The quest for the perfect journal to publish in: The case of psychometrics, differential psychology

So you’ve just finished your hopefully good paper. Now comes the question. Where to send it to? Actually, normally you would start by looking at journals to send to before writing. Why? Because journals are not very consistent in their requirements in writing style. There is a huge variety in the ways they want you to list references alone. If you’re using a WIZZIWIG word processor (like Word or Loffice), this means that it is cumbersome to rewrite reference systems. In fact it is cumbersome just writing papers.

But, you’re a clever one, you’ve learned about writing in LATEX and so, of course, you wrote your new paper in that. But wait, many journals only take submissions in Word clones. You’ve just restricted yourself further. Writing in LATEX saves you time in the writing process, but it might increase time due to not being able to find a journal that will take .tex files.

But ignoring issues with the chosen word processor, on what criteria should one ideally select journals to publish in? I can think of a number to begin with:

  • Journal impact factor
  • Open access
  • Publication fees
  • Peer review system (or lack thereof)
  • Speed of publication
  • DOI
  • Indexing
  • Number of readers
  • General likeability and respect of the journal
  • Whether they take LATEX

Journal impact factor (IF) is a number based on how often articles in the journal is cited. Naturally, this creates a positive feedback loop where authors try hard to publish in high IF journals which are read more and so cited more, and so increase their IF, and so competition to publish there increases, and so on forever. For journals that have limited space (even artificial), this also increases their selectivity of papers, i.e. making it harder to publish there. ‘Top’ journals like Nature are super selective because of this.

Open access is obvious. Science should be freely available to all. That’s the way it can best be utilized in practice, e.g. in politics which is notoriously unscientific. If you want more people to read your article and not just the abstract, then open access is a must.

Publication fees are fees that authors have to pay to publish in the journal. Naturally you don’t have to pay those. Sometimes there is an interaction with open access, in that a journal that is normally closed access, will agree to publish your paper open access if you pay a lot of money. “a lot” is not an exaggeration. Intelligence (IF = 2.8), for instance, allows open access but only if you pay 1800 USD plus taxes. Yes, they are absolutely immoral. No wonder, it is an Elsevier journal, a company whose main purpose is leeching money from the scientific community and the public who sponsors the scientific community. Elsevier is very evil.

Peer review is the the practice of having peers i.e. other researchers in the same broad area review your articles. The usual practice (pre-print peer review) is having an editor who receives manuscripts that people send in. He then decides if its utter shit or irrelevant or uninteresting (or something), and if it is he rejects it. If it isn’t (in his opinion), he sends it to some reviewers. These reviewers then maybe after some time write back to the editor of whether they think the article should be published. The editor then decides on those grounds in some kind of idiomatic way whether to publish or not.

In many ways, this is not a good way of doing science. See here and Nosek, Brian A., and Yoav Bar-Anan. “Scientific utopia: I. Opening scientific communication.” Psychological Inquiry 23.3 (2012): 217-243. What you want is instant publication, post-publication open peer review.

Speed of publication is how fast the decision to publish the paper or not is made after the manuscript is sent in. This can take literally years. A typical tactic is after a journal rejects a paper, just to send it to another journal and wait again. After some years of doing this someone will publish the paper unless it is unbelievably bad, and then that might not be enough.

DOI (digital object identifier) is a clever way of quickly referring to any piece of science published, figure, database, article, book, whatever. Many journals provide a DOI for the paper, but some don’t. You want this.

Indexing is if and where the journal’s contents are indexed, e.g. in Google Scholar. Since finding relevant papers via search engines is a very common way of finding papers, you want this.

Number of readers is obvious. You want to be read. Publishing in Icelandic in an unknown journal is not a good idea for this purpose.

General likability and respect of the journal. If you don’t want to be disliked, publishing in allegedly or truly racist or pseudo-scientific journals might not be a good idea.

LATEX, already covered. You want this to save time.

Where to publish?

Given the above criteria, what options are there? I can thin of some:

Journal/Criteria Impact Factor Open Access
Publication Fee Peer review Speed DOI Indexing Readers Likability LATEX
Intel., PAID, etc. High No (with fee only) No Pre Slow to very slow Yes Yes Yes Yes Some of them
JOI Low Yes No Pre Medium Yes ? ? ? Yes
Unknown three journals Very low Yes No Pre ? ? ? No ? ?
MQ Lowish No No Pre Medium No Sporadic Lowish No No


I published my first paper in MQ. I don’t mind the general dislike of it, as the works therein are quite serious in my opinion. Pre-print peer review was thorough too. Their lack of LATEX is annoying, but most annoying is the lack of indexing and DOI.

JOI might become good in the future. Right now it is weird. It has a weird system where they apparently only have special issues, and so one can’t submit stuff not covered in the special issue. Very odd.

One can also just self-publish. Perhaps set up a journal oneself to get DOI and stuff.