Publication of scientific article in international journals – what an author needs to know
Round-table discussion by editors within the 37th Annual European Accounting Congress European Accounting Association (EAA)
Paris-Dauphine, May 7, 2013
Kuzminskiy Y.A. (Editor in chief of the practical science edition “Independent AUDITOR”): It is a tradition that under the annual Congress of the European Accounting Association discussions arise on current issues of scientific activity in the field of accounting and audit.
At the 37th Congress in
As for me, the result of discussions developed into thinking about how we can improve the quality of interaction between authors, reviewers and editors. In fact, there are other parties such as publishers, readers, there are other interested groups, but today in the pages of our journal we would like to focus on opinions of editors of leading professional journals about the role of the three participants, and their three points of view on publishing scientific papers.
Drozd I.K. (Deputy of editor in chief): An issue, which was the first and most actively discussed by the roundtable participants was the question from authors about how and what aspiring scientist are to understand in order to publish their research. VIVIEN BEATTIE – editor of the Accounting and Business Research journal - started the discussion. She told the following in addressing the young authors:
"First of all, you should see what range of journals is actually available for you. There are various lists, which you can and should learn. Do not limit yourself with journal in accounting or finance only. Submit your papers to journals in management, historical, social editions and other.
Account must be taken of another very important point: what papers are published by a particular edition. Considering the particular journal as a platform for your paper, I advise you to find out more about it, its goals and objectives. In order to understand the goals and objectives one should look through the latest issue of the journal and note what papers are published here, what range of topics is covered, what ontological principles the editors are using - whether it is a single item or a universal journal. You can also define the specific theories and methods commonly used by this journal. You should be able to connect your paper to the references published in this journal. Thus, in general, one needs to examine the publication thoroughly.
Another parallel of your article is equally important. It is, so to speak, the standard of quality - the quality of material to be published in the journal. I'm not a big fan of all kinds of rankings, but there are featuring differences between different journals, and differentiation on quality as well. I consider the rankings for journals to be quite an inadequate phenomenon, as well as that all are made to be published in certain journals of high level. This means that definitely there will appear a noticeable discrepancy between the quality of the article and the quality standard of the journal. Frankly, such a process is a waste of time for everyone involved, because it's one of the reasons why many journals that are in specific lists, charts, have a high bounce rate from editorial and probably more time is spent on papers, which would be refused to publish rather than on promising works that have the potential to go all the way through".
Drozd I.K.: Speaking on the preparation and publication of papers, PATRICIA O'BRIEN, editor in chief of the Contemporary Accounting Research journal, provided with interesting tips:
"First of all, I advise you to develop a quality of "strong stomach". You put a lot of time and effort in getting to create this article, it has become almost a part of you, and it’s kind of your child. And, here come people, reviewers in particular, who poked a finger and say, "Your child is ugly". This is difficult to accept. If you are a parent in real life, you hardly ever hear such remarks about your child. But critics are not ashamed to say that your virtual baby, your work - is ugly. So pay attention to the issues on which you need to work hard to make the article better, more coherent, understandable, accessible and interesting to readers. Do not allow an offence to distract you from the result, which you should be targeting.
The next step is partly related to "strong stomach" - look for ardent critics. You need critics to be frank with you, and indicate what changes or improvements requires your papers before you submit it for publication".
LAURENS VAN LENT (editor in chief of the European Accounting Review journal):
"I address the question concerning printing papers of scientists-beginners and can say that we offer an opportunity to send us the papers from scientists who do not have permanent position at the university and from Ph.D. students, promising them a meaningful experience. I want to emphasize this and prevent the issue of reviews that are destructive in nature, even sometimes personal, this criticism does not go in favor of the article. To avoid this, we select reviewers who have proven an experience in constructive criticism that can help and improve the article. As editors, we are trying to provide a clear and balanced approach to the decision to publish, but at the same time, we like to take risks by printing a particular paper if it contains an interesting idea, albeit with some flaws, thinking that perhaps it should not be immediately pushed into wheels of reviewing. We are just very clearly outlining what we expect from the authors. Our relationships are strictly regulated, almost like a contract: you are the author, you are entitled to ... and must ... and then your article will be published. I think these conditions will be attractive to many young scientists. Finally, one third of all articles, submitted for our consideration, are from young authors.
I want to give some advice to writers-beginners: do organize a feedback during the presentation of your work. However, if you are a young Ph.D. student, it could be difficult to get invited to make a presentation of your work at the university. In such cases I advise you to call your friends and ask permission to come and talk about your work. Most colleges in
And finally my opinion on how the author should act, when the article is returned for revision. For authors-beginners it is another aspect in which they want to get experience. As an editor, I noticed that sometimes authors do not pay enough attention to matters, which should be improved in the article. Learning about the decision of editorial and receiving the review, they think, ok, it's not a serious weak point, here I will correct a bit, here I will add a control variable - and all is set, while the reviewer was referring to the deeper changes. From my experience I can say that in this situation it is important to show the reviewer's report to colleagues and ask them what is required to do. Even if you have received a letter of refusal, you are to show it to others. Many people, especially young people, are well dejected with refusal to print the article. You will benefit from hearing what your friends think of this work and how you can improve it to be printed by journal. These steps greatly increase your chances to respond efficiently to a review, and journal - get an article, which they are to publish eventually".
CHRISTOPHER CHAPMAN (editor in chief of the Accounting, Organizations and Society journal):
"I think it's a good opportunity to talk about a topic that is very close to me, namely: coercive process of writing and publishing articles because authors have chosen the shortest path and do not pay enough attention to all stages of quality in preparing their work. Danger lies in the fact that scientists argue as follows: "Eventually I still have to publish my work in the journal, so let's not drag it out, and immediately submit to the journal". To me, this is an example of unwise marketing, promoting your work, as sometimes editor or reviewer may simply not understand the nature of your work. The best way to avoid this situation – is to test your work at a conference or seminar, as these events are valuable sources of feedback on how clear is the formulation and presentation of your article.
Speaking of feedback, I think it should be created purposefully, rather than simply presenting your research. Think in advance what feedback you would like to get in result of presentation. An event, where you speech, in this case will have no less importance. Pursuing high-quality experimental researches, I often heard after my speeches: "We are impressed with the data, your history of restaurants, the public sector in French system of food, and so on. All this is very interesting, but why are you using the theory of A, because it does not sound very clear and convincing? Here, you'd better apply theory B". In other words, your article lacks a clear definition. The audience is not ready to accept it as a complete product. And I think we, as authors, wish to achieve this when analyzing whether our article is ready for submission to the editorial. Believe me, if listeners or readers are willing to accept article as a complete work, then you are close to the aim. If your audience says it all is very interesting, but why do not you pay attention to this and that, or you could also try this - they do not see the article, which you were up to and prepared, but the one that they would like you to write. Working on article, it is not necessary to represent it only where the big heads of science in your field are. Do not think that a feedback from elite circle of respected scientists, who have some magical secret knowledge and wisdom, will be useful. Any feedback is useful to draw conclusion on how clear you suggestions are stated. Think on behalf of a wide range of readers - after all, journals publish articles for you to read it, so it is important that the statements in your work are clear for a wide range of people, not just the chosen elite. So promoting your work wisely - means to acquire and improve your presentation skills. This is useful both on its own and is a guarantee that you will be published faster. And just sending your article to the journal at once - on the contrary, is not a guarantee of fast publishing".
Drozd I.K.: It is interesting that VIVIEN BEATTIE fairly named reasons why articles are refused with editorial of Accounting and Business Research, because despite the open and closed peer review that journals provide, it is rather a little known information to the wide range of authors:
"One of the reasons is that your work does not meet the goals and objectives of the journal. It may be advisable to look at your list of references; there are some journals, which you might focus on.
Another reason – is lack of scientific contribution. Level of paper’s contribution may vary depending on what level of journal you are targeting. Some works bypass this issue at all - let the reader and reviewer find it out on their own. Dear authors try to give a clear formulation of your contribution.
Other related issue is proving the relevance of study, and I think one of the most common justifications that I meet is that this work fills a gap in the existing literature. It makes me a bit disappointed. It is desirable that working on scientific articles began on the fact that author had an idea on really interesting research issues, something that he observes, considers worthy of attention instead of using literature as a starting point for writing.
Sometimes there is no specific reason for editorial to refuse, but a combination of a number of points that make conclusion about the lack of scientific contribution. For example, seeing a contribution in the fact that the work was represented in another version is not enough. One should pay attention to how this scope might be interesting. It is not enough to be simply different, prove: why this matter is interesting? What is the difference? What do we learn from this work, which theoretical knowledge do we get? Just mentioning that research was conducted in developing countries is not enough. Articles with poor theoretical support do not get to be published. Such nuances leave a negative impression, when editor first reads an article. If he sees many such markers, he starts thinking that, perhaps, he should not "drag" such work through all the stages of admission to the publication".
Kuzminskiy Y.A.: Appeals the reviews with refusal to publish an article are very common with foreign editions. Editor of the Accounting and Business Research journal VIVIEN BEATTIE expressed her opinion and her own attitude concerning the time when author should submit the paper:
"This issue frankly surprised me - how different authors can have various opinions. Personally, I, as an author, would not dare challenging the review. However, this is a very interesting matter. In my opinion, if you have good reason to believe that your work has been peer-reviewed in violation of established procedures, you should think about this alternative. Overall, however, I would not advise you to do so. If a reviewer or editor does not understand your article, the author is to be interested in making it quite clear to readers.
Selecting reviewers, we aim to take into account at least three aspects. Our journal, Accounting and Business Research, usually involves two reviewers who should be known in a particular subject, have knowledge of the theory and methodology used. We also try to assign reviewers so that one of them had a great experience, and the other was relatively inexperienced, because they constantly have to check the work of authors who are just beginning in acquiring research experience. We are not against involvement in our editorial board the people who understand this area and able to prepare at least two reviews per year. We are pleased to collaborate with a variety of reviewers".
CHRISTOPHER CHAPMAN (editor in chief of the Accounting, Organizations and Society journal):
"Concerning reviewers, I agree with everything mentioned above, and shall add that it is necessary to choose people who are able in providing constructive criticism and suggesting alternative solutions to specific problems. After all, pointing out the deficiencies of an article is the easiest to do: it does not do that, and it lacks these things. There will always be something that article does not do and does not have. And we need a reviewer, who will point to some limits or weaknesses, but also suggests how one could improve or change".
PATRICIA O'BRIEN, editor in chief of the Contemporary Accounting Research journal:
"I would say a few words about reviewers. All of us at one time or another take on this mission - reviewing other people's articles. I want to draw your attention to what you should not do, and then I go to what you should do. Your task is not to crush the human soul, whose article you are reading, but to read it carefully and help an author understand where deficiencies are and how they can be corrected. You, as reviewers, are advisors for editor, so you should be able to evaluate, to be demanding, sensible, informing editor about an article because decisions that he takes depend largely on your conclusion.
The third group of participants – are editors, so I, in fact, shall speak for myself. I would like to start the two topics. First – journal ratings and other assessment tools. We receive information that such considerations are increasingly taken into account when decisions are made on promotion, providing permanent positions at the department or in determining salary, and with only formal statistical narrow positions. I was told about educational institutions that require one or more articles in a very limited range of editions before scientists get a chance to be promoted. I also heard about the amounts in dollars that are connected to specific publications in journals. In my opinion, it is extremely unworthy, especially when it concerns promotion or permanent position in the staff: the task of qualifying committee is to evaluate research as such, rather than the edition where it is published. Journal, of course, is a signal, but rather inaccurate, that is why when qualification committee in its decision relies on reputation of the journal as a guarantee of quality of the published article, it does not perform the assigned task. I want you to raise this issue in your faculties, with your pro-rectors and deans – those, who are able to change the status quo.
Now, let’s talk on the issue of open access. Many of us conduct our research with public funds through grants or receive salary from the state. Most of us are addressing your research to scientists such as we are. And somehow it happened that over time access to research materials deals mainly with monetary terms, but it can not prevent further development of research funded by the state, although it is also true for private sources. Our mission is to publish research, make them public, that is, publicly available for others to use them in their work and promote science, although it does not always correspond the interests of publishers and journals as such. Many contracts with restricted access are signed, or article gets a price tag. I see our responsibility in gradually changing conditions under which contracts with authors are signed and making their materials more accessible and cheaper for future use".
Drozd I.K.: Assessing author’s article, a reviewer is seeking an answer to the question of whether it is not just a formally written item, correctly in terms of requirements for structure according to a letter from Higher Attestation Commission (HAC), but also whether it is presentable as a voicer of the national accounting science and meets the nature of edition, where an author sends his creative vision. On this occasion, PAUL ANDRÉ, editor in chief of the Accounting in
"The purpose of our journal is quite unique - it is in overcoming the gap between scientists and practitioners, employees of the control and legislative bodies, and auditors. While our editorial board has changed a lot over the past two years, Accounting in
In this regard, I shall note that if your paper was returned by one of these journals, you should not immediately send it to us, as likely, the way it's written, does not meet the articles we publish. We try to consider the interests of a broader range of readers, which usually requires a different approach to solving business issues. Previously, our journal have been largely focusing on the financial statements, but now our task is to broaden the focus and draw the rest of the issues that are relevant in the current European regulatory field. Since our name is Accounting in Europe, our material should be of interest primarily for accountants audience in
Kuzminskiy Y.A.: Roundtable provided an open exchange of views on citations in articles. It is not news in the scientific world that sometimes theses and papers cite on the following manner – let’s mention those scientists who will decide my fate in defense of dissertation at academic council. It is interesting that such issues exist in other countries.
So, addressing the question "Should authors follow a strategy of citing?" CHRISTOPHER CHAPMAN (editor in chief of the Accounting, Organizations and Society journal) said:
"If you approach this issue with a somewhat cynical opinion, the answer is this: "Who do you think will be the reviewer of your work?" - "I think that Professor A. will review, so I cite Professor A.”. Or: "I am about to submit an article in the journal B, so I should find the latest articles published there and spread quotes from them in my introduction". Such a "cosmetic" symbolic citation is not an effective strategy, because preparing an article you should understand why a particular passage is taken and how it relates to other citations.
Choosing quotes, you have to worry about how they will help stating your research suggestions, whether they are theoretical and methodological resources to study interesting scientific issues. Citations should serve as a signal of how you are making a scientific contribution, and, in fact, where do you do it. If you cite a great number of people, each of whom followed his opinion, as a rule, is not a convincing proof. Those people already know a lot of approaches for dealing with the issue that they are interested in, so you need to focus on resolving issues and your suggestions".
Kuzminskiy Y.A.: Our journal and other journals, in fact, sometimes publish articles written in collaboration. Often they are like-minded people related with joint aim of research work - supervisor and his Ph.D. student. I think that co-authoring is effective only if when one adds a personal creative contribution to the common result of article. CHRISTOPHER CHAPMAN (editor in chief of the Accounting, Organizations and Society journal) talks on purpose and cases, when collaborative working on article should be involved:
"I can tell only from my own experience: different people use different approaches to work on article, but I personally believe that co-authorship is an extremely positive matter. However, when working with co-authors one should spend enough time trying to get used to work productively in a team. I have a very fruitful relationship with my collaborator, we wrote a lot together, probably more than people want to read about restaurants in France, but I 'm trying to explain that we have found a way of working, which proved to be extremely effective and has allowed us to achieve a lot together, we found enough common interests.
The flip side of collaboration with the other authors is in situations when you, for example, go to a conference where different people offer you writing something together. It is certainly very tempting and flatters you, but you run into risk of being dragged into many projects that actually started, but there is daily life where you are already in quite a hassle to maintain, rather than getting a new research relationship. So when it comes to co-authors, my advice is: less is more. They are very helpful, they make you move forward more efficiently, but you should be selective when choosing them.
Let me share another idea concerning the division of labor. Let's say I want to write a work which combines field and experimental studies. Personally, I have been doing field research and I am not that good in experiments, so I shall invite an experimenter to be my co-author. In my opinion, the heart of the matter lies in multitasking of work. Many talk enthusiastically about working together on research until they do not take a closer look: because such work does not take it to any area where the authors work. Therefore, here lies a high risk: if you do everything, as expected, the effect will be ambitious indeed, since such work will of interest with a much wider readership. However, make sure that everything was as it should be – it is harder when you work in a team. And making a team of authors co-operating effectively and complementing each other is much more complicated than it seems at first glance".
Drozd I.K.: Getting familiar with creative pursuits of authors in accounting and control activities, we often pay attention to a rather theorized representation of the material. An explanation for this is in some privacy of information on specific companies, and the inability to group accounting examples on several institutions. But is it not a simple excuse? Is it enough to show some hypothetical example on the company "X" in representation of research materials in accounting and audit? And why there are so few analytical studies filled with data, which are to be conducted within economic science majors as well? I join here LAURENS VAN LENT (editor in chief of the European Accounting Review journal), who expressed himself about this:
"Particularly in our area we do not publish data sets, whereas in other areas submitting numerical values – is a common habit. Today there is a trend among accounting journals to encourage authors using data sets. So when you submit your work for consideration, management may ask you: "Are you willing to disclose your numerical data? Are you willing to disclose the program used in the study?". And they will show your answer to this question to reviewer.
Some journals, published in
Kuzminskiy Y.A.: In
Undoubtedly, authoritative personalities are working in the offices of most of the national and international scientific editions; their competence in the field of publication of research results is undeniable.
Of course, it is an honor to be published by such respected journals. But a really worthy result is that these serious and yet simple points will allow our young scientists, Ph.D. students and eminent professionals successfully placing their researches in foreign and national journals.
Elena Lysak took part in preparing the material