What sparked this post was a discussion with a fellow PhD-student, where I was told that advice from several senior researchers was not to submit a basically finished manuscript because it would have to go to an only okay journal; not a top journal. Instead, the manuscript should be totally reworked and then sent to a top journal. One top journal publication is supposedly more worth than five ‘other’ publications.
I don’t understand. Anyway, it motivated me to read a recent article from the B.E. Press by Heintzelman & Nocetti on journal submission strategies. The article starts out with two quotes from famous economists:
Start with a higher-quality outlet than your eventual target […] The professional returns to choosing a better journal are higher. But a strategy of aiming high requires thick skin; the acceptance rate at major economics journals is around 10 percent. Thus, it pays to have a ‘submission tree’ in mind, a sequence of alternative outlets for your work. – Daniel S. Hamermesh [see Heintzelman & Nocetti 2009 for the reference]
Give each of your papers a shot or two at the top journals, such as the AER, JPE, or QJE. Even if you are not confident in the paper, it is worth a try for two reasons. First, as author, you are not in the best position to judge its quality; some people are too fond of their own work, and some are too hard on it. Let the editors decide. Second, the editorial process is highly imperfect. The bad news is that some of your best articles may end up getting rejected from the top journals. The good news is that you may get lucky, and some of your so-so articles may end up published in top journals simply because they hit the editor’s desk when he is in a good mood. – Gregory Mankiw [p. 1]
Fair enough; these advices does not say only to go for the top publications. More interesting, perhaps, is footnote 2 on page 2, which refers to ‘Oswald (2007)’ [again, see Heintzelman & Nocetti 2009 for the reference], which ‘shows that the best (most-cited) articles in middle-tier journals are often ‘better’ than the least-cited papers in top-tier journals.’
Heintzelman & Nocetti 2009 moves on to show that Hamermesh’s and Mankiw’s advices holds up well in their analysis.
Given the long reviewing times in most journals, however, [the advices] may not be well suited for young, untenured, professors who are more likely to be impatient and risk averse. These authors should instead consider submitting to lower tier journals first [p. 3].
And then move up the ladder?
Heintzelman & Nocetti also brings advice for less gifted authors (read: me):
[A]uthors of papers that are not of the highest quality, and especially those without an established reputation, will lean towards lower tier outlets [p. 3].
The part on reputation is somewhat unsettling. Anyway, the ‘senior’ advice my fellow student got seems to be B.S.
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