Do Academics Overestimate the Importance of Journal Prestige?

A recent study of academics in the United States and Canada found that when it comes to choosing where to submit their work for publication, they “most value journal readership, while they believe their peers most value prestige and related metrics such as impact factor.”

The study, “Why we publish where we do: Faculty publishing values and their relationship to review, promotion and tenure expectations,” by Meredith T. Niles (Vermont), Lesley A. Schimanski (Simon Fraser), Erin C. McKiernan (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Juan P. Alperin (Simon Fraser), was posted at BioRxiv and discussed in an article recently at Times Higher Ed. It had over 300 respondents from 55 different institutions of higher education.

Among other things, the study asked which factors respondents consider when choosing publication venues, and which they think their peers considered when doing so. Here are the results:

From “Why we publish where we do: Faculty publishing values and their relationship to review, promotion and tenure expectations” by Niles et al

The authors write:

Compared to their own perceptions of important priorities when publishing, respondents perceived differences in how their peers rate important factors for publishing… Considering the mean responses, the top factors respondents thought their peers felt were important included: (1) the overall prestige of the journal/publisher/venue, (2) the JIF [journal impact factor], and (3) both the readership they want to reach and the journal/publisher/venue being regularly read by their peers. Overall, we find that there are many statistically significant differences between how people perceive their own publishing priorities versus those of their peers. For example, respondents were more likely to think their peers valued the prestige of the journal/publisher/venue compared to themselves (mean 5.02 others compared to 4.76 self, p = 0.013), as well as to value the JIF compared to themselves (mean 4.77 others compared to 4.29 self, p < 0.001), and how often the journal is cited (mean 4.57 others, 3.87 self, p < 0.001). Conversely, respondents were more likely to perceive they valued the readership compared to their peers (mean 5.02 self compared to 4.60 others, p < 0.001), and that the publication was open access (mean 3.29 self compared to 2.73 others, p< 0.001)…

Put plainly, our work suggests that faculty are guided by a perception that their peers are more driven by journal prestige, journal metrics (i.e., JIF and journal citations), and money (i.e., merit pay) than they are, while they themselves value readership and open access of a journal more.

You can read the whole study here.

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