why have journal submissions increased?

Editors often discuss the increase in journal submissions. I won’t reveal specific numbers, but I have heard from other journal editors that they’ve seen their submission pipeline explode and some journals have acceptance rates well below 10%, when only a few years ago they had 20% acceptance rates.

This puzzles me. It’s not like the cohort of professors has doubled or tripled in recent years. Or that the people “demand” more journal publications. My hypotheses:

  1. Faster production: With easier to operate statistical software, many scholars can very quickly produce lots of papers. Also, nobody uses a type writer anymore. It’s all electronic word processing.
  2. Better information:  In the past, people had little information about what counts as a “good” journal. Now, everyone has access to impact factors and online forums about what disciplinary opinion leaders think is important.
  3. Better strategy: People have learned that the journal referee process is very random. So everyone should just shoot for the top and hope you get picked.
  4. Department Standards: More and more departments require publication in high visibility journals for hiring and promotion.
  5. Team work: People have learned to collaborate to produce more and better papers.
  6. Professional and interdisciplinary fields: People in areas like education, business, policy, and social work believe that sociology is worth publishing in. So we now get a ton of submissions from these areas.
  7. International scholars: Many of the above trends facilitate non-US submissions.
  8. Graduate students: Most graduate programs communicate to students that they need to publish early and well… and they got the message.

What do you think? Evidence for and against? Did I miss something?


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Written by fabiorojas

January 15, 2019 at 5:01 am

Posted in uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. More salami-slicing



    January 15, 2019 at 11:07 am

  2. I’m not familiar with sociology publishing, but here some additional ideas from observing IT & management journals.

    – Winner take all — an implication of better information (#2) is that even if overall manuscript generation remained steady, if there’s broader consensus on “good” journals, they’ll see a rapid growth in submissions (a la preferential attachment and power law distributions).

    – Distributed work & research team size — better tech for distributed work also means that there can be larger project teams, more international collaborations, and more interdisciplinary teams, too. All else equal, this would increase the pace of submissions. Using the Zotero integration in Google Docs is a very different experience than, say, trying to keep track of Word document revisions via email.

    – Contribution uncertainty — I feel like there is a lot of randomness in review processes of journals at all levels. When it is not clear what can get published where, it promotes a lottery mentality to aim high, even if an acceptance is a really long shot.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Electronic submission. Just like how college selectivity exploded when the Common App made it easier to apply to lots of places, electronic submission has made the hurdle of submission even lower. Much easier to click a few things and submit to journals that the article doesn’t really fit but you just want to see.



    January 15, 2019 at 11:45 pm

  4. The increase in pressure for graduate students to publish earlier and earlier is remarkable.



    January 16, 2019 at 3:24 am

  5. Is there a prevailing sense about whether or not the average quality of these submissions has changed?


    Joseph N. Cohen

    January 16, 2019 at 2:47 pm

  6. @Joseph Cohen: Here is some prima facie evidence that things have not improved in terms of quality. If you look at what is published – which represents what editors think is top 5% or so in lead journals – you tend to see a lot of really polished normal science. It’s pretty much the same stuff we’ve seen before. Another study, of say, residential segregation or a network analysis, of a bigger and better data set.

    I am not claiming these are bad studies (which would include some of my own!). But it is really hard for me to say that ASR 2018 is really that incredibly better than ASR 2008 or 1998.



    January 16, 2019 at 6:42 pm

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