We receive many inquiries every day from authors trying to find a home for their research. In the editorial office, many of the inquiries we receive start with “Hi, I am interested in submitting…”
Questions about the submission portal, the costs involved, the article types accepted, article lengths, and transition times from submission to online publication are amongst the most common.
Which Journal Are You Considering Submitting to?
Currently 95 Karger journals accept submissions, so our first job is to find out to which journal the author wants to submit. Karger journals do not all follow one standardized format, so there is never one standardized answer. If the author has a clear idea of where they want to go, we can answer their questions clearly while also directing them to the journal’s Guidelines.
Authors themselves are not always clear where they want to submit. It is not uncommon to have an author respond with something along the lines of “one of your oncology journals”. With 24 subject areas, this narrows the field, and we direct them to the subject area list of journals and ask them to read the Aims and Scopes of the various journals to see which journal their own research best fits. And from there to the journal’s Guidelines.
A journal’s Guidelines are the true starting point of all submissions. They outline the journal’s general terms and conditions by which authors are expected to submit and publish. They answer what article types the journal publishes and how they should be presented; they provide information on costs and licensing; and the information is so extensive that a researcher trying to submit in a quiet moment is often overwhelmed with the information presented and writes to us instead in the hope of getting an answer in a faster and more uncomplicated fashion.
We have tried to structure the information in a user-friendly manner, even providing templates to aid authors in their preparation, but like any general terms and conditions, it’s a lot to get through.
In the end submitting a paper is like applying for a job and the Guidelines are like a job posting. Some people like to just go up to the front desk, hand over their CV and throw in a “Hi, I’m looking for a job”. This may work in some places, but the general consensus is that if you are looking for a job, you usually have to do the homework.
Accepted Article Types
Research articles, review articles, case reports, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses are the most established forms of presenting information in scientific publishing, but not all. Our Guidelines clearly list which article types are accepted by our individual journals and how the journal wishes to receive them.
There are clear industry-accepted standards (rules if you wish) of how these articles are to be presented and what information they contain. We ask authors to present their manuscripts in accordance with the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).
COPE is another body that influences how we want our articles to be presented (COPE Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines). The Equator network website provides additional reporting guidelines.
And then there are the unique journal requirements that dictate how an article is to be structured, if an article has a structured abstract or numeric referencing, if there are any size restrictions, or if they can be accompanied by any unique features like a graphic abstract or plain-language summary.
Submission Costs, Publication Costs
Although we do not charge authors for submission, most of our journals do charge some sort of fee for publishing should a paper be accepted. Each journal has its own cost structure (open access, subscription, transformative) and pricing. For authors to understand how these costs will impact them, they must ideally also understand how their funder supports them during publication and if their institute might have a publishing agreement with us. This aspect of getting published is becoming more complex.
The question of publication time is never too far away on a researcher’s mind as the pressure to get published is ever increasing. In an ideal world you submit your paper today and find it online by the end of the week. In reality, the peer-review process and the production process stand in the way of this ideal and are, at least today, a continuing and necessary evil in the world of scientific publishing.
From the moment a paper is submitted, it needs to be checked for completeness by the editorial office, and for scientific soundness and novelty by the journal’s editors together with external peer-reviewers, before being forwarded on to the production team who co-ordinate the steps of copy-editing the manuscript, typesetting, lay-outing, image checking, and online publication.
The check by the editorial office often sees papers being returned to authors for not adhering to the journal’s requirements.
The peer-review process can take months when you consider that reviewers need to be found, comments need to be written and received, revisions usually need to be made, revisions need to be re-reviewed, and the editor needs to deliberate on a final decision based on quality, novelty, and priority. As this process is very dependent on the willingness of multiple actors and their own availability, average times can give an author a certain ‘feel’ for the journal’s processing times but cannot necessarily be relied on (maybe that is why we do not publish these metrics on our homepages like some other publishers do). And at the end, there is still no guarantee that you will receive a positive answer.
For an author who does receive a positive outcome, the publication process should take five weeks. These days all our articles are published ‘online first’ so at least an author doesn’t have to wait for his or her paper to be allocated to an issue, like in the old days, to be citable.
The Submission Portal
In early 2000s electronic submission via the internet was introduced and although it took a good decade to establish itself as the ‘only’ way to submit to a reputable journal, it is hard to imagine it any other way today. It has made the process of submission and peer-review that much more efficient and accessible, but this also means that researchers have gone from envelopes and stamps to computers, browsers, and learning how to navigate different submission and peer-review systems.
Like many other publishers, we use a third-party product to provide this portal on our behalf and authors can access it from the journal homepages or from the journal overview via the very prominent orange “Submit Manuscript” button.
The portal requires authors to fill out a lot of details, which translates for us internally into a lot of data and metrics that can be used down the line for feeding databases and creating statistics. For the author submitting his or her paper, it means concentrating for about 30 minutes before getting to the other end of the process.
One has to admire the perseverance of researchers to get their research published.
We are on the front line to help and guide these brave souls through the hurdles of submission, even if our first contact starts with a very vague “Hi, I would like to submit my paper”.