Increasingly, funding agencies and prospective employers are demanding ever more from their potential researchers. In the past, publishing in well-known international journals was enough. Not any more. The new metric that is being used to measure the status (and arguably the impact) of a researcher is the number of citations of their journal articles. This is really tough on young researchers, especially in fields that either move slowly or at least publish slowly. However, there are proactive measures that one can take to increase citation rates. Here are 10 of them.
1. Publish, Publish, Publish
If your research is only available as a thesis, there are only a few brave souls who will read it. Many students when they finish their doctorates are fairly burnt out. They are tired of their topic, annoyed with their supervisor, and/or focused on their new job and new life. Years of poverty (and possibly chastity) often temper one’s enthusiasm for digging through old data to start new publications. Unfortunately, amongst life’s uncertainties there are only two things no one can take from you. These are your degrees and your publication. Thus, buck up your pride, turn on your computer, and start writing. Do this every day for at least one hour until your manuscript has been submitted to a journal. Repeat this until every piece of interesting data and/or analysis has either been published or is at least being reviewed.
2. Publish Where It Counts
Not so many years ago, the number of “reputable” journals was fairly small. Now the choice of where to publish can be quite daunting, and many of the options currently available are not particularly good. As a simple rule of how to select an acceptable journal is to check that it is indexed in the Institute for Scientific Information (more commonly known as Thomson ISI or just ISI). If it is not, many academic institutions will not consider it as having a sufficiently high impact to be counted towards hiring or promotion. Not all of your publications have to be ISI indexed, but most should. At a minimum they should appear in Compendex. Compendex’s standards for inclusion are not as rigorous as ISI but still much higher than many of the other indexing options (e.g. Google Scholar). Additionally, unless you are in computer science or a few other special areas, a conference paper holds little weight in hiring and promotion decisions.
3. Check the Review Cycle Duration
Another consideration in selecting a journal is its review cycle. You want to avoid having your paper in review for a year and then having it either rejected or spending another year until the revisions are accepted. Determining the length of the review cycle can be difficult, but some journals publish the expected duration of their review cycle in their mission statement. Additionally, you can always write to the editor for this information. As a rule of thumb, if the journal does not have an electronic submission system, the review cycle is likely to be very long. Another good thing about journals with short review cycles is that even if your paper is rejected, you can quickly get it submitted elsewhere.
4. Make Certain There Are On-line Preprints
A related factor is the publication cycle. Just because your paper is accepted does not mean that it is available. It may languor in an “in press” status for more than a year. This is really bad. To avoid this, many journals have now gone to electronic preprints. This means that within days of acceptance the paper is assigned a unique digital object identifier (DOI) and is electronically published. For most major academic publishers (e.g. Taylor and Francis, Elsevier), this is now the norm. Where this is not yet uniformly the case is for journals published by professional or trade organizations. To compound this issue, many of these publications only appear quarterly and can have long backlogs. Thus, an accepted paper may not be published for an additional one to two years. In today’s highly competitive climate, few researchers can afford to wait that long.
5. Publish a Review Paper
Years ago, the top journals would not publish review papers, as they were not considered as original research. This position has changed quite dramatically as editors have come to realize that good review papers are often highly cited. These citations translate to higher impact factors for the journals (a factor on which many authors base their decisions on where to publish; but impact factors are a subject for another day). Thus, review papers are now fairly welcome. While one cannot make a career of writing review papers, one or two well placed ones can help greatly increase your overall citation count. As one’s career progresses these citations become the basis for establishing other indices that consider not only the total number of citations acquired by each paper but the aggregate of the citations from all of an author’s citations.