Choosing and communicating with journals

Thomas A. Lang


Publishing your research requires knowing about the business practices of journals, what journal editors and peer reviewers want, and how the publication process works. For example, journals that have to make money for their owners have different needs and requirements than journals funded by government agencies or universities, and journals that receive advertising have different needs and requirements than journals that receive article processing charges from authors. Some journals are directed to readers in several public health disciplines, whereas others are directed to specialists or subspecialists. Finally, some journals are directed to international audiences, whereas others are directed to national or regional audiences. The quality or impact of a journal also has to be assessed before submitting a manuscript and when evaluating articles and authors who have published in it. Each of these characteristics should be considered when choosing a target journal. Likewise, most journals follow strict ethical standards when accepting, reviewing, and publishing articles, but other “predatory” journals do not, which can cost unsuspecting authors money and never result in a legitimate publication. Many authors, especially those early in their careers, are unfamiliar with the strengths and weaknesses of the various forms of peer review and how to respond to reviewers’ comments. Here, I review the scientific publishing process, including what authors need to know about journals, manuscript preparation and submittal, publication ethics, peer review, and other journal requirements.