Data-Driven Decisions: Bringing the Best Papers to Your Journal

April 17, 2018 Richard Threlfall

As the number of papers published in journals increases exponentially every year, authors, editors, reviewers, and societies are all faced with a growing problem: How do I make sense of the huge volume of information that’s out there and how do I quickly find the information that’s most relevant to the questions I want to answer? As a publisher, part of our job is to help everyone find their way through the information deluge and Intelligent Solutions is Wiley’s new data science and machine learning group that is dedicated to doing exactly that.

One of the challenges that editors often face is finding high-quality papers for their journals. Preprint servers, where papers are made publicly available before or simultaneously with submission to a journal, are a rich source of good papers. However, before an editor can assess posted papers for quality, he/she first must sort the papers that fit the journal scope from those that don’t, which means screening hundreds of papers every day and, importantly, doing it ahead of the competition. This takes a lot of time and is representative of a raft of editorial tasks that could benefit from a smarter approach like that of our new XrXiv Alerter service.

Through machine learning, XrXiv Alerter learns which papers potentially fit the scope of each of the 1600 journals that Wiley publishes, then alerts journal editors when a potentially suitable paper is posted to a preprint server. This means editors spend less time scrolling through lists of irrelevant papers on preprint servers and more time on assessing the relevant papers that might really matter to their journals. Editors face a similar challenge downstream in the publishing process. That being helping to find a home for high-quality papers that aren’t suitable for their own journals but could be published elsewhere. In some cases, a paper may be rejected from several journals before it’s finally published, creating extra work for the authors, editors, and peer reviewers at each step. But what if an editor could visualize the common pathways that submissions like these follow from one journal to the next so that the best journal for a paper could be found faster, with fewer resubmissions?

This would be almost impossible to do by hand when you consider that most journals reject hundreds or even thousands of papers every year, but our Submission Pathfinder app can do it in just a few minutes. The app not only enables editors and societies to more easily provide support and guidance for authors of rejected papers, but also quickly identifies potential gaps in the market where there might not  yet be a good home for a subsection of papers.

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Image: Submission pathways of papers in clinical psychology: An almost impossible task to map by hand but generated in only a few minutes with Submission Pathfinder.

If you think about it, there are similar problems throughout the publishing process. How do authors find the most appropriate journals in which to publish their papers? How do editors find the most appropriate reviewers for submitted manuscripts and then ensure that peer review is as fair as possible? How can societies find and retain more of the best papers for
their journals, identify opportunities to launch new journals, and find the best editorial board members for their journals? Beyond journals, what opportunities are there for us to work with societies on broader issues like thought leadership, connecting research to current affairs, and increasing membership?

Happily, Intelligent Solutions can offer Wiley’s society partners innovative tools that complement the experience of the experts engaged in all stages of the publishing process. It’s our aim to help everyone make better, more consistent, data-driven decisions without condemning anyone to the drudgery of sorting through today’s data deluge by hand.

About Intelligent Solutions: Intelligent Solutions consists of a group of Ph.D. scientists who are former Wiley journal editors turned data scientists. We have experience in developing innovative technology products for researchers, such as the revolutionary organic chemistry tool ChemPlanner and the free-to-use 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy data checking service. Combining data science skills with insight into scientific research, publishing, and product development, we’re able to help colleagues, researchers, and society partners meet the challenges of today’s competitive
publishing landscape.

About the Author

Richard Threlfall

Digital Project Manager, Wiley // Richard Threlfall is a Digital Product Manager with Intelligent Solutions and is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry.

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