Whatever your career stage or discipline, publishing (and publishing the right things) will be important as a researcher. We’ve already learned a little about bibliometrics and altmetrics as a consideration where to publish [Thing9]. In this week’s blog, Dawn Duke, Head of Programmes for African Research Excellence Fund (AREF), takes us through a practical but effective strategy for your publications, in the short and the long term.
Your Publication Strategy
A senior colleague once advised that I should always have at least one publication in each of these three publication stages at any one time:
1) A publication that you are planning, i.e. doing the research on currently, or writing, or planning a book proposal for, etc.
2) A publication that you are writing.
3) A publication that is in the process of being published, i.e. submitted and undergoing peer-review, corrections or is in press.
At the time I thought she was crazy (and she is a little J). How in the world could I ever be able to plan all of that? Publications happen when you have enough research to publish, surely you can always know when that is going to happen? At the time, I tended to write at the end of a research project and didn’t think about writing consistently throughout, and I also didn’t think too broadly about the audiences or types of publications I could potentially be writing for. I was thinking of publication simply as dissemination of my research results to people who were very much like me (i.e. professionals researching in a specific field), not as an avenue to engage and communicate research with a range of different people and to define one’s own research career vision and impact. This is where I was going wrong.
Publication is our outlet to shine a light on our research to a wide range of people. It is also our opportunity to define our specific niche within the larger research world. What is it that we are passionate about researching? Why does it matter? What makes our approach unique? What difference do we want to make to the field? To the community? To the world? Publication is the vehicle of this, and a publication strategy that is built based on your individual values, goals and expertise can help define you as a researcher.
The key to a strong publication strategy to think about what you want to get out of publication. What impact do you want your research to have? For many researchers this impact has to do with communicating their core research to the broadest academic audience possible, leading to more people reading your academic papers, and importantly, more citations. Therefore, prioritising publishing of research results in journals/platforms that reach a large academic audience is key. This may mean targeting top tier journals, as well as ensuring your article are openly accessible to people via open access publication options.
However, there are other avenues of publication that can enhance one’s career. Publishing method/methodology papers or review papers can enhance your reputation in certain targeted areas. Publishing in professional/lay publications can help expand the impact of your research into groups of people for which academic publication is not likely to research. Equally, policy briefings or papers may be of interest for researchers wishing to influence policy on various levels. Even a blog, much like this one, is an avenue to reach out and build your profile as a researcher. These alternative publications can support and point to your main academic research outputs in a way that is more easily accessible to a wider audience. A good publication strategy will have a mix of different publication types, so that even if you are not currently ready to write that big seminal paper, you can be writing a range of different publications to build your profile and communicate your key research messages.
To further support you in developing your own publication strategy, I am including a publication strategy template I have used to support researchers in developing their own publication strategy and Publication Strategy Top Tips our book, Publishing for Impact.
A Publication Strategy Template
Fill in each of the boxes to bring together your publication strategy. Make sure you frequently reflect on your plan and adjust to ensure it is realistic. Also do include success measures, such as number of reads/citations/share you wish to achieve. This will allow you to better reflect on whether your plan is having the impact you intend. Also think about how you will promote each publication, through social media, conference publication or other ways of promotion.
Top tips for developing a Publication Strategy
1) Determine the key messages you would like to convey.
2) Think about the different types of people who may be interested in your messages.
3) Prioritise publication of your research results, and take the time to ensure their quality and fit with the identified publication type and location.
4) Plan different types of publication, including both academic publication and lay publication; you can maximise your impact by generating a varied publication portfolio.
5) Take advantage of opportunities to co-author publications.
6) Plan for peer-review rejections, using them as learning experiences.
7) Aim high in terms of journal and publisher quality but have pragmatic second and third options.
8) Actively promote your publications, social media and academic talks/conferences can be good vehicles.
9) Define success measures within your strategy, reflect on how successful your publications are and adapt your strategy to continually improve.
10) Enjoy the process. Your passion and care for your work should shine through in all of your publications.
These tips and the template, as well as a variety of other resources can be found in:
Dawn Duke, Erin Henslee & Pam Denicolo (2020) Success in Research: Publishing for Impact. London: Sage. https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/publishing-for-impact/book263445.
The route into, and mode of, publishing varies enormously between disciplines. Are journals, monographs or edited collections more useful for you as an outlet? Is collaboration the norm, or are single-author papers the norm? What is accessible to you as a doctoral researcher, early career researcher, or more established academic?
Think also about timings: when will a publication be most valuable to your career? Potential employers may be interested in your forthcoming work as much as what you have already produced.
Discuss with your pod to compare experiences, and consider filling in Dawn’s strategy template.
[It would be tremendously exciting to create an edited collection based on people’s connections through 23Things… if you have a brilliant idea, do let us know…]