Thursday, August 3, 2017

Journal Life List

Steve Heard just posted a blog on his journal life list – all of the journals in which he has published and how his papers are distributed across those journals. Kind of like a birder’s life list of species. Dividing the number of journals by the number of papers gives a very rough JOURNAL DIVERSITY INDEX (JDI**) for an author – Steve’s is 0.61, which he expects to be high. Although I hadn’t planned to write a blog on this topic, it reminded me that I am always excited when I expand my journal life list, favoring JDI increase. Yet at the same time, I tend to target particular journals that I think are in my core research area, favoring JDI decrease. So I quickly (on the train home) did an analysis similar to Steve’s, with some additions.

At first blush, it is clear that my JDI of 0.28 is way lower than Steve’s, presumably because I tend to target core journals: Evolution, The American Naturalist, and Journal of Evolutionary Biology. But then second blush made me realize that the above contrasting motivations (increase diversity vs. focus on core journals) is a function of the joint combination of submissions and acceptances given submissions. Hence, I next did the same analysis but based not on where papers were published but on where I first submitted them.

The general trend, and indeed the JDI (0.23), are similar – suggesting that I really do focus on core journals over journal diversity. But this number is probably biased by a single journal – Nature – to which I have often submitted first but in which I have only rarely published.* Deleting Nature gives a JDF of 0.26, so I still tend to favor core journals over diversity. In fact, it is interesting that my JDF for submissions is lower than that for publications, suggesting that my rejection rate at the core journals is slightly higher than at other journals. I therefore next compared numbers of submissions to journals with numbers of publications in journals.

The two are highly correlated, as one would expect, with my core journals (apart from Am Nat) seeming to have roughly similar or higher than expected acceptance rates. Of course, the difference between these numbers are not strictly acceptance rates because I sometimes publish in journals, including my core journals, papers that I previously submitted elsewhere. At the extreme, I have published in 11 journals to which I never done a first submission of a paper. At the other extreme, I have submitted first to 4 journals in which I have never published a paper.

So, what to make of this beyond my apparent emphasis on core journals. Perhaps it is that journals should give out frequent publisher miles that might, for example, lead to waived publication fees. For instance, I have published 19 papers in Evolution, 17 papers in Journal of Evolutionary Biology, and 11 papers in Molecular Ecology. However, I don’t think I have really had to pay publication fees for most of those. Maybe better would be discounted attendance at annual meetings – yeah, I like that.


* I have included (for ease of generating this quickly), all publications in a journal even if they are introductions or notes or comments or news pieces. For example, my publications in Nature are News & Views and the like. 
** This is just a quick and simple metric - see Steve's blog for more comments on it.
*** Perhaps my favorite bird cartoon is below - simply a gratuitous blog for

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