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Writing and Publishing in the Medical and Health Sciences: Finding the Right Publisher

This guide is intended to inform authors about the key features of scholarly writing and publishing in the medical and health sciences.

How do I find a legitimate journal to publish in?

Below is a list of suggestions that comes directly from the article:

Discriminating Between Legitimate and Predatory Open Access Journals: Report from the International Federation for Emergency Medicine Research Committee

Overall Approach to Choosing the Journal

1. Choose to submit your research to journals that you would normally find interesting and relevant. Although these may be among discriminating, if successful, this will increase the chance that your research will be disseminated to the community you want to reach. This may result in changes to practice or policy, providing the most impact for your work.

2. Reach out to colleagues and mentors to see in which journals your body of work will best fit. Mentors have an understanding of historical trends in the scientific community in general, and EM specifically. The university librarian can be a valuable resource to find legitimate impact factors of the journals you are considering, and the distribution of these journals to academic communities. Beware, however, that the most impact factors (as well as peer-review processes) can be fabricated. 

3. Be honest about the methodological flaws of your own work. It is unlikely that good reviewers will not identify them. If the reviewers do not see the same limitations as you have, this is a red flag that you have sent your work to a predatory journal. Be concerned if you do not receive any critical feedback and your article is accepted, as this rarely happens with legitimate peer review.

4. Look up the journal title in the NLM Catalog: Journals referenced in the NCBI Databases. If the journal is found there, you can review the detail record where it provides information about the journal and whether the journal is indexed in any of the NCBI databases such as MEDLINE, PubMed, or PubMed Central. PubMed Central is a free digital repository that archives publicly accessible full-text scholarly articles that have been published within the biomedical and life sciences journal literature. Journal acceptance to PubMed Central went through a vetting process. These journals may also be indexed in MEDLINE, though this index is substantially more discriminating. However, OA journals whose content is listed in PubMed Central (full papers) automatically have their abstracts migrated to the PubMed. 

5. If claiming to be an OA journal, is it in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? This is a sort of “whitelist” of legitimate journals that must meet specific criteria for inclusion.

6. Is the journal transparent and following best practice in editorial and peer-review processes, governance, and ownership? The best way to discern this is by reviewing the journal documents and governance, likely available online at the website, or reaching out to the journal leadership. Legitimate journals should have a robust list of policies and procedures on their website, including human and animal subject policies, OA license type (something like Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0), conflict of interest and informed consent.

7. Read the articles in the journal before submitting an article. Warning signs include grammar errors, poor quality science, poorly maintained website with prominent misspellings and grammatical errors.

8. Is the name of the journal incongruent with the journal’s mission? Is the name of the journal excessively broad? Does the name of the journal make sense?

9. Are there clear policies on plagiarism, authorship, and copyright on the website?

10. Is the impact factor clearly stated? Is it too good to be true (> 2)? If not readily available, journal impact factors can be found in the ISI Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports (JCR), which requires institutional subscription, and the Scimago Journal & Country Rank which is free.

11. Is the journal found in PubMed Central? PubMed Central allows publishers to deposit their OA journal contents for permanent archival without cost upon application and fulfilling features of legitimate and respectable journals for two years of publishing.

NOTE: PubMed Central does not prevent predatory publishers from depositing content as well. 

Helpful Tools to Use When Considering Publishers

Selected Articles on Finding a Publisher

How to Choose the Best Journal for Your Case Report.
Rison RA, Shepphird JK, Kidd MR.
J Med Case Rep. 2017 Jul 22;11(1):198. doi: 10.1186/s13256-017-1351-y.

Ready! Aim! Fire! Targeting the Right Medical Science Journal.
Hardman TC, Serginson JM.
Cardiovasc Endocrinol. 2017 Sep;6(3):95-100. doi: 10.1097/XCE.0000000000000083.

Twelve Tips for Getting Your Manuscript Published.
Cook, DA
Med Teach. 2016;38(1):41-50. Epub 2015 Sep 15. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2015.1074989.