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  • Steven Lee

"Might I Interest You in Publishing Your Paper?"

It is natural to think that possessing several outlets to publish your academic paper is a great problem to have--and, to a certain extent, you're right. But like every decision, there are considerations and concerns surrounding such an important decision. Are you asking yourself the right questions before making the choice? Do you understand what, if any, implications will result from your decision? There's a lot to think about, much of which may not seem obvious when finding a home for your exposition.

We have received a few offers for our paper, "Victim Characteristics of Investment Fraud," and while some may seem like a good idea, there are always "what if" possibilities to mull over. Between unintended commitments and unforeseen consequences, it is helpful to run your options by someone more experienced in your field since each one is different. A faculty mentor or dissertation chairperson can offer invaluable guidance to navigate through these decisions and save you some angst and growing pains in the process.

Peer-reviewed solicitations

Until earlier this week, I had no idea this even existed. I had never heard of a journal reaching out to authors to submit a paper to that journal for publication consideration. I stand happily corrected. And with that, that's it, right? Case closed! Not so fast. In one of my email exchanges with a dissertation committee member, I learned about the Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC). "Wait, so you're saying that a bunch of Aussies sit around ranking the importance and impact of academic journals worldwide!?" Yep, at least in business, they do. The shock isn't because it's Australia (I've been there once--it's a pretty neat place!) but rather this is so off the wall compared to an American grad student's expectations and intuition of how things should go. Basically, your typical business school will review the ABDC list for a particular sub-field like management or marketing and then tweak that institution's particular list. It will then expect its professors to publish journals in the revised list in order to obtain tenure or promotion. So, what could possibly be wrong with a journal asking me to submit my paper for publication? The ABDC ranks journals from A* (highest) to C (lowest). Guess which rank the journal who contacted me is? Yep, "C." Now, C is still better than journals that are not ranked, but C isn't as good as a B, A, or A*, and if I want to land a tenure track job in a research-1 university's finance department, then I better start publishing work in the best journals possible. To me, that means B or, possibly, A.

E-journals

Another offer, which I just received today in fact, was to publish my work in an electronic journal for a conference proceedings. Many conferences publish their proceedings or articles (or some of the articles) that were presented at the conference. Whether in hard copy or digitally, the conference will then publish that collection. The potential danger here is two-fold. First, it's borderline whether some peer-reviewed journals will permit dual publication of the article (meaning your paper would be published in the proceedings as well as the unrelated peer-reviewed journal). Some journals can be really strict about this, and those won't even permit you to leave your paper posted online such as on the Social Science Research Network! As a condition of publication, those journals will force you to take down any and all copies of your paper floating around the interwebs (in my opinion, a small price to pay if the journal is high quality, though it's a little annoying that people will then need to pay the journal to access your paper). The second problem is if the journal to which you want to publish your work is one of "those journals" I just mentioned. This means you won't be allowed to publish in the proceedings, and if you already gave the green light to the proceedings, you may be disqualified from publishing your work in your number-one spot. This isn't at all intuitive, and this particular point was never conveyed to me in grad school, so I think it bears emphasizing here.

Books

We were also approached prior to and at the conference by a major academic book publisher to submit a proposal that would be peer-reviewed and hopefully accepted. Sweet! Except that many institutions do not view book publishing in a favorable light. Publishing or editing a book takes a lot of time, and the peer-review process may not be as robust as it is in an academic journal. Book publishers may have a smaller circle of reviewers whereas most top journals retain top talent in most every conceivable subject area related to the main discipline. In short, publishing a book while struggling to attain tenure can be a major time drain in exchange for little to no credit or recognition by the tenure review committee. Additionally, tenure is a numbers game where, at least to an extent, quantity surpasses quality (although realistically the department wants both). You could either publish a single book of 100 or so pages, or you could take those 100 pages and publish five or so different-though-related articles. Since many institutions count both as a single publication, you would literally earn five times the prestige--in terms of tenure--for the articles than for the book. Doesn't sound very fair, but as I'm learning quickly, little in this business is.

Submission fees

The final consideration, after you decide the department in which you wish to work as well as which journals you will need to target, an eliminating factor (at least until you successfully negotiate submission fees into your contract) is the fee to submit journal articles (yes, really). Most journals do not charge submission fees, but there are some (such as finance) that do, and these fees can be sizeable. For instance, the top finance journals (ABDC rank of A*) range from $170 to more than $750 per submission--per submission! Not only must you hemorrhage much of your grad student stipend away, realize that most of these top journals boast acceptance rates of less than 10% Some are as low as 6-7% (or lower). Even if you do manage to secure a spot in that top publication, understand that acceptance on first submission is a unicorn (that means it virtually never happens). It's one thing if you are a titan in your field, a Nobel laureate, or the paragon of academia, but if, like the rest of us, you are a mere mortal, it will take several revised submissions--at least two but probably closer to three or four. Also, you guessed it, you'll have the privilege of paying that fee every time you submit. Many times, however, you will be refunded the most recent fee if your paper is accepted. For those of you lucky enough not to endure submission fees to your discipline's best periodicals, submit away!

Bottom line

It's important to understand where you see yourself in the near-to-intermediate future in this game. What kind of institution, department, and discipline (if your expertise lies in a niche located between two or more areas) do you wish to represent? Start at the end, where "end" is securing tenure and then work backwards. Complete the sentence, "In order to obtain tenure, I must do x"; Find out what x is, and then begin aiming to achieve those milestones, little by little. Knowledge is power, so the more knowledge you have, the more you can portend, and the greater the likelihood you will end up in the same place you envisioned when you started.



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