The nature of academic research is changing. Rather than going to libraries and flipping through print journals relevant to their research, today’s scholars are taking to the internet and using search engines and online databases to quickly find the individual articles they need. Given this shift in how academics are finding and consuming scholarly content, many journals are moving to online publishing and rethinking the traditional print publishing practice of compiling articles into issues.
If scholars are searching for individual articles rather than journals, it begs the question: why not publish journal content on a rolling basis either instead of or in the interim of compiling articles into whole issues? Journals such as Sociological Science are adapting to meet the needs of the changing digital research landscape by publishing articles as they’re accepted, and they’re gaining many benefits as a result.
Here are some reasons your journal may want to start publishing individual articles in place of or in addition to journal issues:
One of the main benefits your journal can get from publishing articles on a rolling basis is improved visibility online via search results, website visits, and social media. The more often your journal publishes new articles the more opportunities you will create for scholars to find your content. Generally, search engines will favor websites with fresh content and show newer quality articles at the top of search results. Additionally, by publishing new content throughout the year, rather than waiting to publish a journal issue once every 6-months or so, you will create more opportunities for scholars to come across and reference timely articles as you publish them.
As scholars become aware that your journal regularly publishes new content, you may find that those in the field are also more likely to frequent your publication website and follow your social media channels, in order to find and share new content related to their work. Publishing fresh content can also help your journal build an email subscriber list, as scholars will have incentive to opt into your journal communication if they know they’ll be alerted to new articles often.
Being first to unearth a groundbreaking concept, or seeking to build up a breadth of scholarly work to show funding and job committees are two of many reasons scholars have to submit to journals that publish faster. In addition to publishing quality research often, of particular importance to all academics is quickly accruing proof of the impact their work is having within and beyond academia. By publishing final citable articles as they are accepted, your journal will make it possible for researchers to publish their work and use citations to show proof of article level impact sooner.
Publishing and promoting articles on a rolling basis can also help your journal improve its altmetrics impact, or impact from mentions of research in nontraditional online outlets such as news media and public policy. While The Impact Factor was once the gold standard of research impact assessment, article level metrics are rising as a more digitally driven alternative.
Scholars are not the only ones rethinking research impact, so are research assessment bodies. In June 2013, The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) launched the Alternative Assessment Metrics (Altmetrics) Initiative, which is working to develop greater standardization of altmetrics for use in displaying research impact. Additionally, academic libraries are stepping in to educate scholars and universities about the uses and relevance of altmetrics. This shift towards focusing on article as opposed to journal level metrics is making rolling publication an increasingly viable modern publishing model.
Do you ever find yourself searching for a final article to make up your next journal issue, knowing that you have a tight deadline to meet? Or, do you ever find that you can’t accept a high-quality article for your next issue because it’s already full? In either case your journal risks lowering its quality.
Why fixate on either filling a journal issue or remaining within the page-limit constraints of a traditional print publication when neither concern has to be a factor on the web? By publishing individual articles on a rolling basis your journal will have no limitations in terms of the amount of content you can publish and will never have to make concessions on quality.
Publishing articles on a rolling basis can also help your team break up production work and avoid developing a backlog of articles. By adopting a rolling publishing model your editorial team can make the publishing process more manageable, eliminating the work of having to format an entire issue under the stress of hard production deadlines.
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