Publishing in high-impact journals continues to be crucial for researchers

Early-career researchers (ECRs) continue to recognise the importance of publishing their papers in traditional outlets such as high-impact journals despite the increased use of social media and online sharing to disseminate their research activities.

According to the recent report by CIBER Research, ECRs strongly support open access publishing, especially in China and Spain, and believe that the advantages of collaborating with researchers both at home and abroad are highly beneficial for their scholarly output.

Nonetheless, they concede that in spite of the increasing number of tools available to researchers, the traditional route of garnering appraisal from both academic institutions and grant-awarding bodies by publishing in high-impact journals remains the number one priority for career advancement.

Indeed, ECRs do not expect this to change imminently – with the large majority not anticipating this classical mode of disseminating research to alter over at least the next five years.

In China, for example, the report states that cash rewards are still given to researchers for publication in prestigious western journals.

Researchers writing for journals“Despite their commitment to openness, sharing, transparency, and its disruptive benefits, ECRs realise they have to honour the tradition of publishing in high-impact journals to get on and be promoted,” says Professor David Nicholas, a Director at CIBER Research, which drew its conclusions after interviewing more than 100 science and social science ECRs aged under 35 from seven countries over three consecutive years.

“The large majority of ECRs believe that the research assessment system driven by the impact factor and journal-centred publication will not change in the next five years.”

He adds: “ECRs show little interest in the H-index and downloads compared with traditional citation measures such as the journal impact factor.”


New tools vs. publishing in journals

This exclusive focus on paper publication at the expense of activities that may enhance the spread of research findings even further into the public domain such as the use of platforms like ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogposts can serve as a frustration to ECRs, however.

Some feel that policymakers and funding agencies need to start to notice and reward the use of non-classical publishing platforms such as websites and repositories to transform “academia into a more open, expansive, and, hopefully, more effective enterprise”.

One step in that direction is that, encouraged by journals, more ECRs are now publishing data as supplementary material, particularly online.

However, the time-honoured approach by researchers to seek peer review and publication in high-impact journals shows no sign of declining over the next decade.