Staying within the (journal) family

In 2005 we published a paper on contamination in ancient samples. It was decently advanced for it’s time, and a well conducted study by Helena Malmström. Yet, it took several submissions to various journals (must have been over five, actually closer to ten is my guess now) before we eventually got it accepted. We had done the common down-climbing in impact factor to a pretty low level, when Love (Dalén), who was a co-author on the paper noted: “we are submitting to such low-ranking journals so we are getting really bad reviewers, we should actually try to bump it to something that is competent to review it properly”. We did, and got it accepted in a decently good journal, and it eventually became one of my more cited papers.


What I am getting at here is the submission process. Submission is a time consuming process (especially if you have to reformat the manuscript in a resubmission). Back then we would identify a number of different journals to try if it was rejected by some of them. Now it works in a very different way. We just got a manuscript rejected from one journal, but with the rejection came a recommendation to submit to one of their little sisters, with just one click. No need for reformatting the manuscript, or even a full new submission, just a click. And with the prospect of saving two days of work, you will go for the one-click option 9 times out of 10 given that it is a decent journal being suggested. At least I do. If this was sales or marketing, I am sure there would be a set of laws making it illegal as some kind of un-fair competition. Thus, one difference between the submission process today and a decade ago is that back then we were selecting single journals to submit to in each case, today we enter a family of journals with the first submission, and usually stay within it due to the load of work it demands to move to a different family if a submission is rejected. The science-publishing business is shady in so many different ways.

The manuscript-submission process