Getting Published – strategies for successful researchers

Research journals on a shelf

Research journals on a shelf

This week UWE put on a workshop aimed at research students and staff on the topic of getting research published.

Setting the scene

We’ve run this particular workshop for the past 10 years in which time the landscape of scholarly publishing has changed (and is still). This time we invited a number of contributors to offer different perspectives on getting published. Richard Goodman, Leila Moore and Jo Billings from Taylor & Francis publishing group came along to give their perspectives as Managing Editors of a number of journal titles. Professor Andy Adamatzky and Professor Richard McClatchey, two experienced academics and journal editors gave their insights as academic researchers.

Challenging the publish or perish rhetoric

I also gave my perspective on this, being a former researcher who now supports the development of early career researchers and an advocate of open research.

Much of my presentation (below) was drawn from what Professor Pat Thomson has to say on writing for peer reviewed journals and the differences between that and writing a doctoral thesis. In particular I found elements of her book, co-authored with Barbara Kamler, Writing for Peer Reviewed Journals: Strategies for getting published really useful in framing this session.

Part of the research landscape is the obsession with metrics which many fear are driving the wrong sorts of behaviour in higher education. There are many people who share my unease about advice given to early career researchers – it goes along the lines of ‘find the highest status journal with the biggest impact factor in your field and publish there at all costs’. I think this doesn’t take into account of the changing face of scholarly publishing and makes it more difficult for researchers to start the process of getting their reputation out there. I believe that researchers need to disenthrall themselves with the idea that journal impact factors are a good indicator of research quality.

It can’t be ignored that a publication record is important in academia but I think the focus should come back to the purpose of scholarly writing and understanding who it is you are writing for. I talked about how difficult it can be to write for peer reviewed journals, it is hard because it requires a different approach to that of writing a thesis or writing an application for funding because the reader is different in all those cases. The context is the key thing here.


Here’s the slides I used on the day.

A publishers’ point of view

Richard Goodman then gave a publishers’ point of view on the publishing process giving an useful overview of the mechanics. There was recognition that the open access agenda is changing things and that publishers will have to adapt their practices to accommodate the shift. The slides he and his colleagues used are included here:

Many researchers fall at the first hurdle when submitting a manuscript to a journal simply by not understanding the scope and format that the journal accepts – reading and understanding the journal’s guidelines/instructions for authors is an essential step.

The changing landscape of scholarly publishing

Probably the easiest way (and my preferred way) of explaining the changing nature of research is through the medium of Piled Higher and Deeper Comics

It’s important to place scholarly publishing in the wider context of the drive to be more open and transparent with research – not just with removing barriers to the outputs of research but opening up the whole research process.

Funders of research in the UK have applied some pressure for this change by incorporating the requirements to be open into the conditions of funding but I think it is also worth pointing out that open research is good for the researcher themselves.

Using digital tools to boost your reputation

A key factor in the changing landscape is to use the tools at your disposal to promote your research, the outputs and indeed your interests as a researcher. There was some discussion about how you can do this (see the Taylor and Francis presentation) and I also run a further workshop on this entitled The Digital Researcher. The next one is in February.

Jorge Cham of PHDcomics helps explain the issue of communication.


Academics’ point of view on publishing

Richard McClatchey and Andy Adamatzky gave a short and valuable insight to how experienced academics approach publshing and indeed academic writing as part of their daily work. Their tips are summarised here.


Further resources and advice

1. Help and resources for authors from Taylor & Francis

2. Vitae Researcher Development Website on publishing your research (login required)

3. Why Open Research – new website for open researchers

4. JISC resources to help researchers with open access

5. Facilitate Open Science Training for European Researchers (FOSTER) – European-wide project supporting open research across Europe