Strategic advice

March 21, 2016

Reminder for when you are submitting your manuscript to a dump journal.

Many of the people involved with what you consider to be a dump journal* for your work may not see it as quite so lowly a venue as you do.

This includes the AEs and reviewers, possibly the Editor in Chief as well. 

Don’t patronize them. 

*again, this is descriptive and not pejorative in my use. A semi respectable place where you can get a less than perfect manuscript published without too much hassle**.

**you hope.

43 Responses to “Strategic advice”

  1. odyssey Says:



  2. Dr24 Says:

    If not patronizing them, maybe don’t use the term “dump journal”? I know you insist you’re not using it pejoratively, but if you have to insist that, why not pick a term that doesn’t require disclaimer?

    Like, “journeyman journal” or something.


  3. tom Says:

    I like to call them working class journals.


  4. drugmonkey Says:

    Because I know people that think Genes & Development is a dump journal and they are not kidding.


  5. Philapodia Says:

    Nothing wrong at all with publishing in “working class journals”. You still get a publication and your knowledge gets disseminated, which last I heard was the point of science. This stupid need to publish in high impact factor journals is analogous to choosing between Chuck Tayors and Jimmy Choos. The Jimmy Choos may be more shiny and sparkly, but they ultimately are both just shoes. People equating impact factor with “quality” are just being shallow and lazy.


  6. DrugMonkey Says:

    The point here is not what you call it. The point is to recognize that it is not a particular outrage when reviewers are, in your view, too demanding because this is just a dump journal.


  7. MorganPhD Says:

    Genes & Development is my current PI’s “dump journal”. S/he actually thinks they’ll publish anything. There are MANY people in our subfield that feel the same way. G&D is where you submit when you get rejected by the SCN journals and need to graduate a 6th year student.

    We argue about that a lot.


  8. drugmonkey Says:

    exactly. and I am sure G&D is an unattainable for many and a career stretch/reach for others.


  9. flyover Says:

    what’s really bad is when g&d rejects you and you have to go to MCB. *sigh* people should really care more about their careers.


  10. MorganPhD Says:

    Exactly. One man’s dump journal is another man’s treasure.


  11. Joni Says:

    Unless its open access, in which case you can patronize the shit out of them, since no-one cares.


  12. tom Says:

    for reference, I call them working class journals, because when I was a grad student, I would work my fucking ass of to publish in them. they were the places where you could grind on a project and even if it didn’t turn out ‘amazing’ it was a solid piece of work. I don’t find working class to be a perjurative term.


  13. odyssey Says:

    I prefer riffraff to dump or working class journal. Lends for a simple demarcation into riffraff and vertically ascending journals.


  14. Jojo Says:



  15. dr24 Says:

    I publish pretty exclusively in “dump journals”. I’m very proud of my publication record. And when I review for these journals, I do the same job as I would if I were reviewing for the Journal of the Operational Research Society.


  16. Dave Says:

    Genes and Development a dump journal?????? Feck off!!!!!


  17. Dave Says:

    Some fields are just fucking douche. One advantage to being in a more clinical discipline is there is less of that. Still there, but less so I think.


  18. MoBio Says:

    Wow I always thought G&D was a great journal–certainly not Developmental Cell-esque but…


  19. genrepair Says:

    I don’t call them dump journals, I call them Bud Lite journals. Dependable and affordable. Not one of them high fallutin’ craft beer journals like …


  20. SidVic Says:

    I’m honestly perplexed by this discussion of journals. I thought that you worked to publish all results/findings. I guess in dump journals? once or twice in your career you found something of exceptional interest (if lucky)- and that went into science or nature. cell is a different breed- more for slogger molecular biology types.
    I also sorta had the idea that the truly original groundbreaking stuff was often necessarily rough around the edges. certainly many science papers from the 50 60 70 seem half-assed by today standards. Of course many started whole fields. I try hard to track back the literature to originators of ideas/findings. Many of these are in so called dump journals.
    i know that i am missing something….


  21. Curiosity Says:

    I’m with you sidvic. So much classic literature is in society journals. Yet I feel them being hollowed out in recent years as people increasingly chasing glamour exclusively. I honestly do not understand it unless it is purely for the advancement of post docs who cannot land a job without cns. The new kids on the block like the open access organs of the cns s and elife siphon off the good stuff that used to go to the journal of neuroscience. Then everyone congratulates themselves with pre prints instead of just publishing already. Why? Why?!


  22. jmz4 Says:

    ” I honestly do not understand it unless it is purely for the advancement of post docs who cannot land a job without cns. ”
    Also for tenure and grants.


  23. Banditokat Says:

    Fuck it. I’m excited by helpful and inspired methods, good design and thoughtful discussion. There’s so much out there. Being tied to a journal title is worth fuckall and the last bastion of douchers and wannabes.


  24. qaz Says:

    Unfortunately, @SidVic, what you are missing is that most people are not as dedicated to getting the literature right as you are.

    I have directly observed in my field (which is very in the zeitgeist right now) that there is a fundamental difference in how papers are treated that have been published in Glam and non-Glam journals. I have a colleague who doesn’t fight for papers because she – it is a she – cares more about work-life-balance and doesn’t want to spend the extra effort fighting editors. Thus she primarily publishes in lower-rank journals (including some very important work). She is not remotely as well known as her colleagues who publish very similar papers in Glam journals. Even in my own work, I have seen, both quantitatively and qualitatively, that people don’t cite and don’t read papers even in society journals as much as they do in the Glam journals (let alone in the lower tier of “dump” journals). (Even when the paper has historically become a more important result, it is less read and less cited than lesser papers in Glam journals.) More people read the GlamourMags – that’s what makes them GlamourMags.

    So right now, with the information overload problem (raised at the end of the discussion of reader-pay vs author-pay models), I cannot in good conscience aim papers for “dump” journals. I’ll go there if I have to because nothing exists if its not published, but I have to fight for glam first.


  25. Dave Says:

    Fine qaz, but let’s not get ridiculous and start rating journals with IF > 10 as ‘dump’ journals. It’s unhealthy. Sure, some douche labs might think that….or claim that they do for bragging purposes….but the overwhelming majority do not feel this way.


  26. Grumble Says:

    “people don’t cite and don’t read papers even in society journals as much as they do in the Glam journals”

    That’s unfortunately very true. The modern-science version of “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?” is: “If you publish a paper and no one reads it, did your work make a difference?” Unfortunately, the answer to the two questions is different.

    Let’s say you publish The Truth about, oh, I dunno, penguin arthritis, and you publish it in a lower-tier jounal. It never gets cited, and 15 years later, a BSD lab publishes the same Truth in Nature and it generates a lot of buzz, excitement, and a whole new way of thinking about penguin arthritis that spawns a dozen new experiments. The painful and sad fact is that you made no difference in the long run, whereas the BSD did.


  27. Dave Says:

    But we all have a responsibility to CITE THE FUCKING LITERATURE. If we all did that honestly, there would be no such problems.


  28. Grumble Says:

    It’s often not even dishonesty – just laziness. I always try to do a literature search when writing my papers, to make sure I’ve supported all my assertions with up-to-date and historical citations that are accurate. But not doing so is not strongly penalized by reviewers because they aren’t going to search the dump journals for every citation to make sure you got it right. That’s especially the case at glam journals that limit the number of citations (either explicitly or by strictly enforcing a length limit that includes citations), so failure to thoroughly cite all papers that support a particular point is accepted by reviewers.


  29. qaz Says:

    Unfortunately, I have seen a difference between society journals (IF = 3-6) versus both in-field-glam (>10 in my field) and cross-field-glam (e.g. science & nature, IF=30+). What is interesting to me is that the impact of papers I’ve published in journals that I figure will publish anything I’m willing to put out (one must guard one’s own quality!) which have IF in the 1-3 range don’t have much difference qualitatively in terms of colleagues’ comments or quantitatively in terms of citations than papers published in society journals. But the in-field and cross-field glam are quite different.

    PS. @Grumble – Unless the BSD lab got the idea by reading your paper….

    PPS. @Dave – To your CITE THE FUCKING LITERATURE comment – Amen, brother! Shout it from the rooftops!


  30. odyssey Says:

    Not putting in your best effort at searching and citing the literature is more than laziness. It’s not scholarly. Or worse. Citing glammagz because they’re glammagz, and ignoring the riffraff journals is academic dishonesty. Shrugging your shoulders and saying “well, that’s just the way it is” makes you an accomplice to academic dishonesty.


  31. AcademicLurker Says:

    Especially in the era of easy searching in pubmed and other databases, the “everyone selectively cites the glam papers because they’re more visible” excuse doesn’t hold up.


  32. drugmonkey Says:

    When will PubMed finally put in that JIF filter, amirite?


  33. Mikka Says:

    As long as journals are printed on dead tree paste, they will have bibliography limits. As long as there are bibliography limits, people will cite reviews to sweep the background, and glammagz to impress the reviewer into thinking that the topic is relevant and hot. Get rid of bibliography limits and all that’s left is the real enemy: Ourselves and our sloth when it comes to evaluating credit.


  34. shrew Says:

    It is important to not forget that the less scrupulous among fail to cite working class journals not because they are negligent in keeping up with the field, but in some cases to inflate the prestige and/or novelty of their own manuscript. “My paper must be important, look at all the CNS papers on similar topics it is citing!”

    I got into a…disagreement once with a co-author who wanted me to remove several citations to a few very interesting papers published in perfectly respectable journals, encouraging me to find some kind of CNS paper to cite in its stead. This is because we were submitting to glam and wanted the cool kids to see that we wear the right shoes and listen to the cool bands. It felt gross, just like every other time I’ve tried to pretend to be someone I’m not. But this is the game the CNS kids are playing, and they will keep playing it as long as publishing in glam is as important as it has become these last 10-20 years.

    On the OP: I only review for journeyman journals. I just finished one where the data could be publishable but the text is shit. Sentences appear ok from a distance but when actually analyzed for syntax, its pretty much gibberish. **Not** an ESL issue – we aren’t talking errors in grammar, we are talking the equivalent of “The brainbow synapse may be elaborating the methods by which inflammation drives the engram” – not that bad, but veering towards word salad. From a lab I would consider capable of producing much better.

    I’ve never read a paper before where the authors wrote so many words but were so completely unfazed by whether or not the words communicated any meaning (excluding undergraduate essays). I am having trouble writing a review that isn’t just “what the fuck is this” as a result. I must conclude that the PI did not take the trouble to read the unhinged rantings of the first author graduate student (I assume) before submission, because it was ‘just going to a dump journal’.


  35. drugmonkey Says:

    Maybe they are trying to imitate the buzzword bingo bullshit of your typical glammag offerings.


  36. qaz Says:

    @AL – My observations on citation counts and journal impact factor are facts. (They are true of my own papers and of others in my field [who I know because of @Dave’s new citation mantra].) Whether the existence of pubmed or google scholar should alleviate this effect is a completely different issue. The effect exists.

    I think that what is really going on is that the journals still serve as a way for broad readership to find papers beyond their immediate knowledge/field. So a neuroscientist can see physics papers in Science and Nature, and neuroscience papers outside of one’s field in NNsci, Neuron, and JNsci. Because our intrepid neuroscientist knows most of the people in the field, xe can find the truly in-field papers in pubmed or on google scholar. That’s why I think there’s not much difference between the field-specific journals and the “dump” journals. I think those papers are being found by people looking for my stuff either on pubmed or on my lab website, not from reading journals.


  37. A Salty Scientist Says:


    This conversation is depressing. Be the best scientist you can be. This includes scholarship.


  38. A Salty Scientist Says:

    And for those in power, demand scholarship in your reviews of grants and papers. Call out the authors if “dump” journal citations are missing.


  39. Dave Says:

    When you search for papers on PubMed, it usually gives the results in chronological order so many new but irrelevant papers are on the top

    Ahhh yes, rules to live by.


  40. SidVic Says:

    Thanks for the food for thought…
    A couple of points.
    Doesn’t the pressure to be first counteract some of the above discussed. When I have a finding that is sound, or important (caveat-of course everybody thinks their stuff is great) I am always motivated to get it on the record ASAP. So maybe i will try a high IF journal, encounter the usual BS, become impatient and send it to the good ol standbys. I have noticed publications with the same findings accepted simultaneously by science and nature. So it has occurred to me that some fields are so club-by that worries about getting scooped are mitigated- they know what everybody is working on and can count on the little guys being frustrated. I can say that a couple of times i have preempted a publication by a big group and noticed a palpable hostility. I have found most of time they will cite you if you have them dead to rights- exceedingly grudgingly. A sorta “while we were doing the hard work establishing phenom X seven ways from sunday” these yahoos lucked upon the answer with their shoddy little pharmacological approach.


  41. WH Says:


    Unfortunately, some online-only journals still have bibliography limits. It’s stupid.


  42. A Salty Scientist Says:

    Priority is the ugly F1 of glamour.


  43. Grumpy Says:

    Another opportunity to give a plug for the arxiv. I subscribe to a free service (as many thousands of others do) which allows me to enter key words, including author names and anything else, and then it sends me an email every day (can also choose weekly) with all the top hits from the previous days’ submissions.

    I pretty much never miss an important article this way since almost everyone in my broader field posts to arxiv. Plus I am not biased by journal since it is not published yet.

    When I review for glamour mags, I make a point of complaining when authors only cite glam papers especially when there is a more appropriate society level paper. And when I read a Nature paper that takes the time to citw all the relevant society level work my impression of the authors goes up.


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