3 Overlooked Benefits Of Publishing With A Society Journal

By Patrick Penndorf


In contrast to commercial journals run by publishers such as Nature or Science, Society Journals are run by practicing scientists within nonprofit research organizations. Therefore:

• The editors in Society Journals are empathetic to the situation of researchers, prioritizing improvement of manuscripts instead of excessive requests. This is also why they organize handpicked peer review to assure valuable feedback.

• Society Journals publish work dedicated to a certain field. They have a focused audience that is more likely to cite your work instead of just reading it.

• Publishing with a Society Journal is a guarantee that your paper is treated properly (reliably accessible, listed in major databases, securely available on servers in the future, feasible APCs).

Any profit a Society Journals makes, goes back as an investment into the scientific community for example in the form of workshops for early career scientists, scholarships or conference organization.

Publish or Perish – A Personal Confession

A few centuries ago, one would read about all important new advances in a handful of printed journals. Nowadays, it’s all about Googling and trying to handle the multitude of publications coming out every day.

Due to the growth of the scientific community, Impact Factor became the one and only consideration for many scientists.

I can still remember that when I pursued my PhD at a Max Planck research group in Germany, I did not even consider publishing anywhere but in Science or Nature.


Because I was naive.

I did not know society journals existed until 3 years after I started to volunteer in societies!

Of course, outstanding findings that are of interest to various fields at once should be published in high Impact Factor Journals such as Nature or Science. However, trying to publish any work there will harm ones career a lot.

Why Society Journals are Valuable

Instead of knocking your teeth out and spending 3 more years until your paper might be published in a high-impact factor journal without reaching its proper audience or going with a vanity journal in which peer review is practically nonexistent, simply getting the paper off your back – you can publish with a Society Journal.

Society Journals are run by Scientists for Scientists. They are embedded in nonprofit research organizations. This is why they prioritize scientific rigor and insight instead of making money. They are the gatekeepers to great science with a clearly focused scope. They publish work for a dedicated audience, and thus, valuing robust data and research effort more than Impact Factor.

Unfortunately, Society Journals do not undertake the marketing activity to reach as many people as Nature or Science. Undoubtably, Society Journals deliver a lot of value. However, they are run by scientists who do not feel comfortable doing marketing. Not even when it would be appropriate.

To my mind, Society Journals can be the diamond in the rough – and soon the “gold” rush might begin so let’s get you informed about the 3 overseen benefits of publishing with a society journal:

Publishing to a Relevant Community

Probably the most important metric these days is how many people cite your publication. This is not the same as how many people see your publication. If you have me as a university student read about your science in Nature, you certainly made my day more enjoyable, but you will not receive a citation in return.

Throughout the decades of their existence, Society Journals have built a dedicated community of the core scientists within a particular field. Of course, the younger generations of scientists are totally focused on publishing high-impact factor, forgetting that a high IF is calculated for an entire journal. It says nothing whether your paper will be cited at all. The key question is, whom do you want to know about your work – a large crowd or a dedicated audience in a particular field? Societies such as the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology will not promote your work to scientists working in neurophysiology but it will give you access to researchers in your field all over the world.

Ensuring Your Paper is Handled Properly

We as scientists invest years of work into a publication. Long nights, frustration, unexpected pivots…

Our work becomes somewhat of a darling to us. Therefore, we need to protect our dear child from being abducted or mistreated.

Whenever you publish with a society journal, you can be sure that you did not fall prey to a vanity journal or a predatory publisher. This is crucially important because you can be sure that your paper is treated properly.

That means it will be accessible to readers, findable in the common databases, and it will be stored as long as the internet exists. With most predatory publishers, all that counts is the money you pay them. On which server your paper ends up is less than certain.

Furthermore, if your paper ends up in a Journal that is mostly predatory, who will trust your work? Society Journals have such a great reputation because of a reason:

Rigor in Review

Would you like to have ChatGPT as your peer reviewer?

Peer review is paramount to create trust and reliability, but it can also lead to tremendous headaches if done improperly.

Society Journals do not allow for shortcuts. However, they make sure you will actually receive useful comments because your reviewers will be handpicked. This kind of peer review is often a great chance to actually find out what is needed to have your colleagues actually cite your paper.

Of note, rigor also excludes excess. One of the most interesting papers I have ever read turned out to be 40% based on peer review comments (it took the lab 1-2 years to work on this additional data).

This will not happen to you. Society Journals do not intend to change your work. You will not be stuck with years of additional work.

Finally, let us talk about the editors. Your editor will most likely be a practicing scientist! That means they know the position you are in. They feel you.

I was astonished as I talked to multiple editors in chief at the IUBMB journals, and I heard sentences such as “it remains a conversation at each stage of the process” or “when it turns out that reviewer comments are not helpful, we will rework the panel until we get something the author can work with”. Your editors will care because for them, it is about the science, not about profit. They do not benefit from a publication, they do not intend a hot story, instead, they are driven to publish good science.

Mere Goodwill

At last, there is a benefit of publishing with Society Journals that is merely fueled by your personal values.

When Society Journals have a year in which they turn a profit, they reinvest it into the scientific community. Your money does not end up in the pocket of greedy individuals but in scholarships, conferences, and workshops dedicated to students. By getting involved in the community, you might even find a new network for collaboration, cooperation or passionate students.

In essence, not every paper should be published in a society journal. However, for those who want their paper to be shared with a relevant audience and who seek helpful reviewer feedback with an editor who is a practicing scientist, society journals are the solution. In the end, it is a reinvestment in the scientific community.

A reinvestment in your scientific community, to be precise.

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