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Getting Published

Publishing the results of scientific research is a crucial step in the research lifecycle. Find resources targeted to UCSF researchers to help you get your work published.

Make a list

To start the process of deciding where to submit your manuscript for publication, make a list of potential journals, based on:

  1. Literature searches on your topic in PubMed, Web of Science, or other appropriate databases for your field (see all UCSF databases). Make a note of journals that have published results similar in scope and impact to your study. These may be a good match for your manuscript.
  2. Journal rankings by category or subject can be retrieved using Journal Citation Reports (UCSF subscription) and Scopus Sources (free). Both sources include only journals indexed in Web of Science and Scopus, respectively.
  3. Selection tools such as Jane, SJ Finder, and EndNote's Manuscript Matcher (UCSF subscription) help you find journal matches based on an article title and abstract. EndNote Manuscript Matcher is accessed via UCSF’s Web of Science subscription or via an individual EndNote account. It matches your article title and abstract, along with any EndNote reference groups, to journals indexed in Web of Science Core Collection and Journal Citation Reports.
  4. Recommendations from your mentors and peers.
  5. Consider also broad-scope journals that meet your criteria for the factors below. Broad-scope journals (also called mega-journals) such as PLOS ONE, PeerJ, SAGE Open, and Scientific Reports publish all articles that pass peer review for being scientifically sound.

Ideally you want to identify journals before writing your manuscript, so that you can tailor your manuscript according to the journal's guidelines.

Research your journals

Once you have your list of potential journals to publish in, read up on the journals via journal web sites and other resources highlighted below. Some of the factors listed here will outweigh others; and you may have additional requirements. Eliminate journals from your list that do not satisfy your requirements. A common consideration for all of the factors below is how transparent the publisher is (see Evaluating Publishers). 

Factors to consider for each journal include:

  1. Subject, scope, and target audience. Look for the journal's "aims and scope" statement (usually under "About") to get a sense for fit with your research. Look at the editorial board members as well as articles and authors in a selection of journal issues.
  2. Indexing and discoverability. Where a journal is indexed will determine how easily readers will discover its articles. Use Ulrich's Periodicals Directory (UCSF subscription) for a comprehensive list of "Abstracting and Indexing Databases" for the journal.
  3. Article types. If you're looking to publish a review article, case study, software article or the like, ensure that the journal accepts that manuscript type, and note any specific manuscript instructions by type.
  4. Acceptance rate and time to publication. Not all journals reveal the percentage of submitted articles that get accepted for publication, but when they do it can help you decide how good of a match it is for your work. Take into consideration also the journal's turnaround time for peer review, acceptance, and publication. Be wary of journals that offer an unusually quick turnaround (e.g. one-two weeks), for they might be deceptive about whether peer review is conducted.
  5. Open access. Open access (OA) means your article can be read online without a subscription immediately upon publication, by anyone, anywhere.There are thousands of fully open access scholarly journals (see the Directory of Open Access Journals), and many subscription journals offer an article-level open access option. Some journals charge a per-article fee for OA publication. UCSF authors get discounts on OA charges from selected journals, and UCSF faculty may be eligible to receive funds to defray OA charges. Beware of questionable publishers - see evaluating publisher guidelines.
  6. Author rights. Verify what rights you as author will retain if your article gets accepted for publication. This copyright information should be described in the author or submission guidelines. For open access publications, your work should be licensed under a Creative Commons attribution (CC BY) license which allows you or any reader to use the final PDF without requiring publisher permissions. Other publications require authors to sign an agreement transferring some or all copyrights to the the publisher. Use the SHERPA RoMEO database to lookup publisher copyright policies. Beware of any journal that requires you to transfer copyright upon submission.
  7. Manuscript preparation guidelines. Ensure that the journal provides ample instructions for preparing your manuscript type, including any formatting, protocol, ethical approval, and data sharing requirements.
  8. Peer review type and process. Review the journal's editorial process for how it conducts peer review. Single-blind and double-blind are the traditional models, however more and more journals now practice open peer review, and post-publication peer review is on the rise. See an overview of review models.
  9. Preprint servers offer a means to make your manuscript accessible before it is peer-reviewed and published (more info). Check the journal's policy, as preprints are increasing in popularity in the biological and biomedical sciences, and are now required by funders such as the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. Many journals accept manuscripts that have been deposited in open preprint services such as bioRxiv, PeerJ Preprints, or OSF Preprints. Some have even integrated posting to preprint servers during manuscript submission. Verify the policy of the journal(s) you are submitting to before posting (see the preprints section of this guide for resources to look up journal policies).
  10. Article and journal impact. Scholarly work impact is typically measured by how much overall attention it gets via citations, social media sharing, and news write-ups. Some popular ranking systems are:
    1. Impact Factor (IF) from Clarivate Analytics is a journal-level ranking. Available via Journal Citation Reports (UCSF subscription). The IF is a measure of the average number of citations to papers in the journal over a two year period for more than 12,000 journals included in Web of Science. 
    2. CiteScore journal metrics from Elsevier (free). The CiteScore measures the average number of article citations over the previous three years for over 22,000 journals indexed by Scopus.  
    3. Altmetrics, or alternative metrics, capture attention garnered by individual scholarly works on social media networks, mainstream media, blogs, public policy documents and more. The Altmetric service is popular for presenting these results. Use their bookmarklet to look up any article by DOI. Check the journal's provision of article-level views and downloads and altmetric data, which captures attention both before and after an article garners citations in the literature.
  11. Data sharing is required by some journals and research funders. See Data Sharing & Management from the Library and PLOS' recommended repositories for guidance.

Contact the Library for any questions or to request a consultation or presentation.

Rank, submit, & revise

After you've narrowed down your list of journals based on the research above, you're ready for the next steps:

  1. Rank your top three journals in order of priority for submission.
  2. Submit your manuscript to your top choice. Only submit the manuscript to one journal at a time. Your manuscript can be rejected by a journal if they find that it's under review by another journal.
    • Consider submitting your manuscript to a preprint server such as bioRxiv if the publisher doesn't do this automatically for you.
  3. Respond to the peer reviewers' questions and comments, revise your manuscript as needed, and resubmit it to the peer reviewers until it is accepted or rejected.
  4. If your paper is rejected, submit it to your second choice, and so on. Note that some publishers will offer to shop your journal to another journal in their portfolio, eliminating the need for you to resubmit it.
  5. Once your paper is accepted, celebrate your accomplishment!!