A multi-objective decision-making approach to the journal submission problem

Tony E. Wong, Vivek Srikrishnan, David Hadka, Klaus Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


When researchers complete a manuscript, they need to choose a journal to which they will submit the study. This decision requires to navigate trade-offs between multiple objectives. One objective is to share the new knowledge as widely as possible. Citation counts can serve as a proxy to quantify this objective. A second objective is to minimize the time commitment put into sharing the research, which may be estimated by the total time from initial submission to final decision. A third objective is to minimize the number of rejections and resubmissions. Thus, researchers often consider the trade-offs between the objectives of (i) maximizing citations, (ii) minimizing time-to-decision, and (iii) minimizing the number of resubmissions. To complicate matters further, this is a decision with multiple, potentially conflicting, decision-maker rationalities. Co-authors might have different preferences, for example about publishing fast versus maximizing citations. These diverging preferences can lead to conflicting trade-offs between objectives. Here, we apply a multi-objective decision analytical framework to identify the Pareto-front between these objectives and determine the set of journal submission pathways that balance these objectives for three stages of a researcher's career. We find multiple strategies that researchers might pursue, depending on how they value minimizing risk and effort relative to maximizing citations. The sequences that maximize expected citations within each strategy are generally similar, regardless of time horizon. We find that the "conditional impact factor"-impact factor times acceptance rate-is a suitable heuristic method for ranking journals, to strike a balance between minimizing effort objectives and maximizing citation count. Finally, we examine potential co-author tension resulting from differing rationalities by mapping out each researcher's preferred Pareto front and identifying compromise submission strategies. The explicit representation of trade-offs, especially when multiple decision-makers (co-authors) have different preferences, facilitates negotiations and can support the decision process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0178874
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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