Writing a letter with fountain pen. Author: Petar Milošević. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en). Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org

Developing Your Publication Strategy

This second session took place on December 1, 2021, two weeks after the first session. Although I planned to write this blog post immediately after, it has been impossible until today. Time flies!

The second session, “Developing your publication strategy”, was focused on discussing what are our target journals and monograph series, getting familiar with the Research Excellence Framework (REF), and commenting on our publishing strategy for beyond REF 2020.

We first started with a quick round of updates. It was impressive how active my classmates are with grant submission, paper submission, new ideas, and new collaborations. This felt like an energising start to the session.

As a warm-up activity, we discussed that it is important to be open-minded and resilient with the reviewing and publication processes. It is important to take criticism positively and not personally.

For the topics of the session, we were distributed into groups of 3-4 people during three rounds.

In the first round, we discussed in groups our publication strategy. In my group, we agreed that it is important to have a plan and to be realistically ambitious. Targeting high-quality journals is relevant, for example looking at objective measures such as the journal’s impact factor. We also discussed extensively the lack of time for research due to our teaching and administration duties.

In the second round (general group), it was brought the topic of the positive and negative impact of the REF guidelines in our practice as an academic writer. We commented that REF helps planning and writing effectively. We discussed that there are opportunities that although ‘unREFed’, are worth doing for other reasons. For example, co-authoring a paper as not the first author or co-editing a book. In the latter, contributing with a book chapter is advised so that it can be ‘REFed’. Another drawback of REF is that it can force overproduction, which is not recommended for quality reasons. Other matters such as keeping a work-life balance were also raised as a way to maintain the strategy of being more selective and productive.

In the third round, we discussed in groups what makes a 4* publication in REF and about research leadership in writing and publishing, especially concerning academic leadership more generally. We had to come prepared with a selected publication from a journal or book series and be ready to discuss what is in terms of originality, significance and rigour. Our discussion was centred on the three criteria that make a 4* publication: originality, significance, and rigour, considering that it is a peer-reviewed process. Interestingly, the quality of the output is intrinsic, so the context or where the publication has been published does not count.

We emphasized differentiating between a 4* and a 3*, defined as world-leading vs internationally excellent respectively. In engineering, showing the impact of a publication relates to giving evidence of adaptation and use, for example through a product or patent. A case study can then be connected to a publication and raise it to 4*. Citations (excluding self-citations), as well as potential applications across different disciplines can also be an indicator of the publication’s impact.

The next session is scheduled for the third week of January, where we will be analysing successful REF performances.