How to impress editors of research journals: seven rules by Nature Research expert

A two-day workshop that unveiled the secrets of publishing in highly rated scientific journals was held for faculty and students of Tomsk Polytechnic University. The workshop was delivered by Mr. Jeffrey Robens, a manager for development of Nature Research. He outlined seven critical tips which authors should pay special attention to in order a manuscript to be published in the right journal. He explained why they should not try to impress editors with complex English vocabulary and what common errors Russian authors make when dealing with editors of such journals.



According to Jeffrey Robens, it is critical to determine the best platform to allow you to communicate the information you have with a right target audience.


‘The most common mistake is that people simply try to choose the highest IF journal. Moreover, this may not be in fact the best platform you need to determine, in order to connect with a right audience, to influence them with your ideas,’ said Mr. Robens.


Secondly, when structuring a paper authors need to cover three key aspects: what is the research question you try to address? What are the aims which help you to address this problem? What is the conclusion that helps you answer or solve the problem you have identified?


Thirdly, you should remember that your research is more important than a perfect command of English.


‘The main common problem which non-native English speakers including Russian authors have is the feeling that they need to impress the editor with the complexity of their vocabulary. That is not what journal editors or reviewers are looking for. They want you clearly to communicate the significance and the relevance of your ideas. If your language is not good enough, but it is a good research, then it is returned for revision. It does not mean a refusal to publish, because your research is interesting for the journal,’ said the expert.


Fourth, it is worth paying attention to the cover letter for the editor.


‘One way to ensure that your cover letter will be effective is to look at the aims and scope of the journal and identify important topics, target readers that the journal editors interested in and emphasize how you will benefit those topics or those readers.’



Fifthly, you need to follow the recommendations of reviewers as much as possible.


‘Russian authors don’t often succeed because they do not clearly understand what editors or reviewers expect from them. There are two reasons for this misunderstanding. First, authors may not know English well enough to understand some terms and phrases. On the other hand, many reviewers are not perfect English speakers and may sometimes not clearly express their comments,’ said Mr. Robens.

Sixthly, after publication you need to promote your work actively in order to improve your visibility worldwide.

‘You can do this through social networks, on your institutional webpages, by attending international conferences frequently. By improving your visibility you improve your reputation as an expert in a certain research field. In the end you will find yourself able to create more international collaborations and improve your publication output.’


Seventhly, Mr. Robens noted that Russian scientists often do not follow the international practice of authorship.


‘In Russia, the most authoritative author is indicated on the first place in the list, students or postdocs are on the last. But the international standard is the senior author, the supervisor is the last author of the paper, while a student or a postdoc who conducted the research will stand the first. If you publish according to Russian standards (we cannot dictate), the perception from readers in the field will be wrong. When they see the first author they will assume that it is a student and the senior author is not getting a real credit that they hope to achieve when they publish in international journals.’