As my longer term Readers are well aware, my laboratory does not play in the Glam arena. We publish in society type journals and not usually the fancier ones, either. This is a category thing, in addition to my stubbornness. I have occasionally pointed out how my papers that were rejected summarily by the fancier society journals tend to go on to get cited better than their median and often their mean (i.e., their JIF) in the critical window where it counts. This, I will note, is at journals with only slightly better JIF than the vast herd or workmanlike journals in my fields of interest, i.e. with JIF from ~2-4.

There are a lot of journals packed into this space. For the real JIF-jockeys and certainly the Glam hounds, the difference between a JIF 2 and JIF 4 journal is imperceptible. Some are not even impressed in the JIF 5-6 zone where the herd starts to thin out a little bit.

For those of us that publish regularly in the herd, I suppose there might be some slight idea that journals towards the JIF 4-5 range is better than journals in the JIF 2-3 range. Very slight.

And if you look at who is on editorial boards, who is EIC, who is AE and who is publishing at least semi-regularly in these journals you would be hard pressed to discern any real difference.

Yet, as I’ve also often related, people associated with running these journals all seem to care. They always talk to their Editorial Boards in a pleading way to “send some of your work here”. In some cases for the slightly fancier society journals with airs, they want you to “send your best work here”….naturally they are talking here to the demiGlam and Glam hounds. Sometimes at the annual Editorial Board meeting the EIC will get more explicit about the JIF, sometimes not, but we all know what they mean.

And to put a finer point on it, the EIC often mentions specific journals that they feel they are in competition with.

Here’s what puzzles me. Aside the fact that a few very highly cited papers would jazz up the JIF for the lowly journals if the EIC or AEs or a few choice EB members were to actually take one for the team, and they never do, that is. The ONLY thing I can see that these journals can compete on are 1) rapid and easy acceptance without a lot of demands for more data (really? at JIF 2? no.) and 2) speed of publication after acceptance.

My experience over the years is that journals of interchangeable JIF levels vary widely in the speed of publication after acceptance. Some have online pre-print queues that stretch for months. In some cases, over a year. A YEAR to wait for a JIF 3 paper to come out “in print”? Ridiculous! In other cases it can be startlingly fast. As in assigned to a “print” issue within two or three months of the acceptance. That seems…..better.

So I often wonder how this system is not more dynamic and free-market-y. I would think that as the pre-print list stretches out to 4 months and beyond, people would stop submitting papers there. The journal would then have to shrink their list as the input slows down. Conversely, as a journal starts to head towards only 1/4 of an issue in the pre-print list, authors would submit there preferentially, trying to get in on the speed.

Round and round it would go but the ecosphere should be more or less in balance, long term. right?