What Do Editors Want?
Professor Paul Worley
Notes from workshop held by teleconference on Friday 12th May 2006
Aim to answer the following questions:
1. Why publish? (includes When to publish?)
Plan from the beginning to publish, makes you undertake work in a more systematic thorough way than if only thinking locally.
The process should be enjoyable, stimulating, and giving us something back, satisfaction and pleasure.
Closure to a piece of work, permanent record in public domain. Sense of importance in documenting, making a record.
Peer-review, feedback important/valuable.
Editor's viewpoint – not from viewpoint of a person's career, more interest and impact on people who are reading it.
2. Where to publish?
Must fall into scope of that journal. Check journal's scope. Some larger journals are difficult to determine scope.
Look at the references you are going to use and where they come from – if there are no articles from that journal in your reference list don't submit to that journal, with some exceptions. Really should be citing something already published in that journal.
Also go back to the first question – who is going to read what you publish, what are your reasons for publishing?
Career progression – academics increasingly being given impact ratings – Australia following UK path, impact ratings based on citations, issues around citation indexing and status of journals. Caution against waiting for acceptance/rejection by highest status journal, can cause delay. Sometimes get "so what?" factor if accepted – not right readers, out of date material.
To speed things up, can go for non-peer-reviewed article or association journal, but problems with this because of inaccessibility of some journals, known as "grey literature" – avoid publishing in grey literature, it won't get recognition or readership.
Check if the journal is registered/recognised for DEST (if not, won't count for academic recognition/progression, Uni funding), also where the journal is indexed, e.g. Medline, Eric.
3. What to publish? (includes How to publish?)
Papers around evaluation are best published as a project report. They deal with local feedback/recommendations.
In a journal are looking for generalisable conclusions that can inform others, what is new and how can it benefit someone in another location.
Some journals don't publish project reports. Some won't publish articles purely based in only one institution because it doesn't prove they are generalisable.
Editor makes assessment of who is the real audience, what's new, what are implications.
Make clear what the question is and what the answer is. Suggest write abstract first, with maximum of two sentences in each section – background, method, results, discussion, conclusions. If you can't make it that clear, rethink it, get logic clearer. Easier to do that in "positivist" research which is simpler, harder in qualitative paradigm.
One reason why we publish is significance/importance of what we're doing for other people, not for yourself. Make points up front, then write article, then go back & flesh out the abstract. Remember shorter is better to editors! Watson & Crick's article on DNA for Nobel Prize was 2 pages long!
Editor will read abstract first and form opinion, interest/value, then will read article & see if it has rigour, was it thorough and methodical. Then will ask if conclusions are justifiable from the results. Must avoid getting into rhetoric. Conclusions must be WOW factor. Must be convinced of importance, uniqueness and need to be published.
Limitations – better to be more highly critical of your original research, especially issues of generalisability to real world. Far better off to be conservative and up front, with cautious conclusions.
Quantitative research – there are rules. Qualitative – triangulation. Rigour. Uniqueness, new, of interest even if not generalisable. First impression important because editors are busy. Realise the human factor in the process of editing, reviewing, etc.
Question re literature reviews and discussion papers
Gets back to question of is it interesting and has it been done before? Author must convince editor it isn't available elsewhere and is interesting and important.
Then the approach must be systematic and defined, to ensure it is comprehensive and significant, and will help other people.
Discussion papers – if an article is submitted as research but is actually rhetoric, in Rural and Remote Health may be published as a Personal View. Be careful not to call a "half-baked" literature review a discussion paper.
Question re what classifies as "rural and remote"?
Not metropolitan. Problems in Tas due to RAMA, none of Tas rural. Will get rural reviewers who will ask how generalisable it is? Does it show a difference to metropolitan? Rural and Remote Health are trying to show specificity of rural and remote health, especially where differences to metropolitan health are shown. So if it is just based in a rural area, reviewers may ask what is the point? Need to set article in the wider context of rural and remote health.
Question re reviewers
Journal of Rural and Remote Health uses 3 reviewers.
At least one from a different country to the article's home country. So beware of acronyms (e.g. CRH), localisations, that won't be known elsewhere. Beware of conclusions/recommendations only being local.
Second reviewer local – to give perspective on local issues, setting, if it is new etc, knows content well.
Third reviewer from a different discipline to ensure the content is understandable.
A double blind process is use so that reviewers and authors don't get details of each other. Sometimes it is obvious though and when writing for your audience think of potential reviewers and what they might have published that is relevant and might be worth referencing, especially from the point of view of not getting the reviewer's back up if his/her work in the field is not referenced!
Professor Paul Worley Biography:
Professor Paul Worley, MBBS (Adel), FRACGP, FACCRM, DRANZCOG studied medicine at the University of Adelaide, graduating in 1984. He married Liz in 1985 and they now have 4 children.
He was in solo rural practice at Lameroo, in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia and then moved to a group rural practice at Clare, a wine growing area in the mid north of the state. In 1992 he was elected President of the Rural Doctors Association of South Australia.
In 1994 he took up an appointment as Senior Lecturer in Rural Health at Flinders University of South Australia. As well as maintaining an active clinical workload in both rural and urban practice, he has been responsible for coordinating the rapid expansion of Flinders University's rural education programs in undergraduate and postgraduate rural practice. He is the Academic Director on the board of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine. His passion is to encourage Medical Schools to see that their obligation to the communities they serve is integral to their academic leadership responsibility. In 2001, he was appointed Professor and Director for the Flinders University Rural Clinical School and Editor of Rural and Remote Health, the International Journal of Rural and Remote Health Research, Education, Practice and Policy.