The Art of Placing Research

Recently I faced a problem: where should I publish my research? Previously my venues had been suggested to me by experts, the professors whose guru status in publication was not in doubt. But now it was my own decision.


So how had these experts made their decisions? 

The first aspect to this story is the kind of publication you need. Utz Roedig’s pyramid diagram above provides a good way to think about publications: think of your project as building up a body of work, moving from right to left. 

Then your initial ideas take root as a poster; the results of the first experiments or surveys will typically generate a workshop paper; the solid results of several years’ work become a conference main venue paper; and the ‘looking back – here’s everything’ report becomes a journal paper. To reach a wider audience you might complement the last two with one or more articles in appropriate journals.   


The second aspect is which conferences or journals will suit your work best? There are three aspects to consider: purpose, location/timing and compatibility, as follows.


Do you want prestige from the publication: building up your profile, making you attractive to an academic employer? Or do you want to be known to the people you care about – those you might work with in future? Prestigious venues often get a higher rating with impact rating schemes such as the UK REF, Google H5, or Scimago. But ‘being known in your field’ is important too, and may lead to productive relationships and joint research.  Here the interests of senior academics may differ from ‘early career researchers’. Professors typically need prestigious venues; early career researchers may need exposure more.


An often-used approach is to ‘shoot for the moon’ with a submission to a highly ranked venue, hoping for success or a useful set of reviews; then to revise and submit to a lower ranked venue, repeating until you get an acceptance. The peer review system, for all its faults, is the best system that’s been found for the purpose, and a good set of reviews can help transform a paper.    

Location and Time

There are practical considerations too. Almost every conference requires that an author attends, and it is costly to do so: UK researchers need something like £1000 to attend a UK conference; £1500 for a European one; £2000 for one in the Americas or Far East. Journals, too, often require payments not to hide your paper behind a paywall, though these may be covered by your organisation.


In terms of timing, will the review process take a long time, delaying the paper from your publication list? Can you meet the deadlines, or are they too far away? Or contrarily might the review results be exactly in time to suit another venue?


Take a look a few recent issues or proceedings of your venue. You’re unlikely to get accepted if all previous papers use a different methodology or research style: qualitative vs. quantitative; practical or theoretical; or a competing version of your approach. The reviewers will typically want similar to what’s been there before, and will make their choices accordingly.


By entering a paper in a venue, you’re joining a conversation with the other authors. Is it a conversation where you have a valuable and meaningful contribution to make? And if it is, have you cited the target community appropriately (including the reviewers)?

Some Final Thoughts...

Learn to value rejections! In many cases acceptance or rejection is pretty much random. So, we all need to expect rejections, and learn to benefit from the reviews.


Most readers won’t read your whole paper. So, in the camera-ready version, it’s worth making sure the abstract, introduction and conclusion are particularly polished – and understandable by non-specialists. That will help generate citations.


There’s much more on the web with good advice for getting published – here’s a good example.


Finally, for those like me in the computer security field, here are a couple of discussions about the conferences, and the journals, in that field. For other fields, try searching for your topic along with keywords like ‘Impact Factor’, ‘Academic Ranking’, and ‘Conference Ranking’.


Good luck, and may the reviewers be with you!


-        Charles