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Early career researchers and their publishing and authorship practices

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This study presents findings from the first year of the Harbingers research project, a 3-year longitudinal study of early career researchers (ECRs), which sought to ascertain current and changing habits in scholarly communication. The study recruited 116 science and social science ECRs from seven countries who were subject to in-depth interviews, and this paper reports on findings regarding publishing and authorship practices and attitudes. A major objective was to determine whether ECRs are taking the myriad opportunities proffered by new digital innovations, developing within the context of open science, open access, and social media, to publish their research. The main finding is that these opportunities are generally not taken because ECRs are constrained by convention and the precarious employment environment they inhabit and know what is best for them, which is to publish (in high impact factor journals) or perish.
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( doi: 10.1002/leap.1102 Received: 11 December 2016 | Accepted: 7 March 2017
Early career researchers and their publishing and authorship
David Nicholas ,
*Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo ,
Anthony Watkinson ,
Cherifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri ,
Eti Herman ,
Jie Xu ,
Abdullah Abrizah ,
Marzena Świgo
CIBER Research Ltd, Newbury, Berkshire
Biblioteconomía y Documentación, Universidad de
León, 24071 León, Castilla y León, Spain
Department of Computer Science, Université de Lyon,
Université Lyon 1, 69100 Villeurbanne, France
School of Information Management, Wuhan
University, Wuhan, Hubei 430072, China
Department of Library & Information Science, Faculty
of Computer Science & Information Technology,
University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
WydziałHumanistyczny, Uniwersytet Warminsko-
Mazurski, 10-719 Olsztyn, Poland
D. Nicholas: 0000-0001-8046-2835
B. Rodríguez-Bravo: 0000-0002-9476-7602
A. Watkinson: 0000-0002-2317-6557
C. Boukacem-Zeghmouri: 0000-0002-0201-6159
E. Herman: 0000-0001-8526-9081
J. Xu: 0000-0002-9820-8066
A. Abrizah: 0000-0002-8224-5268
M. Świgo
n: 0000-0003-3600-8349
*Corresponding author: David Nicholas
This study presents ndings from the rst year of the Harbingers research
project, a 3-year longitudinal study of early career researchers (ECRs),
which sought to ascertain current and changing habits in scholarly com-
munication. The study recruited 116 science and social science ECRs from
seven countries who were subject to in-depth interviews, and this paper
reports on ndings regarding publishing and authorship practices and atti-
tudes. A major objective was to determine whether ECRs are taking the
myriad opportunities proffered by new digital innovations, developing
within the context of open science, open access, and social media, to pub-
lish their research. The main nding is that these opportunities are gener-
ally not taken because ECRs are constrained by convention and the
precarious employment environment they inhabit and know what is best
for them, which is to publish (in high impact factor journals) or perish.
This paper investigates the publishing and authorship practices of
early career researchers (ECRs), the newest and biggest wave of
scholarly researchers. In doing so, it sets out to ll a long-felt gap
in the state of knowledge concerning the practices characterizing
ECRstackling this crucial aspect of their initiation into the pro-
fession. To date, knowledge on the topic is derived mostly from
the few major quantitative studies that have investigated young
researchers as part of the research population as a whole to see
how different or similar they are. CIBER studies on social media
use (Nicholas & Rowlands, 2011; Rowlands, Nicholas, Russell,
Canty, & Watkinson, 2011) and trustworthiness (Jamali et al.,
2014; Nicholas et al., 2014; Nicholas, Watkinson et al., 2015;
Nicholas, Jamali et al., 2015; Tenopir et al., 2015) and Tenopir
et al.s (2016) study into the motivations of academic authors in
selecting a journal in which to publish are part of this camp. Mül-
lers (2012) interviews-based qualitative exploration of the role
Learned Publishing 2017 © 2017 The Author(s).
Learned Publishing © 2017 ALPSP.
that authorship plays within the everyday contexts of young
researcherscollaborative work is the closest to the study pre-
sented here, albeit more limited in scope (one country, 15 post-
docs and just life sciences).
Setting out to draw a more comprehensive and detailed pic-
ture of ECRsresearch dissemination practices, we sought to dis-
cover how productive they are in publishing terms, what the
authorship policies/practices they are subject to are and which
they might have issues with, what inuence they have on where
research is published, whether they have a publishing strategy,
and if so what it is. We also wanted to establish whether
ECRs are taking the myriad opportunities proffered by new digital
innovations, developing within the context of open science, open
access (OA), and social media, in order to publish their research.
Or are they shackled by conventions within their discipline or by
the pressures within their research group? In this regard, we are
interested in: (1) practices, preferences, and policies regarding OA
publishing; (2) whether ECRs are using the new social technolo-
gies to disseminate their research more informally; and
(3) whether they make their data available/share it.
The data upon which the paper is built come from the rst
year of a 3-year longitudinal study of ECRs, which sought to
establish whether they are going to be the harbingers of change
when it comes to scholarly communications (http://ciber- This paper constitutes one of the
foundation stones for the project.
There are various denitions of ECRs (Poli, 2016; for more detail
ECRs_literature_review.pdf), and they vary from country to coun-
try. After an examination of the literature and consultations with
international partners, this denition was adopted:
Researchers who are generally not older than 35 and who
either have received their doctorate and are currently in a
research position or have been in research positions, but
are currently doing a doctorate. In neither case are they
researchers in established or tenured positions. In the case
of academics, they are non-faculty research employees of
the university. In addition, included were a small number
of ECRs who had come from or were in positions that
were essentially servicing clinicians or researchers.
The focus is on ECRs in the sciences and social sciences,
which is where the funders(Publishing Research Consortium)
main priorities lie and also where the majority of ECRs are based.
A wide geographical reach was sought as we wished to support
research on issues facing the STM industry globally. Balancing
the need for representativeness (with regard to size, importance,
level of development, and language) with Publishing Research
Consortium national interests and the availability of interviewers
on the ground, China, France, Malaysia, Poland, Spain, UK, and
USA were selected.
Full details can be found in an article published in an earlier issue
of this journal (Nicholas et al., 2017), with an abbreviated version
provided here. Long, structured interviews were conducted face-
to-face and/or remotely (Skype or telephone). A detailed inter-
view schedule was compiled and sent to interviewees ahead of
the interview. The interview schedule contained around 60 ques-
tions, and the interview took between 60 and 90 minutes to
complete. For the purposes of this paper, we are concerned with
11 of the questions:
Q1. What contributions have you made to the papers, which
you have co-authored?
Q2. Does your research team/department/university have an
authorship policy?
Q3. Would you do things differently if you had a say in this?
Q4. What inuence (if any) have you had on the choice of
journal in which to publish your research?
Q5. Does your research team/department/university/funder
have a policy in regard to OA publishing?
Q6. What do you think are the advantages and disadvan-
tages of OA publishing from the point of view of the author?
Q7. Do you think OA publishing advances science and
research, or are you worried that it will dilute the quality of publi-
cations, or do you agree/disagree with both propositions? If
so, how?
Q8. Do you have a preference for journals with innovative
features, such as video articles (e.g. Jove), when placing your
Q9. Is there pressure on you to publish in particular top-
ranked journals and, if so, how do you think this affects scholarly
communications, in general, and your career?
Key points
Early career researchers (ECRs) are constrained by conven-
tion and the precarious environment they inhabit and
know that to publish in top journals is the right thing to do
for their careers.
ECRs voice few complaints about authorship policies and
are often inuential in choosing where to publish.
When selecting journals in which to publish, being indexed
by Scopus and Web of Science counts most highly.
Being innovative or open does not make journals more
attractive for ECRs.
ECRs do see the potential of social media and community
platforms as valuable publishing outlets.
ECRs think open access publishing is a good idea, but they
do not practice what they believe.
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Q10. Do you have a conscious publication strategy relating
to your research and is that to do with obtaining a tenured/
established position and, if so, please describe?
Q11. Would you prefer to make public your research ndings
in less formal ways, such as blogs, which could make them more
Data have also been sourced from the CVs of ECRs, which
they provided ahead of the interviews, and from elsewhere in the
interview schedule. The full list of questions can be found on the
CIBER website (
Interviews were conducted by national interviewers, largely
in their own languages. The proceedings of the interviews were
taken down in note form. A transcript of the interview was
returned to the interviewee for validation. The record was then
translated into English for all non-English-speaking countries and
then manually coded using a heuristic approach and a standar-
dized thematic framework (see
A total of 116 ECRs from the sciences and social sciences
were recruited from seven countries (Table 1). To reach this
number, interviewers for the case countries were given a
recruitment quota of 2029 for the UK and USA (the larger
number a reection on the importance of these communities to
STM publishers) and 1015 for the other countries. Within
countries, the general guidance was to build the sample along
the following lines: (1) two-thirds science and one-third social
sciences, (2) a representative balance of men and women, and
(3) a range of ages within the 20s and 30s age groups. ECRs
came from 81 institutions.
Details of recruitment methods can be found in the afore-
mentioned article (Nicholas et al., 2017).
The ndings presented here are based on three broad sets of
data, which are woven together to create the narrative:
Information from the 116 ECRs, which is variously summar-
ized, paraphrased, and directly quoted. This is what ECRs say
they behave like and how they view things, and it is not neces-
sarily wholly informed. Its value is that it shows us what they
Contextual comments from the national interviewers all sen-
ior researchers themselves, who provide important background
data in order to understand what was being said and why.
Findings from the published literature, which provide support
and authority for the information above.
Publishing productivity
Journal publishing is the main medium by which ECRs dissemi-
nate research. This is because it is by paper publishing that they
are judged, given tenure, and promoted. This is also true for their
more established colleagues (Borrego & Anglada, 2016; Nicholas,
Herman, & Jamali, 2015; Nicholas, Watkinson et al., 2015; Van
Dalen & Henkens, 2012; Wolff, Rod, & Schonfeld, 2016a,
2016b), but ECRs are, arguably, even more driven because of
their precarious job position (Müller, 2012, 2014a, 2014b).
TABLE 1 Country-wise ECR proles broadly compared.
Country No. Subject Gender Age PhD Institutions
China 13 Science: 70% Female: 46% Twenties: 46% 8% Doctoral students 6
Soc.Sci.:30% Male: 54% Thirties: 54%
France 14 Science: 82% Female: 35% Twenties: 65% 100% Postdocs 4
Soc.Sci.: 18% Male: 65% Thirties: 35%
Malaysia 12 Science: 58% Female: 50% Thirties: 100% 100% Postdocs 5
Soc.Sci.: 42% Male: 50%
Poland 10 Science: 80% Female: 40% Twenties: 40% 50% Doctoral students 1
Soc.Sci.: 20% Male: 60% Thirties: 60%
Spain 18 Science: 78% Female: 44% Twenties: 40% 28% Doctoral students 16
Soc.Sci.: 22% Male: 56% Thirties: 60%
UK 21 Science: 62% Female: 38% Twenties: 24% 33% Doctoral students 21
Soc.Sci.: 38% Male: 62% Thirties: 76%
USA 28 Science: 79% Female: 41% Twenties: 27% 34% Doctoral students 28
Soc.Sci.: 21% Male: 59% Thirties: 73%
ECR, Early career researcher.
3ECRs publishing and authorship practices
Learned Publishing 2017 © 2017 The Author(s).
Learned Publishing © 2017 ALPSP.
Between them, the 116 ECRs published an impressive 1,178 jour-
nal articles in peer reviewed journals over their short research
lifetime, with the average ECR having published over 10 papers.
After papers, conferences are a popular venue utilized by
ECRs for delivering research ndings. Conferences are no less
important for more senior researchers (Watkinson et al., 2016;
Wolff et al., 2016a, 2016b), but for ECRs, the rewards of dissemi-
nating the results of their work in this way are greater: confer-
ences are generally easier to get into and therefore offer a useful
proving ground and a leg up the publishing ladder. There is a hier-
archy of conference contributions of course, presentations
(speakers, keynotes, etc), publishing in proceedings, and posters.
Altogether, ECRs produced 711 published proceedings, most of
which crucially for them are indexed in the Web of Science
(WoS) and Scopus. Conferences count more in certain disciplines,
such as computer science and physics, as well as in certain coun-
tries. Thus, in Poland, partly because of the language barrier faced
when publishing in high impact factor (IF) journals and partly
because they obtain reputational points for them, conferences
and presentations/posters are much favoured. Malaysian ECRs
also publish widely in conference proceedings, encouraged by the
fact that participation in conferences attracts institutional nan-
cial support for ECRs from research-intensive universities. How-
ever, in Malaysia, unlike papers, conference papers do not count
towards reputational scores.
As Müller (2012) points out, todays ECRs deal with the demand
to be both a highly competitive individual and a member of
research teams. With publications, as important for ECRscareer
development as they are, questions of authorship inevitably play
a pivotal role within these negotiations of collaboration and com-
petition. Nevertheless, ECRsauthorship experiences align with
what we know of academic authorship in general, which is hardly
surprising given that publications establish reputation, signal pro-
ductivity, and serve as yardsticks in deliberations of appoint-
ments, promotions, and funding for senior and novice researchers
alike. Thus, for example, the order in which author names appear
in the by-line of an article, assumed as it is to reect the indivi-
duals level of contribution to both research and manuscript
development, may be hotly contested among members of a
research team, be they established researchers or ECRs (Brand,
Allen, Altman, Hlava, & Scott, 2015; Dance, 2012; Elliott et al.,
2017; Kornhaber, McLean, & Baber, 2015; Watkinson et al.,
2016). Indeed, the majority of our ECRs in all countries say they
are aware of although not invariably happy with their univer-
sitys or departments formal/informal authorship policies as to
who can be named as authors and the order in which they are
named. However, there are differences between countries in
regard to how formal or informal policies and practices are.
In China, where the ranking of authors is viewed as being
very important counting as it does towards reputation and pro-
motion there are very strict rules. Thus, the rst author is the
person who undertakes most of the research and writes most of
the paper. To complicate matters somewhat, there can be joint
rst authors where each joint rst author splits the normal rst
authors reputational credit. The corresponding authors contribu-
tion is considered almost the same as the rst author, so most
institutes give them similar reputational credit. A collaborating
author, the third authorship rank, is the researcher who assists
the research by collecting and analysing data, and translating and
polishing the paper. Minor contributions might merit the reward
of authorship. Despite these formal arrangements, ECRs report
encountering problems with coauthorship, which arise from
group work. The sharing of credit is a particularly thorny problem
in domestic collaborations because Chinese ECRs so desperately
want to be the rst or corresponding author, so their work can
be recognized by their institutes and funders. Complaints also
arise about mentors who do not shoulder research responsibilities
but insist on being listed as an author. Most interviewees have
published papers on their research with their mentors who are
listed as rst authors. As we shall learn, the authorship problems
young Chinese researchers encounter are in fact globally
In Malaysia, the rules of authorship are fairly cut and dry: To
be listed as an author, we must meet these criteria: you must be
involved in project design and research protocols, collect data and
analyze results, and participate in drafting and writing the paper.
They are also transparent: rules are now polished and published,
the problem with who should sit in the author list is not a big issue
in my eld. Order is decided like this: To earn authorship, all in the
team must be intellectually engaged and that the order is decided by
the corresponding author. Authorship policy can vary, however, by
discipline. For instance:
In my lab, the author list is strictly ranked. The top researcher is
normally at the end of the list, and sometimes the person who
owns the lab, owns the research grant is also given credit as
author. The person who actually did the work goes rst, nor-
mally the research student or the postdoc. The research super-
visors came after the student authors (ECR, sciences).
I am always the rst author if I write the paper entirely, but I
will always put in my supervisors name, although I work on
my own, I dont rely on him anymore, but I always, invite him
to give input (ECR, social sciences).
In France, things are less prescriptive, with French ECRs
saying that there is no authorship policy as such, but there are
informal rules that are accepted by the community and differ
according to broad disciplines, as in Malaysia. For mathemati-
cians, research is often solitary, and papers can have just one
author, but where this is not the case, alphabetical order is the
rule as all contributions are held to be equal. For most of the
others (biology, physics, computer science and chemistry, and
interdisciplinary research), the main contributor is the rst
author. The head of the research group who obtains the funds
is the last author. Between the rst and the last author, in the
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middleas it is called in French, come the other contributors
who undertook experiments or specic tasks, and they are
mainly displayed in alphabetical order. All ECRs feel comfortable
with these rules, and most would not change anything. A few
did suggest changes, and they mostly concern packing people
into the author statement: Provide the precise contribution of
every author in order to know who did what and avoid parasites.
Stop adding too many people.
At Polish universities as well, there are only unwritten and
variable practices. Every group, department, and so on has their
own house rules. Sometimes, mentors or heads of the groups are
placed in rst position, but in other cases, they are simply contri-
buting authors. It all depends on the individual or group/depart-
ments. There are few complaints among ECRs, other than not
wanting professors to be added as a matter of course to their
publications, even if they did not contribute to them.
It is a similar situation in Spain where there are no xed
authorship policies. Group heads decide on their own criteria.
However, there are typical practices. As in France, they differ
by discipline. In STM elds, all the members of the group appear
as authors. First position goes to those who did the experimen-
tal work and last position and the status of corresponding
author goes to mentors. In the social sciences, where ECRs are
part of groups, usually small ones, mentors or heads of the
groups are usually placed in rst position. Again, the main con-
cern of ECRs is that too many people are seen to be taking a
free ride on the back of theirpapers. Thus, eight ECRs mak-
ing the Spanish the most critical group said they would do
things differently if they were fully in charge and that they
would not include those who did not work directly on the
paper, and the order would reect the importance of the
contribution made.
In the UK, very few (two) ECRs admit to having, or being
aware of, an authorship policy that governed or guided their
publication efforts. A total of 15 say there is no policy, and
another 4 are not sure but not aware of one. This, of course,
does not mean they have loose working arrangements, and
these matters are discussed. Typically, they were listed rst on
more than half their articles. The deal was that if you wrote it
and did most of the work, you went rst. A few were sole
authors. There is little sense that they are very junior partners.
Asked whether they would do things differently if it is up to
them, six say they would, and their suggestions include collabo-
rate rather than compete; authors must have made a contribu-
tion (senior people get listing when it is not merited); order should
be according to the amount of input; and the main contributor
should come rst.
A far higher proportion was aware of policies in the USA,
with 12 out of 28 saying they have one. These policies originate
from a whole range of places, including the laboratory, depart-
ment, university, and professional associations. For example, one
ECR reports that the research group used the National Science
Federations (NSF) responsible conduct of research guidelines,
and another group said that Institute of Medicine guidelines are
the default. However, several ECRs report difculties in a
multidisciplinary group where a disciplinary set of standards,
which they are used to, was different from the set of standards
accepted by the rest of the group. These examples are taken
from replies made by ECRs who did not know of a general
In spite of the wording of the question, the comments asso-
ciated with practices in the UK and the USA suggest that just
because there was no author policy at a university or depart-
mental level, there was a policy or at least a norm governing
the order of authors and related conventions at group level
even if it was written down nowhere.
As we have seen, being rst author is seen as an important
reputational asset for ECRs, a sign of how important their contri-
bution is, and an indicator as to whether the journal choice is
theirs or not. So, how often are ECRs rst authors? In fact, sur-
prisingly perhaps, for ECRs to be rst author is, on the whole, not
that difcult. Thus, it is normal for them to be rst author on any
scholarly outputs, including papers, based on their dissertation.
Most principal investigators (PIs) allow postdocs to be rst
authors when they are the ones who have undertaken most of
the research for a paper. It can also depend on country, and
China is an interesting and complex case. Thus, in China, most
universities acknowledge that postdocs can be rst authors if
they put their supervisorsname before theirs! So, an ECR might
be the rst author who did the main research, but their name is
placed second, a case of having two rst authors. In most cases,
ECRs do this to please their mentors or because their mentors
are more inuential and well-known in the belief that it will
help them to get published.
ECRs are, typically, rst authors in around one-third to one-
half of all the papers to which they contribute, but it can vary,
and in France, the proportion is more like 5175%.
ECRsreplies to the question What inuence (if any) have you had
on the choice of journal? indicated that, often, they do have a sig-
nicant inuence, with, for instance, 11 out of 14 French, 17 out
of 18 Spaniards, 10 out of 13 Chinese and 8 out of 10 Polish
ECRs saying they did. Inuence seems to be a little less in the UK
and USA however, where a quarter say they had no inuence at
all. The extent of inuence depends on several things:
Colleagues: Other members of the group to which they belong
and their supervisors/mentors. It is a well-known feature of
ECR life that their choices must suit the other parties involved
in their undertakings (Brechelmacher, Park, Ates, & Campbell,
2015; Cusick, 2015). Thus, for the great majority of those
ECRs in the USA and the majority in the UK who research in a
group, journal choice is a group decision. Where ECRs are not
in a group, as is, for example, the case for many social scien-
tists, they do make decisions on their own but not always as
there are always supervisors and mentors to consult. In the
5ECRs publishing and authorship practices
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case of multidisciplinary research, the choice is more that of
the person in whose discipline they wish to publish the
research. In France, the choice of a journal is always the result
of a groupdiscussion. The journal chosen is the result of a
consensus between the ECRs and their colleagues, supervi-
sors, and the head of the department. During this discussion,
the experience and the knowledge of every member contri-
butes to ensuring that the right and the best journal is
selected. Some French (and Polish) ECRs did not want to make
the choices because they fear they are too young and too
inexperienced to take the right decision. It is a precarious thing
to choose a journal: not too high, not too low.As I lack experi-
ence, I prefer to let senior researchers to choose. It is also true of
one UK ECR (and several Spaniards) as well, who said, Always
take advice from people who know best, even when rst author.
Underscoring previous evidence on the strategic importance
accorded to publishing in high IF journals (Borrego & Anglada,
2016; Pepermans & Rousseau, 2014; Rowlands & Nicholas,
2005), which holds true for novice researchers just as much as
for their senior counterparts (Müller, 2012; Nicholas, Jamali
et al., 2015), the universal directive to do so is found to be the
overriding consideration for our ECRs. Add to this the assess-
ment criteria, mandates, and lists that abound, and we nd
that the choice is constricted. In several countries, they must
refer to lists of acceptable journals. A case in point is Poland,
where ECRs are formally directed towards a government list
(moreover, the top of the list) and appear to have limited room
for manoeuvres. This is also the case in China, France, Malay-
sia, and Spain, but their lists tend to be the proprietary ones,
such as the journals indexed by the WoS and Scopus.
It is difcult to imagine ambitious ECRs in the UK and the
USA even considering submitting to a journal not indexed in
WoS. In these countries, ECRs appear to have more freedom,
but this is still only relative. The question was not directly
asked in the interview, and the role of indexing was not raised
by any of the interviewees, but an examination of publications
listed in the CVs shows that every one of them is WoS-listed.
In these countries, ECRs appear to have more freedom in the
sense that there was no mention of prescriptive lists, but that
is still only relative. In the UK, the Research Excellence Frame-
work (REF) exerts a special pressure on all researchers, but in
practice, as far as choice of journals is concerned, ECRs
believe this pressure only reinforces the existing pressure to
go for top journals. This is in spite of the fact that the REF
(UK REF) documentation makes it clear that the article itself is
assessed, not the journal in which it is published; such asser-
tions are just not believed.
ECR choice: The ability of an ECR to select the journal depends
on status, a nding that echoes Müllers (2012) observation
that publications have different career value to different
authors according to their position in the list of authors, with
rst authorship being by far the most valuable career asset for
young scientists. Thus, in the case of Chinese ECRs, if they are
the rst author, they have a lot of inuence; if they are the
corresponding author, not much inuence, but they can make
suggestions. If they are simply a coauthor, they have no inu-
ence at all. It is not the same in France. So, while French ECRs
are rst author in the cases where they do the most work, they
still do not have the main choice as to where to publish as that
decision is very much that of their supervisor or head of the
research team. French ECRs appear not to mind as they see
their mentors/supervisors helping them publish in top journals
and mainly because they are rst authors. Indeed, they regard
the practice as a kind of helpor a chain of solidarity between
those who are in a secured position and those who are not. In
the UK/USA, it is sometimes the practice for the principal
investigator of the research project to have the choice,
although the ECRs disapprove of this practice.
Criteria used when determining where
to publish
When they are in a position to choose or inuence where their
research is published, ECRsoverriding preference is for top jour-
nals, that is, journals perceived to be of high quality and stellar
reputation, which in academe translates to high IF (Nature Pub-
lishing Group and Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Regarding this, as
Müller (2012) and Nicholas, Jamali et al., 2015 nd, ECRs follow
in the footsteps of their more experienced colleagues, whose list
of priorities for choosing a publication venue has repeatedly been
found to feature high journal quality and reputation (Nature Pub-
lishing Group and Palgrave Macmillan, 2015; Tenopir et al., 2016;
Wolff et al., 2016a, 2016b). Interestingly, however, both Watkin-
son et al. (2016) and Tenopir et al. (2016) nd senior faculty rate
IF as slightly less important than their younger colleagues, a phe-
nomenon that can be explained by the inexperienced researchers
greater reliance on quantiable metrics in selecting appropriate
publication outlets. This is very much in line with Nicholas, Jamali
et al., 2015 conclusion in their study that younger researchers
rely more on trust markers and proxies, such as citations.
In addition to looking for markers of journal quality and repu-
tation, ECRs employ a wide and overlapping range of criteria
(Table 2), which although differing by country are mostly tra-
ditional, with indexed and rated in WoS or Scopusbeing the
main criteria for all. Still, not all things traditional hold sway;
although researchers have been found to prefer journals with
highly regarded editors over journals with unknown editors
(Rousseau & Rousseau, 2012), for our ECRs, the editor and edito-
rial board count very little. This is probably explained by the fact
that ECRs are quite ignorant of the publisher background
(Nicholas et al., 2017). Non-traditional criteria, such as being
innovative (e.g. Journal of Visualized Experiments) or open (with
respect to access and peer review), do not count much either.
Chinese ECRs, as a matter of course, check whether the jour-
nal is indexed in Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE), Social
Science Citation Index (SSCI), Arts & Humanities Citation Index
(A & HCI), and Engineering Village, or Chinese indexes, such as
Chinese Social Sciences Citation Index and Chinese Science
6D. Nicholas et al. © 2017 The Author(s).
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Learned Publishing 2017
Citation Index. This is because ECRs need to reach the particular
assessment requirements of their institutes, which can be very
demanding, and the standing and rank or impact factor of the
journal is very important. Second, they will determine whether
the journal is related to their research eld, and within this, they
generally prefer journals that are specic to their small eld
because that way they can have maximum impact. However, a
few do opt for the journal with the highest journal impact factor
(IF) and a big rejection rate (this is a desirable factor) because
they want to challengethemselves.
French ECRs are similar but a little more pragmatic. Whether
it is their choice or that of their supervisors, they select the jour-
nal based on its relevance to the topic and its IF. In some cases,
the fact that a journal is ranked in the rst quartile (WoS) is an
important criterion for ECRs, their supervisors, and the head of
department. In France, publishing in indexed journals, an impor-
tant reputational requisite, is implicitly understood as indexed in
WoS, which has a unique position in France, especially for eva-
luators. A journal indexed in Scopus (and not indexed in WoS) is
less highly regarded or not considered at all (as in the case of
If the choice of a journal is the result of a discussion, the
consensus between ECRs, the supervisors, and the head of
department is based on the appropriate IF level (not necessarily
the highest). However, in the case of articles having the ECR as
rst author, the highIF argument takes prominence as it
improves their chances of getting a job. Four ECRs also mention
that when choosing a top ranked journal, they factor in how likely
they are to be accepted. Above all, they do not want to waste
time as it is a commodity they do not have in abundance. Rejec-
tions waste valuable time (but not, interestingly, for Chinese
ECRs, who say rejections produce valuable advice, which
improves the product).
French ECRs also consider journals acknowledged by the
community as the place to publish. It is not so much a matter of
prestige as having a kind of localauthority. They are journals
that are important for their contributions to the history of the
discipline at a local scale, even though they are less visible at an
international level.
Malaysian ECRs are unanimous in stating that they choose
journals on the basis of their relevance to their research eld, and
this can probably be considered true for all ECRs everywhere,
TABLE 2 Criteria used for choosing a journal for publishing research.
Criteria for choosing China France Malaysia Poland Spain UK USA
Indexed in WoS, Scopus 5 5 5 4 5 5 5
High JIF 2. For some
disciplines, Chinese
journals preferred
53 25 5 5
Most relevant to the eld 3 5 5 3 4 5 5
General prestige 3 4 4 0 3 5 5
Covers specialist audience 4 4 4 0 3 4 4. For second
Fast processing 2 4 2 0 3 3 3
Trusted and used in past 0 0 2 0 3 3 3
Interdisciplinary journal 0 2 3 2 1 2 2
Journal approved by university/
414510 0
Open access 1 1 2 0 3 3 3
No page charges 2. Depends on
24 03 0 0
Easier to get into 1 3 0 3. Local
2 2. For second
2. For second
Innovative features 1 1 2 0 2 3 3
High level of peer reviewing 3 2 4 0 4 4 4
Practices open peer review 0 1 0 0 2 1. Not
applicable to
1. Not
applicable to
Has both copy and online variants 0 1 2 0 2 0 0
Familiar editor or editorial board 0 1 2 0 0 1 1
Note. Averages, 1 = not important to 5 = extremely important. WoS, Web of Science; JIF, journal impact factor.
7ECRs publishing and authorship practices
Learned Publishing 2017 © 2017 The Author(s).
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even if not made explicit. Three-quarters of ECRs say this. Inter-
estingly, after that comes choosing multidisciplinary journals
related to their discipline (nearly half say that). Then, in order of
popularity, come factors such as IF journals (WoS), journals listed
by Scopus, journals with no page charges or submission fees,
journals with an early view online function (a sure sign of rapid
publication), journals approved by the university and the Ministry
of Higher Education, and journals that review quickly.
In Poland, matters are highly prescribed. Firstly, and most
importantly, ECRs take account of the list provided by the
Ministry of Higher Education, which is updated annually. See
html. The list comprises three parts: part A (the best journals,
with JIFs and indexed by WoS, mostly international), part B
(mainly Polish journals that do not have an IF but have a Pol-
ish score/points), and part C (Polish and international journals
without JIFs but with Polish scores). List A is the best,
for individual researchers but for the universities/departments
as well. Every year, the sum of points for every university is
counted, and grants are provided according to sum of points.
After the list, the relevance to the topic and appropriate audi-
ence are considerations.
As with their Chinese, Malaysian, and Polish counterparts,
for whom metrics are all important, Spanish ECRs will rst con-
duct an authentication check of the rankings and determine
whether the journal is indexed in WoS or Scopus, but mainly
WoS, as in France. They will look for journals in the rst or sec-
ond Journal Citation Report (JCR) Quartile. They choose top-
ranked journals, and if their paper is not accepted by the rst
choice, they will try a slightly lower one and so on until the article
nally nds its acceptance level. They accept the fact that the
publishing process can be long. As in China, Spanish ECRs favour
specialist journals because such journals bring their research to
their target audience. The quality of reviews and the duration of
the publication process are two other factors they take into
account. A few say that if they had the funding, they would
choose OA journals, but few do.
When making (or inuencing) a selection, UK and US ECRs
consider the journals IF as the most important. However, it is not
quite as simple as that because there always has to be a plan B if
the research cannot get published in top journals, for whatever
reason, and a plan for papers, which are already acknowledged as
being less important (and there are always plenty of these). In
fact, there is always tension between a wish to get into the very
top journal and the need to be more pragmatic. Even in prestig-
ious research groups, ECRs are only expected, for instance, to
publish one paper out of every three or four in a top journal.
Much of the research, therefore, inevitably goes to less highly
ranked journals. Many ECRs emphasize that it is the research
itself and what it tells us that is important and not any one
publication. Other criteria (and possible plan Bs) mentioned are
good chances of acceptance, familiar territory, a quick journal
(more applicable to social scientists) and efcient journal, which
presumably (these are terms used by ECRs), from evidence
gleaned in other parts of the interview, is not only quick but also
responsive to authors. There are a small number of ECRs less
than three in both the USA and UK who think largely just in
terms of the number of publications and a similar small number
who (still) aim for second- or third-rank journals that are just right
for their audience. These ECRs are, to some extent, out of the rat
race and can do what they like. They seem to be happy to either
be in a servicecapacity or enjoy working in a less demanding
environment in a less important university, where teaching is a
big component. In France, these people are typically those who
are working out their time before moving to industry.
It is interesting to nd that the ranking of journals in WoS is
more important a criterion in the UK/USA than Scopus (as it is in
Poland and China), although there is not much discussion about
this it is taken as read. For USA and UK ECRs in the medical
sciences, being indexed by PubMed is quite important, and in any
case, research funded by the US National Institutes of Health
mustbe submitted to PubMed.
Having established in a previous study (Nicholas, Jamali et al.,
2015) that (1) there is strong interest in the topic of OA among
young researchers, (2) the potential value of OA to ECRs is that
(at least in theory) it offers more/alternative routes to publication
and hence helps them to establish their reputations more quickly,
and (3) that they are generally sympathetic to the openprinci-
ples involved, the topic merited three questions. They were ques-
tions on OA policies/mandates, perceived advantages/
disadvantages, and whether OA publishing advances science and
research or, on the other hand, whether it would dilute the qual-
ity of papers. There was also a hypothesis to test and that was
whether OA journals are conceived as easier to get into.
It might, then, have been expected that ECRs would wel-
come OA with open arms, especially as the results of both the
Ithaka S + R US Faculty Survey (Wolff et al., 2016a) and the
Ithaka S + R/Jisc/RLUK Surveys of UK Academics (Wolff et al.,
2016b) indicate that OA has become important to researchers,
with 64% of US and 57% of UK respondents strongly agreeing
that they would be happy to see the traditional subscription-
based publication model replaced entirely by an OA system.
However, it seems that whilst the principle of OA is growingly
endorsed, that is not the case where it comes to practice; indeed,
a recent survey (Nature Publishing Group and Palgrave Macmil-
lan, 2015) has found that the option to publish via OA was
among the least important factors driving authorschoice of
where to submit. By the same token, according to Borrego and
Anglada (2016), OA is a factor of marginal interest for authors
when deciding where to publish. Similarly, in the aforementioned
study of the motivations that inuence US academic authors in
selecting a journal in which to publish (Tenopir et al., 2016), OA
was rated the lowest in importance, even if graduate student
8D. Nicholas et al. © 2017 The Author(s).
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Learned Publishing 2017
researchers and postdoctoral researchers rated it as slightly more
important than faculty.
Our results also indicate that the principles of OA are
accepted by ECRs, but in practice, they are not focused on OA
publishing, and they are especially lukewarm about depositing
papers in institutional repositories. This is because they are pre-
occupied with chasing the high IFs that typically are not associ-
ated with OA journals and also because they obtain no
reputational credit for making their publications OA. There is also
some confusion in some countries, but not so much in the
UK/USA, about what OA is. Thus, for instance, 8 out of 13 Chi-
nese ECRs, initially anyway, told us that they had never heard of
OA, although, when it was explained, it turns out that they had,
but they perceived OA journals to be predatory journals. There
are, however, discipline differences, with scientists being more
familiar with the mechanics and details of OA.
Nevertheless, the hypothesis that ECRs publish in OA journals
because they are easier to get into, posed to ECRs in all countries,
was roundly rejected. There appears to be a lot less distrust of
OA than there once was, which is wholly in line with the ndings
of both of the aforementioned Nature Publishing Group and Pal-
grave Macmillan (2015) survey and the CIBER study of trustwor-
thiness in the digital age (Watkinson et al., 2016), according to
both of which a decreasing number of authors are concerned
about perceptions of the quality of OA publications.
According to Ithaka Surveys (Wolff et al., 2016a, 2016b), aca-
demics on both sides of the Atlantic strongly support government
policy mandating that publicly funded scholarly research be made
freely available, with 72% of US and 67% of UK respondents say-
ing so. However, OA seems to be more popular in theory than in
practice and not only among ECRs, as CIBER ndings indicated.
Asked whether research policy directives and mandates inuence
where they publish their research, only 20% said yes, heavily;
36.3% said yes, somewhat; about a quarter said not at all; and
the rest said they were not aware of any policies (Jamali
et al., 2014).
Thus, very much in line with the state of affairs described by
their senior counterparts, most of our ECRs believe they are
either not subject to OA mandates or they are not aware of
them. The US Ofce of Science & Technology Policy directive
that all federal agencies must issue policies for public access to
their funded research was not mentioned by the interviewees.
Moreover, a high proportion of the US interviewees (23 out of
28) say that their university has no policy on OA publishing. One
of the few ECRs, who is aware of policies, provided one of the
very few mentions of institutional repositories/green OA: The
university has started a Harvard-type system to obtain copies for
the IR. They look for an OA journal when placing their research.
By the same token, in France, 10 out of 14 ECRs say there are
no OA policies in their institutions, with the rest saying they did
not know. This is not surprising as only a very few research insti-
tutions have OA publishing policies in France. There are no
mandates at all in favour of Gold. Similarly, in Malaysia, only 4 of
the 12 ECRs say they knew of policies. Spain is an interesting
case with a similar proportion (one-third) saying they knew about
mandates but only half obeying them. In Poland also OA is not
widely practiced, and there are hardly any mandates. Only one
ECR said that funds are available to support OA publishing.
Only in the UK is OA mandated by many institutions and
most funders as well as being the subject of a comprehensive
government policy. Half of the ECRs are aware that their institu-
tion has a policy, and a quarter made the point that their funders
had one. Policies include publishing in hybrid journals, and most
spoke about placing papers in an institutional repository. Some
mentioned that older professors are very wary of OA policies and
OA itself. Moreover, even if UK ECRs are not always sure
whether their institutions have a policy or not, they are much
more aware of their funderspolicies.
Advantages/disadvantages of OA publishing
The fact that ECRs are not familiar with mandates, or are not
subject to any, does not mean they have no opinions about the
strengths and weaknesses of OA as the following comments
Opens the closed world of publication (a reference to re-
walls) to more researchers.
New ideas can be dispersed more rapidly, widely, and, in turn,
this triggers further research.
Provides more immediate and increased visibility.
Gives more personal control over research work as it can be
disseminated more freely.
Easier to re-use data.
Provides a larger audience for a paper.
Obtain more citations and, hence, an improvement in
It is ethical to do so because of the public money involved.
Tend to be less-established journals that are OA.
Predatory journals that inhabit the OA space can give a wrong
impression of the status of OA journals.
Quality is low or wholly missing because anyone can publish
anything as long as they can pay.
It is not a level playing eld; only groups with funding can
publish in OA journals and so obtain more citations.
Open Archive Repositories do not have embedded peer
review systems.
Easier to steal information.
Fears (no more than that) of light touch peer review.
It is not a sustainable model, with author publishing fees being
too expensive with the risk that Gold OA means many authors
will not be able to publish anymore.
9ECRs publishing and authorship practices
Learned Publishing 2017 © 2017 The Author(s).
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So, how does all this manifest itself in terms of actual OA
publishing at the national level? It does of course depend, to an
extent, on the existence of mandates. Thus, in Spain, publishing
in OA journals is not common, and most ECRs do not publish in
them. This is because they do not have enough funds to do so
and because they do not trust OA completely, although, they
generally trust hybrid journals more. Chinese researchers think
similarly, although they did not mention hybrid journals. In Malay-
sia, ECRschoices are constrained by the fact that APCs are only
paid for publishing in high IF WoS OA journals. French ECRs do
not always have the money to pay APCs. Only those who lead or
who are part of funded research projects have APCs paid for
them. Research team budgets do not allow for more than that,
and ECRs are particularly disadvantaged because they do not lead
projects and depend on others to pay the APC for them. UK
ECRs are much more positive about OA and depositing papers in
IRs but do not necessarily publish more in OA journals. In the
OA-savvyUK, just two ECRs said it impacts their decision where
to publish, mentioning that they publish in hybridjournals as a
Does OA advance or dilute the quality of
The large majority, typically two-thirds of ECRs, feel that OA
publishing advances science, but around half of these felt it also
has negative consequences. This is the case in the UK, where
18 out of 21 researchers agree with the rst part of the state-
ment that OA helps advance science and 12 agree with the
second, negative statement about dilution. French ECRs are fence
sitters, tending to believe that OA advances science but see a risk
to science coming from the predatory publishers. Nearly a third
of Spanish ECRs also thought the same.
The reasons given for believing OA will advance science tend
to be that it is democratic, allowing researchers to read each
others papers; furnishes easy access to research; and provides
them all with the same chance to gain knowledge. Some thought
OA was not the issue because quality is more important than the
business model, and the real key is the quality of peer review.
As Tenopir et al. (2011) state, with science becoming increasingly
more data intensive and collaborative, data sharing assumes
greater importance. Findings demonstrate that there is a willing-
ness to share data, but in actual fact, only a minority make their
data electronically available to others: less than 6% of those who
responded to the question on data sharing made all of their data
available; 46% reported they made at least some of their data
available somehow; and as many reported that they did not make
their data available to others at all.
When questioned whether they would like to be recognized
more for their data and software and make it more visible
(weavoidedthetermopen datain case of unfamiliarity), our ECRs
also thought highly of the practice but did little about it. They essen-
tially say that they produce data but do not make it available,
although many see the benets of doing so. The case of China is
illustrative, where a majority (11) produced data, and one created
software. But no one made their data and software available. Five
say they will make the data open only if a journal required them to
do so. In the case of France, all the ECRs produce data and computer
science software. However, only three ECRs (Bio-medics) made their
data available when publishing their articles because it was required
by the publisher and the peer reviewing process. They did so on
PubMed, where you load supplementary data as part of an article.
Many just did not want to provide visibility for, or share, the
data. In the case of the French physicists, it was considered a
useless exercise to make data open because, as one ECR said,
Nobody would understand the data or would be able to exploit it as
they do not have the context of the research, the methodology and
so on. In Spain, only a minority (ve) of ECRs produce software,
and they think they would have to get credit for it if they are to
make it available. A majority (10), however, see benets in making
data more available, but they are mostly unaware of the useful-
ness of publishing data separately.
In the USA and UK, the use of the word visiblein the ques-
tion did not prevent the ECRs understanding the question as
about open data. In the USA, 21 said yes in principle, with only
3 taking a negative view and 4 uncertain. The UK response was
similar, with 16 saying yes, 4 being negative, and one response not
relevant. There were a number of qualications in both countries
mostly concerned with ethicalissues (such as human subjects)
and condentiality issues relating to industry. Others, although
they answered yes, worried that they would put themselves at a
disadvantage if others did not adopt the same open policies.
Making research ndings more widely available
The question posed was Would you prefer to make public your
research ndings in less formal ways, such as blogs, which could
make them more visible? This was really an invitation for ECRs to
talk about social media as a publishing medium without being
seen to push the social media agenda. The general answer, some-
times defensively put, is that they do not use social media chan-
nels for disseminating their research because they lack the time
(busy as they are writing papers for high IF journals) and are not
given any recognition for these activities (e.g. not admissible on
CVs). Other reasons also given are: (1) they lack the know-how;
(2) some journals forbid the authors to do so and thus put in peril
their all-important papers; (3) there are dangers of misinterpreta-
tion, a comment levelled against the media; and (4) dissemination
in formal channels is thought to be all important because it is the
only guarantee of research quality.
ECRs only conrm the prevailing, if unwritten, norms of aca-
deme in feeling the way they do about utilizing social media for
research dissemination purposes; as Wolff et al. (2016a, 2016b)
nd, academics believe that when their work is assessed for
appointment, promotion, or research funding, more recognition
should be awarded for traditional research publications as
10 D. Nicholas et al. © 2017 The Author(s).
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Learned Publishing 2017
compared to alternative research products. That, of course, is not
to say that ECRs do not want to disseminate more widely and
innovatively, and at least half are tempted or interested in
doing so.
Thus, in France, although no ECR publishes research via
social media channels, a sizeable number (8) say they are tempted
to do so. This intention is related to the original purpose of doing
their PhD, which is to disseminate their research to a larger audi-
ence. For the French and all the other countries, there is a caveat
and that is dissemination should take place after publication in a
peer reviewed journal.
Where social media is encouraged (as it is in the UK by the
REF in order to promote outreach and impact), there are higher
levels of activity, with over one-third giving an unequivocal yes
that they did use social media. Signicantly, the drive to use
social media, especially to reach practitioners and policy makers,
appears to be coming from university management, marketing
departments, and less so their senior colleagues.
The question asked was Do you have a conscious publication strat-
egy relating to your research and is that to do with obtaining a
tenured/established position and, if so, please describe? It was asked
because there was some doubt whether ECRs had a strategy,
something that is thought to be good for their career progression.
In fact, most (three-quarters) ECRs do have a publishing strategy
of sorts or profess they do. There are, however, variations with,
for instance, nearly all ECRs in China having one but only half in
Not surprisingly, given the importance accorded to the vol-
ume of papers published in high-ranking journals and the previ-
ous evidence, ECRs overwhelmingly adopt just one strategy and
that is to publish as many articles as they can in high IF journals
because that enhances their reputation and increases the proba-
bility of tenure. A French ECR spoke for many by saying: My
research activity and career progression is only seen through the
prism of publication.
A small proportion (20% in France) spoke out against such a
strategy, preferring a more qualitative approach, which focuses on
producing fewer, better papers that have a greater impact on the
community. For them, the publish or perish regime was overloading
and harming science. This approach is illustrated by a French com-
puter scientist: Fundamentally, I do not adhere to the rules, it is
damageable to the scholarly publication system that we publish so
many articles.We could publish less and better articles.We are all in
competition, one against the other and this leads us to publishing even
embryo results.In this competitive race in the past Ive published arti-
cles that were not mature. Other alternative, minority publishing
strategies included: obtaining maximum attention; always choosing
the most appropriate journal, not ignoring journals that were pres-
tigious but did not have high JIFs; producing practical and inuen-
tial work; obtaining copyright protection for their work; and
balancing high IFs with high readership and speed of publication.
Those who did not have a strategy gave reasons such as
being unfussy, opportunistic, that they operate on automatic
pilot, that it is too much of a lottery to have one article pub-
lished, and the fact that they so disliked what an ECR from Spain
called the paper engineering(salami slicing).
ECRs are productive, if not prolic, having published, on average,
10 journal articles and six conference proceedings in their
research careers. Most say their institution and/or their depart-
ment have a formal or informal authorship policy, which largely
concerns who can be named as an author and in what order. Poli-
cies are formal in China and Malaysia and informal in Poland and
Spain, and they can vary by discipline. ECRs voice few complaints
about the policies and are rst author in around one-third to one-
half of all the papers to which they contribute. They also have a
signicant inuence in choosing where a paper is published, with
three-quarters saying this. Choices are, however, constrained by
the fact that most ECRs are part of a research group and their
status in the groups.
When ECRs are in a position to choose or inuence where
papers are published, they employ a complex and overlapping
range of criteria, although traditional criteria hold sway, with
being indexed/ranked in WoS or Scopus the most important.
Non-traditional criteria, such as being innovative or open (with
respect to access and peer review), do not count much. As to
making research ndings more widely available through social
media and online community platforms, ECRs largely elect not to
do this because they lack the time (busy as they are writing
papers for high IF journals) and are not given any recognition for
these activities. Some would like to, however, if things were dif-
ferent or they were in charge.
ECRs think OA publishing is a good idea, but they do not
practice what they believe, unless mandated to do so and, even
then, not all abide by them depositing papers in IRs is a case in
point. This, again, is all because they are too preoccupied chasing
the high IF journals, which typically are not OA, and because they
obtain no reputational credit for making their publications
OA. Similarly, ECRs produce data but do not make it available,
although many see the benets of doing so.
Most ECRs profess to having a publishing strategy, but this
strategy boils down to publishing as many articles as they can in
high IF journals because that is what enhances their reputation
and increases the probability of them obtaining tenure. Despite
the siren voices of Science/Web 2.0 for ECRs, it is a case of pub-
lish or perish.
Finally, ECRsroom for manoeuvre is limited by the fact that
many work in research groups where the need to consider the
wishes of others whose favours they need to win, are subject to
institutional policies and restrained by the fact that they have to
keep an eye on doing what is best to get them a job (publishing
papers in high IF journals). They are shackled by convention. But
what evidence do we have, then, for thinking that if they were
11ECRs publishing and authorship practices
Learned Publishing 2017 © 2017 The Author(s).
Learned Publishing © 2017 ALPSP.
free and independent, they would do things differently and what
things would they do? In fact, many ECRs do not have major pro-
blems with the publication-based system they live in and are
measured by. This tends to be very much the case for UK and US
ECRs. That is not to say they are unaware of the systems weak-
nesses because many ECRs emphasize that it is the research itself
and what it tells us that is important and not any one publica-
tion. Nevertheless, they follow the publishing route. Most likely,
this indicates that they would much rather have tenure commit-
tees and grant-giving bodies actually judge them on the research
they have undertaken and not on the basis of what journal they
published in. French and Spanish ECRs are the most critical and
outspoken, especially regarding their inability to exploit the legion
opportunities there are today for sharing, collaboration, and out-
reach. French ECRs are particularly critical about the lack of
thinking time because they are always struggling to publish, and
Spanish ECRs are concerned about the reputational damage of
utilizing social media.
This study is based on a sample of 116 ECRs and might not be
representative of the ECR population as a whole. The ECR pro-
les with regard to subject, age, gender, age, and whether they
are a postdoc/PhD (see Table 1) are very relevant to the interpre-
tation of the results, and analyses from this perspective will be
provided as the longitudinal data builds over the next 24 months.
The study is also based on personal interpretation of the ques-
tions and ECRs willingness to report honestly, knowledgeably,
and objectively, all of which may introduce bias.
The research reported here has been funded by the Publishing
Research Consortium, the National Social Science Foundation of
China, No. 15CTQ026, and Ministry of Higher Education Malay-
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13ECRs publishing and authorship practices
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... It is by now a consistently established, indeed, an almost axiomatic notion that success in the scholarly undertaking, in both careeradvancement and reputation-building terms, is contingent on proven research achievements, most notably as measured by papers published in prestigious and high-ranking journals (Blankstein & Wolff-Eisenberg, 2019;Borrego & Anglada, 2016;Cronin, 2001;Harley et al., 2010;Mulligan et al., 2013;Nicholas et al., 2015;Nicholas et al., 2017;Nicholas, Jamali, et al., 2020;Niles et al., 2020). With the publication venue thus serving as an important indicator of the extent to which a scholarly achievement is seen as representing a significant-and therefore rewardablecontribution to science, choosing the most appropriate journal for submitting an article inevitably becomes a crucial decision for the researcher. ...
... The respondents were furnished with a list of 7 factors and asked to score each on a scale 1-5, with 5 the most important, which meant a lot of quantitative data was obtained. The choice of factors was informed by data obtained in Harbingers-1 (Nicholas et al., 2017) and more discussion on this can be found at the beginning of the results section. These data are supported and explained by a careful selection of quotes and interviewer interpretations. ...
... As to the aforementioned factor of indexation in Scopus or WoS, the main criterion opted for in Harbingers-1-and by some margin at that (Nicholas et al., 2017)-initially was not on the list of prompts. We already knew from a pre-analysis of the Harbingers-2 ...
Presents early data from an investigation of the work lives and scholarly communication practices of 177 early career researchers (ECRs) from eight countries. Utilizing mainly coded and textual data from interviews, the paper reports on the findings that pertain to publishing papers in peer reviewed journals. We examine which factors are taken into account when choosing the journal to publish their research in, identifying similarities/differences by country, age, academic status and discipline. Also, explored is whether the pandemic has changed decision-making. Main findings are that the aim for ECRs is to publish in the ‘best’ journals, variably measured by prestige, impact factor, standards of peer review and indexation. Appropriateness of audience is the only factor unrelated to the quality of the journal that figures highly among the factors that guide ECRs in the process of selecting a journal. The pandemic has made little difference to the majority of ECRs when they decide on a journal for publishing their research. However, there is a greater awareness of the need for a faster turnover rate, brought on by the importance accorded to speedy publication during the pandemic.
... Other scientific disci-plines show a comparable proportion of ECS (co-)authorship (e.g. Nicholas et al., 2017). The substantial contributions of ECS have been emphasized in other fields (Bégin-Caouette et al., 2020), and the temporal dimension of this analysis highlights that ECS contributions to the scientific literature have increased steadily since 1990. ...
... ECS are less aware of existing authorship rules and conventions and are more vulnerable to authorship abuse, including ghost, honorary, or gift authorships (Cronin, 2001;Weltzin et al., 2006;Teixeira da Silva and Dobránszki, 2016;Harvey, 2018). Even when formal rules are in place, many ECS report encountering problems with coauthorship (Nicholas et al., 2017). The increase in the number of unwarranted co-author statuses is likely to benefit senior authors and penalize ECS, thus contributing to the observed decrease in the mean proportion of ECS (co)-authors (Cronin, 2001). ...
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Scientific careers and publishing have radically changed in recent decades creating an increasingly competitive environment for early career scientists (ECS). The lack of quantitative data available on ECS in marine and fisheries sciences prevents direct assessment of the consequences of increased competitiveness. We assessed the contributions of ECS (up to 6 years post first publication) to the field using an indirect approach by investigating the authorships of peer-reviewed articles. We analysed 118461 papers published by 184561 authors in the top 20 marine and fisheries sciences journals over the years 1991–2020. We identified a positive long-term trend in the proportion of scientific articles (co-)authored by ECS. This suggests a growing contribution by ECS to publications in the field. However, the mean proportion of ECS (co-)authors within one publication declined significantly over the study period. Subsequent tests demonstrated that articles with ECS (co-)authors receive fewer citations and that the proportion of ECS (co-)authors on an article has a significant negative effect on the number of citations. We discuss the potential causes of these inequalities and urge systematic support to ECS to achieve more balanced opportunities for funding and publishing between ECS and senior scientists.
... Various factors can account for deciding where researchers choose to publish findings (Niles et al., 2020), including pressure by institutions (Alamri et al., 2020;Cobey et al., 2019;Kurt, 2018), social identity threat, unawareness, lack of proficiency (Kurt, 2018), promises of a fast publication (Salehi et al., 2020), and impact factors and indexing in databases (Nicholas et al., 2017). These factors, combined with naivety from ECRs, authors, and even editors on the concept of predatory publishers (Alamri et al., 2020;Christopher & Young, 2015;Cohen et al., 2019;Maurer et al., 2021) and an array of tactics and features employed by predatory publishers (Memon, 2018) can result in continued submission to such predatory publishers. ...
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Predatory publishers—those who do not adhere to rigorous standards of academic practice such as peer review—are increasingly infiltrating biomedical databases, to the detriment of the wider scientific community. These publishers frequently send unsolicited ‘spam’ emails to generate submission to their journals, with early career researchers (ECR) particularly susceptible to these practices because of pressures such as securing employment and promotion. This analysis sought to record and characterize the emails received over the course of a PhD and post‐doctoral position (~8 years), as well as attempts to unsubscribe from such emails, using a progressive and step‐wise manner. A total of 1,280 emails identified as academic spam were received (990 journal invitations, 220 conference invitations, 70 ‘other’). The first email was received 3 months after registration for an international conference. Attempts at unsubscribing were somewhat effective, whereby implications of reporting to respective authorities resulted in a 43% decrease in emails, although did not eliminate them completely, and therefore alternative approaches to eliminating academic spam may be needed. Ongoing education about predatory publishers, as well as action by key academic stakeholders, should look to reduce the impact these predatory publishers have upon the wider literature base.
... Authors favour legacy journals hosting green and hybrid open access, which generally have acquired a stronger meritorious role in the reward system than their gold open access counterparts (Anderson, 2004;Björk, 2013;Solomon et al., 2013). University faculties are often conservative in their acceptance of open access (Tenopir et al., 2017) and aspiring researchers may feel obliged to choose journals that their faculty ranks as being of high quality (Nicholas et al., 2017(Nicholas et al., , 2020Dalton et al., 2020;Heckman and Moktan, 2020). These effects may have (Laakso and Björk, 2021). ...
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The role of academic journals is significant in the reward system of science, which makes their rank important for the researcher's choice in deciding where to submit. The study asks how choices of immediate gold and hybrid open access are related to journal ranking and how the uptake of immediate open access is affected by transformative publish-and-read deals, pushed by recent science policy. Data consists of 186,621 articles published with a Norwegian affiliation in the period 2013–2021, all of which were published in journals ranked in a National specific ranking, on one of two levels according to their importance, prestige, and perceived quality within a discipline. The results are that researchers chose to have their articles published as hybrid two times as often in journals on the most prestigious level compared with journals on the normal level. The opposite effect was found with gold open access where publishing on the normal level was chosen three times more than on the high level. This can be explained by the absence of highly ranked gold open access journals in many disciplines. With the introduction of publish-and-read deals, hybrid open access has boosted and become a popular choice enabling the researcher to publish open access in legacy journals. The results confirm the position of journals in the reward system of science and should inform policymakers about the effects of transformative arrangements and their costs against the overall level of open access.
Presents findings from a study into the attitudes and practices of pandemic-era early career researchers (ECRs) in regard to obtaining access to the formally published scholarly literature, which focused on alternative providers, notably ResearchGate and Sci-Hub. The study is a part of the Harbingers project that has been exploring the work lives and scholarly communication practices of ECRs in pre-pandemic times and during the pandemic, and utilizes data from two rounds of interviews with around 170 ECRs from the sciences and social sciences in eight countries. Findings show that alternative providers, as represented by ResearchGate and Sci-Hub, have become established and appear to be gaining ground. However, there are considerable country-and discipline-associated differences. ECRs' country-specific level of usage of the alternative providers is partly traceable to the adequacy of library provisions, although there are other factors at play in shaping ECRs' attitudes and practices, most notably convenience and time saving, as well as the fact that these platforms have become embedded in the scholarly dashboard. There is a dearth of evidence of the impact of the pandemic on ECRs' ways of obtaining scholarly papers.
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Around 170 early career researchers (ECRs) from 8 countries were interviewed about the whole range of their scholarly communication attitudes/behaviours during pandemic times and this paper analyses what they said about predatory journals in a wide range of scholarly communication contexts. Because of the delicacy of the topic there was just one question exclusively directed at predatory journals, which asked about policies rather than actions, which yielded nevertheless wide-ranging comments on the topic. ECRs also volunteered information on predatory journals in another half dozen questions, most notably including one on questionable research practices. The source of data was mainly the final interview of three undertaken, with some comparisons made to rounds one and two. Findings disclose the existence of a whole raft of formal and informal assessment policies/codes that direct ECRs to legitimate journals and away from predatory ones. Despite being junior, ECRs are very accultured to the criteria of what is considered as prestige and quality and believe predatory publishing is not even conceivable. They are far more concerned about low-quality research, preprints and borderline 'grey' journals. The pandemic has increased the level of questionable practices and low-quality research, but predatory journals were only singled out by a relatively small number of ECRs. Funding This paper comes from the Harbingers-2 project: Early career researchers and the pandemic, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
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Knowledge is a signifcant driver of economic growth. For higher education institutions (HEIs)-prime knowledge generators- as well as for nations, research productivity is a priority. The contribution of PhD students to research productivity is not entirely visible. This lack of visibility may have implications for policy making at the institutional and national level. This research employed a bi-level, mixed-method approach: qualitative at the microlevel (institutionally and individually) for inductive insights about the connection of PhD programs and students to research productivity; and quantitative at the macro-level, analyzing data from 78 countries, from 2014 to 2019. We found a statistically signifcant correlation between the number of PhD students and the quantity of papers published: over 90% (R2=0.904, F(1.365)=3431.9, p<0.01). Participant observation provided theoretical insights about the “how” and “why” of the student´s connection to research productivity.
A preprint is a version of a research manuscript posted by its authors to a preprint server before peer review. Preprints are associated with a variety of benefits, including the ability to rapidly communicate research, the opportunity for researchers to receive feedback and raise awareness of their research, and broad and unrestricted access. For early-career researchers, preprints also provide a mechanism for demonstrating research progress and productivity without the lengthy timelines of traditional journal publishing. Despite these benefits, few health professions education (HPE) research articles are deposited as preprints, suggesting that preprinting is not currently integrated into HPE culture. In this article, the authors describe preprints, their benefits and related risks, and the potential barriers that hamper their widespread use within HPE. In particular, the authors propose the barriers of discordant messaging and the lack of formal and informal education on how to deposit, critically appraise, and use preprints. To mitigate these barriers, several recommendations are proposed to facilitate preprints in becoming an accepted and encouraged component of HPE culture, allowing the field to take full advantage of this evolving form of research dissemination.
Changing business models in scholarly publishing means that researchers have increased choices as to where to submit their articles. Choices are made on the basis of perceived quality of the journal, the speed of publishing, and how close a match there is between the journal scope and the article topic. Additionally, there is an increasing concern as to whether the journals are predatory. This paper reports on a study which sought to understand how health researchers go about selecting where to publish and the support that they receive in this regard from librarians and related staff. The research confirms that knowledge of a specific journal is still the predominant factor for researchers and that they prefer to rely on their own judgment. Librarians are providing the tools such as databases and whitelists by which better choices can be made whilst exploring new roles in advising and training researchers. Predatory journals are being selected by some, chiefly as a consequence of a lack of awareness amongst researchers and the need for some to publish swiftly and at low cost.
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The paper reports on a major international questionnaire survey that investigated the use of social media in the research workflow. The topic is the second to emerge from the Charleston Observatory. The study of more than 2000 researchers shows that social media impact on all points of the research lifecycle, from identifying research opportunities to disseminating findings at the end. The three most popular social media tools in a research setting were those for collaborative authoring, conferencing, and scheduling meetings. The most popular brands used tend to be mainstream anchor technologies or 'household brands', like Twitter and Skype. Age is a poor predictor of social media use in a research context and scientists avail themselves most of social media. Journals, conference proceedings and edited books remain the core traditional means of disseminating research, with institutional repositories highly valued as well, but social media has become an important complementary channel for disseminating and discovering research.
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In the wake of contemporary new public management, the temporalities of academic work have undergone significant transformations. One key feature of these changes is a perceived acceleration of working pace. While this phenomenon is widely acknowledged in scholarship about the transforming universities, to date there are only few studies investigating its empirical details. Building on qualitative interviews with 38 postdoctoral life scientists in Austria, this article investigates how these researchers experience the temporalities of their work and career practices. Postdocs are particularly susceptible to the changing demands of academic work life, as they mostly inhabit fragile institutional positions while they aspire to establish themselves in academia. The experience of being in a highly competitive race that requires a continuously accelerating working pace as well as a strong focus on individual achievement is central to their narratives about working for a career in academia. Drawing on recent scholarship on anticipation (ADAMS, MURPHY & CLARKE, 2009), acceleration (ROSA, 2003) and the entrepreneurial self (BRÖCKLING, 2007), I develop the concepts of anticipatory acceleration and latent individualization to analytically capture postdocs' experiences of temporalities in the context of their work and career practices. In conclusion I discuss the possible impacts of these particular temporal orientations for the contents and formats of academic knowledge production and ask in how far concepts and movements such as "slow science" help to address effects and problems of these specific forms of acceleration and anticipation. URN:
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This article presents findings from the first year of the Harbingers research project started in 2015. The project is a 3-year longitudinal study of early career researchers (ECRs) to ascertain their current and changing habits with regard to information searching, use, sharing, and publication. The study recruited 116 researchers from seven countries (UK, USA, China, France, Malaysia, Poland, and Spain) and performed in-depth interviews by telephone, Skype, or face-to-face to discover behaviours and opinions. This paper reports on findings regarding discovery and access to scholarly information. Findings confirm the universal popularity of Google/Google Scholar. Library platforms and web-scale discovery services are largely unmentioned and unnoticed by this user community, although many ECRs pass through them unknowingly on the way to authenticated use of their other preferred sources, such as Web of Science. ECRs are conscious of the benefits of open access in delivering free access to papers. Social media are widely used as a source of discovering scholarly information. ResearchGate is popular and on the rise in all countries surveyed. Smartphones have become a regularly used platform on which to perform quick and occasional searches for scholarly information but are only rarely used for reading full text.
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Over-inclusive authorship practices such as honorary or guest authorship have been widely reported, and they appear to be exacerbated by the rise of large interdisciplinary collaborations that make authorship decisions particularly complex. Although many studies have reported on the frequency of honorary authorship and potential solutions to it, few have probed how the underlying dynamics of large interdisciplinary teams contribute to the problem. This paper reports on a qualitative study of the authorship standards and practices of six NSF-funded interdisciplinary environmental science teams. Using interviews of the lead PI and an early-career member on each team, our study explores the nature of honorary authorship practices as well as some of the motivating factors that may contribute to these practices. These factors include both structural elements (policies and procedures) as well as cultural elements (values and norms) that cross organizational boundaries. Therefore, we provide recommendations that address the intersection of these factors and that can be applied at multiple organizational levels.
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In this article we examine what motivations influence academic authors in selecting a journal in which to publish. A survey was sent to approximately 15,000 faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers at four large North American research universities with a response rate of 14.4% (n = 2021). Respondents were asked to rate how eight different journal attributes and five different audiences influence their choice of publication output. Within the sample, the most highly rated attributes are quality and reputation of journal and fit with the scope of the journal; open access is the least important attribute. Researchers at other research-intensive institutions are considered the most important audience, while the general public is the least important. There are significant differences across subject disciplines and position types. Our findings have implications for understanding the adoption of open access publishing models.
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l survey of over 3600 academic researchers examined how trustworthiness is determined when making decisions on scholarly reading, citing, and publishing in the digital age and whether social media and open access publications are having an impact on judgements. In general, the study found that traditional scholarly methods and criteria remain important across the board. However, there are significant differences between younger (age 30 & under) and older researchers (over 30). Thus younger researchers: a) expend less effort to obtain information and more likely to compromise on quality in their selections; b) view open access publishing much more positively as it offers them more choices and helps to establish their reputation more quickly; c) compensate for their lack of experience by relying more heavily on trust markers and proxies, such as impact factors; d) use all the outlets available in order to improve the chances of getting their work published and, in this respect, make the most use of the social media with which they are more familiar.
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The paper reports on some of the results of a research project into how changes in digital behaviour and services impacts on concepts of trust and authority held by researchers in the sciences and social sciences in the UK and the USA. Interviews were used in conjunction with a group of focus groups to establish the form and topic of questions put to a larger international sample in an online questionnaire. The results of these 87 interviews were analysed to determine whether or not attitudes have indeed changed in terms of sources of information used, citation behaviour in choosing references, and in dissemination practices. It was found that there was marked continuity in attitudes though an increased emphasis on personal judgement over established and new metrics. Journals (or books in some disciplines) were more highly respected than other sources and still the vehicle for formal scholarly communication. The interviews confirmed that though an open access model did not in most cases lead to mistrust of a journal, a substantial number of researchers were worried about the approaches from what are called predatory OA journals. Established researchers did not on the whole use social media in their professional lives but a question about outreach revealed that it was recognised as effective in reaching a wider audience. There was a remarkable similarity in practice across research attitudes in all the disciplines covered and in both the countries where interviews were held.
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An international survey of over 3,600 researchers examined how trustworthiness and quality are determined for making decisions on scholarly reading, citing, and publishing and how scholars perceive changes in trust with new forms of scholarly communication. Although differences in determining trustworthiness and authority of scholarly resources exist among age groups and fields of study, traditional methods and criteria remain important across the board. Peer review is considered the most important factor for determining the quality and trustworthiness of research. Researchers continue to read abstracts, check content for sound arguments and credible data, and rely on journal rankings when deciding whether to trust scholarly resources in reading, citing, or publishing. Social media outlets and open access publications are still often not trusted, although many researchers believe that open access has positive implications for research, especially if the open access journals are peer reviewed.
The Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey has tracked the changing research, teaching, and publishing practices of faculty members within higher education triennially since early digital transformation at the turn of the century. This project has aimed to provide actionable findings to help colleges and universities, among other relevant stakeholders such as academic libraries, learned societies, and scholarly publishers, make evidence-based decisions for their planning and strategy. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic and its numerous impacts to many different facets of higher education, this eighth cycle of the survey once again queried faculty nationally on topics such as scholarly discovery and access, data management, research dissemination, and the value of the library. We also added new questions on key areas of interest, including equitable and holistic teaching practices, instructional support, perspectives on scholarly outputs and open access models, as well as on faculty capacity and evaluation. Our key findings below highlight the most notable results from the 2021 US Faculty Survey. ▪Faculty are according less importance to a journal’s impact factor whendeciding where to publish their scholarly research. Despite this decrease, faculty members continue to emphasize the importance of characteristics that have historically beenmost highly valued that help contribute towards favorable scholarly incentives, such as ajournal’s content area and high readership. ▪While faculty members continue to view the library’s most important function to be that of buyer of scholarly resources, they consider the library’s role inproviding direct support to students as essential. This includes the library’s provision of access to technology and informal learning spaces. Faculty members continue to endorse the role of the library primarily as a buyer of scholarly resources needed for their research and teaching and generally as a primary support for student learning. ▪Faculty members continue to be interested in an open access publication modeland see their library as key in financially supporting open access infrastructure. Faculty members want the library’s involvement in financially supporting an open access system and are specifically open to their college or university library investing in open journal platforms and infrastructure to do so. ▪Very few faculty members believe there are adequate processes in place to protect against research fraud, and there is widespread support for additionalefforts to ensure research integrity. While the majority of respondents do not believe that fraud is growing, they are not sanguine. There is strong support for dataset deposit,disclosure of funding sources, and registering research questions prior to analysis. ▪The disruptions of recent years have yielded a substantial increase in the use and creation of open educational resources (OER), textbooks, course modules,and video lectures. Despite increased creation and usage of OER, faculty are less interested in creating and using them for their courses as incentives for integrating OER into instructional approaches have not changed since 2018. ▪In the aggregate, the importance of the monograph has declined. The print monograph is decreasing in importance across all disciplines. Among humanists, a growingshare compared with 2018 indicated that electronic monographs are important for theirteaching and research. ▪Notwithstanding the disruptions of recent years, faculty members report thatattending conferences and workshops remains the most important way theykeep up to date with their current field. With conferences transferring to digitaloptions during the global pandemic, they remain just as relevant to keep up with scholarlyinformation.
Social science research training is de-facto occupational socialisation to researcher-roles. To do research, trainees need to develop and demonstrate advanced scholarship that complies with disciplinary norms and perform tasks to pre-determined standards. Functionalist approaches to occupational socialization underpin the performative and standardised approach to research training common in universities. But there is more to research training than doing research. If truly successful, trainees will become researchers. They will take on the researcher-role and make it their own. Interpretive approaches to occupational socialization help illuminate intra-and inter-personal dimensions of role-taking and role-making, however this approach is rarely used to inform research training strategies. Occasional scholarship reveals ad-hoc application on interpretive approaches to research trainee experience (e.g., “the journey”) supervisor experience (e.g., “emotional burden of supervision”), research training methods such as peer-learning (e.g., informal or fabricated groups, research micro-climates), or research training pedagogy (e.g., collaborative learning, co-production). Recently, interpretive approaches have been used to inform career-planning strategies for PhD graduates (e.g., “Vitae”) but this is yet to systematically inform institutional strategies for research-training. To more effectively and efficiently facilitate researcher-role development, research training should consider occupational socialization as an organizing framework, and utilize performative and interpretive approaches to role development.