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The road to getting published

Publishing your research can be a highly competitive process, so it’s important for your manuscript to stand out for the right reasons. Here, Senior Editors from Discovery Immunology provide tips on how to approach each stage in the publishing process, from writing your manuscript to peer review through to promoting your published paper. 

Find out more about Discovery Immunology's scope, mission and world-leading editorial team here.

Preparing your manuscript

Editors look for concisely written, interesting papers that have a clear message. They want to understand what you’ve done, why, what you found and what it means in the context of other work. They also want to know the weaknesses, future direction and applications of your research.

Editors like a complete story. Publishing one or two high impact papers is preferable to several lower impact papers so be mindful of trying to publish several papers out of one study. Also, asking your colleagues for feedback before submitting can help to identify aspects that you might have overlooked. – Professor Kathleen McCoy, Senior Editor

Selecting your journal

Selecting your target journal is an important step; it’s a good idea to shortlist candidate journals in the scope of your article. In addition to impact factor, there are many metrics used to assess journal visibility and reputation. Journals indexed in PubMed and listed in Web of Science may have a wider reach but remember that newly launched journals will have to wait a little while before they are eligible for indexing or receive an impact factor. Nonetheless, newer journals can typically provide a more focused review process and faster decision times, and being featured in the first issue gives your paper additional visibility. When submitting to a new journal, check whether it has any associated journals or academic Societies, a well-known publisher and see who is on the editorial board. It’s also important to check if the funding body or institution supporting your work has any requirements for where your research is published. Some may require you to publish Open Access or deposit your work in an online repository.

As an editor, I understand that providing authors with an open, responsive and collaborative environment is incredibly important as that’s one of the aspects I really value when I submit my own papers for consideration. When choosing a journal, look for an editorial team of active researchers who can understand that publishing your manuscript can be stressful for authors and will work hard to make decisions fairly and quickly. – Professor Francisco Quintana, Senior Editor

Submitting your manuscript

Before submitting your manuscript it’s important to check the journal guidelines and format the paper correctly. Some journals, including all three BSI journals, offer format-free submission, meaning that, at first submission, it’s not necessary to apply formatting to match house style. Instead, simply ask: would I enjoy reading and reviewing a manuscript formatted in this way?

Use the abstract or summary to sell your paper, but don’t oversell your findings. It’s usually the only thing that a referee will see when deciding whether to review your paper, so highlight the important and interesting aspects of your work in a clear and concise way. – Dr Florent Ginhoux, Senior Editor

Handling revisions and rejection

If you are invited to resubmit your paper following revisions, include a detailed rebuttal letter summarising all the changes suggested by the reviewers. If you don’t agree with some of their suggestions, you can use this as an opportunity to explain why. Most journals only give you one chance to make major revisions, so the paper must be in the best shape possible when it is resubmitted. If your paper is rejected, try to revise the paper in line with any appropriate comments before submitting it elsewhere to improve your chances of acceptance. The same referees might be invited to review the paper again by a different journal, so they should see an improvement.

Manuscripts take a lot of work to prepare and so emotions can run high if reviewer comments are harsher than expected. Avoid responding to reviewer feedback as soon as you get it. Read it, think about it for several days, discuss it with others, and then draft a polite response that sticks to the facts. – Professor Awen Gallimore, Senior Editor

Promote your article

Getting your manuscript accepted is just the beginning. Promoting your article online is vital if you need to demonstrate the reach and influence of your research, particularly when applying for funding. There’s so much that you can do to enhance the visibility of your paper. Twitter is a great outlet for informal updates from labs and individuals, and links to articles carry a strong Altmetric weighting. You could also consider writing a lay summary of your paper and sending it to blogs in your subject area, producing a video abstract or mentioning your publication at conferences. Social media can be daunting but it’s a very important tool that can hugely benefit your career. The best way to build your following is to stay active and make it a habit that integrates into your work life. See something interesting in a journal? Post about it. A colleague achieved something wonderful? Share it!

Twitter is now the single most useful place for me to find papers to read. I follow a large number of immunologists as well as the BSI’s journals and Affinity Groups and I get papers straight into my feed as they are published. For me, this is far more rapid and helpful than receiving email roundups. Twitter also allows authors to discuss their papers with others which can spark lots of ideas. I often use Twitter to ask authors about their articles and, unlike email, they almost always reply! – Dr Emily Gwyer Findlay, Senior Editor

DSI Senior Editors
Discovery Immunology's Senior Editors