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Research Publications: Deciding What to Publish

Things to think about when planning to publish your research

Planning for publications is a key part of the research lifecycle and should be carried out at individual, group and project level as appropriate. Research publications should have a clear purpose and audience in mind in order to achieve a positive outcome such as those listed below:

  • communicate research findings to an academic audience 
  • help an early career researcher to build a professional profile 
  • attract collaborators 
  • communicate research to a commercial or non specialist audience

Aston's policy is that the emphasis is on the quality of publications and not quantity. Different academic disciplines have different publishing norms, and individual circumstances should always be taken into account. Examples of the most common research publication types at Aston are provided below.

Journal Articles

Journal articles are the most widely recognised format for academic publishing and academic journals have been a part of sharing research and research practice since 1665. Journal articles are peer-reviewed and primarily used to communicate research outcomes, so are typically published at the end of a project phase or the end of the project itself. While journal articles are heavily biased towards presenting novel results, researchers should also consider publishing articles highlighting null results in order to increase transparency and reproducibility within their discipline. Apart from research articles, journals also publish: review articles, short communications/reports, letters, editorials, book reviews, conference abstracts/reports, corrections and retractions. 

 

You may be publishing articles individually or as a co-author with other researchers. There is currently a problem in academic publishing of hyperauthorship (see this article as an example- the last 9 pages of the 33 page article are taken up with the 5,000+ author affiliations) as well as one of 'gift authorship' or 'coercion authorship', where a prominent person(s) in the field is listed as an author on the paper without actually having contributed anything to it in order to increase citations.  When considering asking other researchers to co-author a paper with you, or if you've been asked to be a co-author, please keep these points in mind:

  • you/they should be willing to be held accountable for the work being published and its rigour and integrity
  • your/their contribution should be substantial 
  • you/they should take an active part in drafting and revising the work
  • you/they should be part of the final sign-off process before submitting and prior to final publication

Conference papers

Many disciplines formally publish longer versions of papers presented at a conference. These can be published in several different formats: as chapters in an edited volume (with ISBN), as an article in a journal (with an ISSN) or in a conference or discipline-specific online archive/database (with or without an ISBN or ISSN). Conferences may also provide informal publication whereby access to the papers is limited to conference participants only. Examples of this type of conference publishing are: CDs or USB flash drives, zip files with restricted access, an online archive/database with restricted access or books of abstracts or short papers handed out with the conference materials. 

Blogs and Online Publications

It is now increasingly common for academic research to be presented to the public via blogs or other online publication platforms. One example of a highly respected online publication is The Conversation. These are great venues to share your research with the general public and explain the impact of your work in the context of current events.

 

You may also receive emails from companies such as Research Outreach who produce web-based publications that are specifically geared towards a general audience. Researchers are asked to pay a fee, and in return the company produces an open access piece on your research that is designed to be accessible to the general public. While this may increase your impact and audience, it is not a peer-reviewed publication and is not eligible for open access costs from the Library.

Books and Chapters

In some disciplines, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, books (monographs) and chapters are the central publication formats in an academic career. Once you've identified a prospective publisher(s), you will need to submit a book proposal that the publisher will use to decide whether to issue you a book contract or not.  Your proposal should demonstrate  that your book fills a clear gap in your field or offers a novel outcome. Book contracts vary across publishers, book types and disciplines, and it is essential that you read your contract carefully before signing. You should pay particular attention to the rights that you retain and if these match your expectations. Levels of editorial oversight and copyediting will also vary from publisher to publisher.

 

While not as prevalent as open access articles, books and chapters can also be made open access if the publisher permits. Authors increasingly have the option of making their books and chapters freely available through paying a book processing charges (BPC) or through self-archiving their accepted manuscripts in a repository. 

The OA Books Toolkit provides authors with valuable information on how to publish their books open access and has a FAQ section.

Working Papers and Preprints

Working papers are very common in Business and some of the hard science disciplines. They are preliminary versions of articles posted to discipline-specific websites or repositories or distributed to discipline-specific lists for the purpose of eliciting feedback from the community before they are submitted to the journal for peer-review. 

 

Preprints serve a similar purpose and are very common in the health sciences. Some funders, such as the Wellcome Trust, require grant holders to make preprints available as soon as possible where there is a 'significant public health benefit'. There are many preprint servers available across disciplines, with examples including: arXIv, bioarXiv, PsyArXivOSF, RePEc, etc. 

 

Both working papers and preprints are great ways of quickly sharing your research with the wider community and have the knock-on effect of gaining attention (and citations) and establishing priority through a visible date stamp.  

Reports and Specialist Publications

Researchers working with government or industry bodies on projects may be required to write reports outlining the research goals and outcomes of these projects. Such reports may or may not be peer-reviewed prior to publication on an official website and are frequently covered by Crown Copyright if working with a UK government body. 

 

Specialist publications generally encompass industry magazines, newsletters or other niche publications that may or may not be peer-reviewed. They may have an ISSN like a journal, but do not have the same academic focus or rigour. These publications tend to rely on advertising for revenue, rather than subscription fees, and do not have clear open access policies.

Your Doctoral Thesis

Your thesis took years of research and writing to produce and you may wish to share the results of your hard work with a wider audience through a book or journal article(s). Most publishers do not count theses as prior publications, even if it is open access in a research repository such as Aston Publications Explorer. For a fairly comprehensive list of publishers and their policies on thesis prior publication, check out the work done by the MIT Library. You may wish to contact the editor of the journal you are submitting any thesis-derived articles to beforehand as they may be flagged by plagiarism detection software. 

 

One thing to watch out for are soliciting emails from predatory publishers offering to publish your thesis either for free or for a fee. Apart from poor editorial oversight (sometimes just printing the pdf provided with a different cover), these publishers will require you to sign extremely restrictive copyright transfer agreements (you own the copyright to your thesis unless you sign it over) which will prevent you from publishing or re-using your thesis in the future. Lambert Academic Publishing (part of VDM Verlag) is the most prolific print-on-demand publisher in terms of soliciting theses for publication and you will likely receive many emails from them during and after your PhD research. 

 

Research Data

Regardless of what form your research publication takes, you should provide a data access statement and make the underlying research data available wherever possible by providing a link to it in the publication. 

Further information on sharing your research data can be found in the Research Data Management LibGuide.