study to your academic peers. This communication starts when a researcher submits a paper to an academic venue (such as, a conference or a journal). If the paper is accepted, the paper will be published in the conference/journal proceedings, and then could be accessed by anyone interested in the research topic of the paper.
Deciding which venue you will submit your is critical since some venues might have better visibility and reach than others. Actually, although some venues might have a fancy name, they might not have a good reputation. For instance, some venues publish roughly any kind of work (regardless of the quality of the work), if they can charge you money. Young scholars should build their reputation by staying away from bad venues. But how could you distinguish the good from the bad venue?
In this blog post, I’m assuming that the reader is already familiar with paper writing activities, and may already have a paper in good shape for an eventual submission. The question is: how to find the right place to submit your work?
When deciding where to submit your paper, you could sometimes rely on your advisor or your colleagues that participated in the research. Since they might be more senior than you, they might have in mind some good conferences/journals in which you could submit your research work. The list of conferences/journals often comes from their own experience in conducting (and submitting) scientific work. As a junior member of the time, sometimes it’s hard to disagree with the suggestions that your colleagues made, mainly because you might not have other ideas (or perhaps you don’t know if the journal you have in mind is indeed a good one). As a consequence, you may inherit the same taste for submitting papers of your mentors and colleagues.
Although this is a popular way to build your understanding of the research paper submitting process, I’d like to propose an alternative view.
As a young scholar, the chances are that you have on your desk a couple of research papers that are very important to your investigation. Sometimes you have just one, yet fundamental, research paper on your desk. The chances are that you already have read these papers many, many times. You know the method, the results, and every other detail of these papers. If that’s correct, here are some questions for you:
- Where was this research paper published? (take note)
- Where were the cited papers published? (take notes)
- Who is/are the senior author(s) of the research paper? Visit her(their) webpage and see where she publishes her other research work? (take notes)
- Do the same for the cited papers (take notes)
If the paper on your desk is relevant for your research, it is likely to be published in a good venue. For instance, if your advisor sent this paper to you, it’s because your advisor knew that paper is a good one. If you found this paper by your own, your search criteria might have excluded many other similar works. If you found this paper by accident, go back do the first step. Assuming the paper in your desk was indeed published in a proper venue, the papers it cites might be of good quality as well. Otherwise, how could that paper be a good one, if it’s not standing on the shoulders of giants?
When doing the proposed exercise, look for some patterns. For instance, although you have been reading and visiting many different research papers published by various researchers in different years, note the most common venues in which these works are published. Bad academic venues can absolutely be found and cited, but only excellent academic venues are cited frequently. Similarly, if the senior author of that research paper is an authority in your field (for instance, she has a robust research contribution over two or more decades), the chances are that she also publishes her research in good venues. Yes, even well-known academics may have one or other publications in obscure journals. Still, the majority of her contributions should be made in good academic venues (and not the opposite).
The outcome of the proposed exercise is a list of the 5–10 most frequent academic conferences/journals that you might have found. This list might be a good proxy of the good venues in your research area. Obviously, this list is not definitive, but it may help you to get started. During your exercise, you definitely have encountered dozes of academic venues, but I suspect that they don’t appear that often (only once in a while). If that journal that keeps inviting you to submit your work is nowhere in the list, you perhaps don’t need to bother with it.
Note that in this blog post, we did not mention anything about rankings. Yes, ranking can be handy here and there. But rankings have a significant shortcoming: they use quantitative metrics to evaluate research. As any quantitative metric, research metrics can be manipulated and inflated. But this is a topic for another blog post.