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Ask HN: What are the best open-access journals for non-academics to submit to?
73 points by freeradical13 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments
I'm a non-academic and I would like to submit an article for peer review and publishing. I prefer that there's zero or minimal cost, although I understand the scope of review and editing will be lower.

What are the best open access journals out there? Are there any that have particularly bad reputations to avoid? Thanks.




Publishing to arXiv [1][2] is your best bet in the short term.

- Free

- Lots of subject areas (not just computer sci.)

- People may cite your work

- People may offer feedback

You do need to get endorsed first though [4] (as another comment mentions).

However, if you want "proper" peer reviewed & published, you need to start looking around at conferences. They're usually easier to get something through, as they tend to expect much shorter papers.

There are industry led conferences (like RuhrSec [3] for Cyber Security) which might be a good route to start with.

But, really, there's no shortcut for getting into a "proper" journal / conference. You need to research, have funds, time and, sometimes, a bit of fame already.

[1] https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/16832/why-uploa...

[2] https://arxiv.org/help/support/faq#1C

[3] https://www.ruhrsec.de/2019/

[4] https://arxiv.org/help/endorsement


Conferences as easy places to publish is highly field-dependent.

It's true in the biosciences (ask me how i know!). It is not true in, say, theoretical computer science.


Computer science in general is conference-oriented, and even more so in security. It makes sense, simply because by the time you get published in a journal, the state-of-the-art would have likely already moved forward. So it follows that the state-of-the-art work is centered around conferences. In CS at least, journal articles are used to meet the "requirements" for faculty positions and/or promotions (e.g., 5 journal papers).

On the other hand, in EE, journals are more prestigious in general, partly due to the slower-moving nature of the field. A 9-12 month wait to get your article into a journal is not a huge deal. Further, a journal article typically shows more "complete" work than a conference article would, because it usually takes much more time to fully validate your work (relative to CS, for example).

For instance, if you're presenting a novel low-power circuit, you could get away with a simulation and/or a hastily taped-out version for the conference paper (ISSCC is the top conference for this). But publishing your results in a high impact journal like JSSC will require that you have a fully tested version, etc.


> However, if you want "proper" peer reviewed & published.

So, why would you want "proper" peer review nowadays? It should be a means to achieve something else. Just for the challenge?

I mean besides arXiv there are many ways you can get your knowledge out there if you want to give people free (or even paid) access to it. This will also create a lot of Feedback if it's the least bit interesting.

If you want your knowledge to generate new products and companies you will also find that Startups nowadays don't wait for peer review before they launch.

So the only practical reason I can see is if you want to get funding. And Then you use the funding to create more papers. To… well… get more funding.

TL;DR: If you think about that you want to have "proper" peer review meaybe you should spend some time thinking about what you actually want to achieve and if there aren't better ways to get there.


Something ridiculous like 90% of arXiv papers get lost in the sheer volume of submissions - 90% of it could be wrong (that's a made up number, sue me).

Just like flat earth or anti-vaxer theories on YouTube, incorrectly published work could be damaging and dangerous.

Getting peer-reviewed & published legitimizes the research work. It has been verified by a panel of experts.

Good for those start ups. I can't wait to attack all their Deep Learning APIs [1].

[1] https://openai.com/blog/adversarial-example-research/


Absolutely. None of the modern advancements in knowledge and understanding involve the waste of time known as "peer-review". See http://timecube.2enp.com/.


We know peer review is unnecessary for quality and progress in science because it only became a standard after WWII. Einstein published one peer reviewed paper.

There are multiple fields that have routed around peer review; everything that works on preprints and working papers. It takes more than two years to get an Economics paper published. If it took that long for things to get eyeballs progress would be exceedingly slow.

Peer review may have some good points but it certainly isn’t necessary to modern advancements in knowledge and understanding.


That one economics paper, as an example, could have made one seemingly innocuous assumption that might be overlooked by later work.

Let's say a paper that relies on the preprint take that assumption for granted. And then another paper references that one. And again. And again.

Then the fifth paper gets adopted by a government in some esoteric policy, which causes their economy to implode.

May not be necessary to just publish "stuff", but it is necessary to mitigate against the dangers of invalid assumptions.


Peer Review has not stopped the situationyou describe from occurring in multiple fields. Social Psychology is particularly bad but cancer biology isn’t great either.

——-

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/jo...

Bayer and Amgen, reported dismal results when they tried to reproduce some cancer papers. Only 25 percent of the papers Bayer examined were reproduced. Amgen was able to replicate only six out of the 53 studies it examined.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/01/18/5103048...

Plan to replicate 50 high-impact cancer papers shrinks to just 18

An ambitious project that set out nearly 5 years ago to replicate experiments from 50 high-impact cancer biology papers, but gradually shrank that number, now expects to complete just 18 studies.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/07/plan-replicate-50-hi...


"Proper" peer review could mean formal peer review which, indeed, has a lot of flaws. In the context of OP, however, just having any academic look at it and suggest improvements would probably already be a huge boon, regardless of potential funding or challenge: it achieves better knowledge discovery. Either form of peer review is pretty hard to obtain through arXiv.


> So, why would you want "proper" peer review nowadays?

Because I want other people to help catch my mistakes. Why wouldn't you want that?


Just send your results or ideas to someone knowledgeable about the topic and ask their opinion.


This.

If you work in the field you know the 10-100 people who provide most expertise and you can build trust relationships with them by delivering interesting thoughts and then get their feedback on These ideas. That's the healthy approach. And if you work hard and the stuff you do is reasonable you will also become known in these circles.

Also technology can help weed out the complete b.s., see HN or Stackoverflow for examples on that.


But this is what peer review is - sending it to the people in my field for their feedback.

It’s just set up formally so you don’t need to ask everyone individually and there is (an attempt at) the feedback being blind so that people who are unpopular don’t get penalised.


That’s literally what peer review is - but set up as a system to make it easier on everyone.


No it's not. Peer review is often done by people have have no clue about what you're doing. And even if they do, not many are motivated to make effort to provide a good review. Source: I received comments from 4 reviewers for my last paper, and not a single one provided any useful feedback (paper's accepted). Two of them simply copy-pasted sentences from the abstract and called it a day.


I've had a similar experience lately and it's frustrating. Literally 1 of 9 reviewers gave meaningful feedback. The rest either had no comment or such vague comments to be useless. Other published papers had comments that just regurgitated the abstract in an effort (I assume) to demonstrate they read the paper. I really wonder if many reviewers just "check the box" so they can say they review for X Journal


> Peer review is often done by people have have no clue about what you're doing.

That's not how I have ever seen peer review done by a reputable conference or journal. Why would they be reviewers if they didn't know the topic?

What do you think the word 'peer' means?

In my field the people I'd ask informally for comment are exactly the same people who would peer review my paper.


The word “peer” means a random name from the references section in my paper, picked by the editors who themselves are very unlikely to be familiar with my area. Out of 50 references, I think only 5-10 are able to review my work.


Open access journals by definition are almost never free/minimal cost - the idea is the the author's are paying more of the costs associated with publication, not less. But in return, your article can be read or accessed by anyone.

If you want to fork over 5k, I would recommend PLOS ONE as a major, well recognized open access journal that takes the "publish anything with scientific merit" approach.

If you do not want to pay, Arxiv is your best bet. However, I will say that, while good papers end up on arxiv, so do lots and lots of bad ones (that's the point) and there's no concept of "peer review" there.


That's a very helpful summary, thanks. From another comment, it seems arXiv requires academic affiliation or endorsement: https://arxiv.org/help/endorsement

Are there any others?


My understanding is that whether or not endorsement is required is dependent on which "area" you submit to. And even if I'm wrong about that, "endorsement" in their terms is really just meant to mean "this person is not a total quack / spammer / etc." So don't feel shy about reaching out to people in the academic community who are potential endorsers and just ask "I want to submit this to ArXiv, would you be willing to give it a quick look and possibly endorse me so I can submit?"

If you already know somebody in the academic community, it would probably be better to try them first. But if not, it appears that ArXiv etiquette allows cold-emailing people... they just ask you not to blast requests out to mass numbers of people simultaneously.


You can't post on arXiv unless you're an established researcher, I believe.


well, until someone vouches for you.


You need to specify your field. What's your article about?

Different fields do things entirely differently, and short of publishing in Nature journals are very specific to their fields.


Here's my draft article: https://github.com/freeradical13/ValueBasedPrioritization/ra...

I'm not really sure what field I'm targeting, so I was hoping people would note their favorite open access journals and I could investigate (and I also thought a more generic list would be generally interesting to all the HN folk).


I don't mean to be harsh, but it's hard to see how your article is publishable in its current form.

An academic paper is a kind of conversation between experts. You need to describe the problem you're exploring, state what others have done in the area, and finally explain how you are contributing to the problem and show that your contribution is novel.

What you're writing about reads like a combination of philosophy and machine learning. The philosophy probably makes it unsuitable for a machine learning publication. I can't really speak for the academic philosophy side because I don't know the publication conventions there.

If you want to take this further, your first steps should be to identify the conversation you want to be a part of, and get to know the current landscape of that conversation (I'm mixing metaphors, but you know what I mean).


That's not harsh, it's realistic; thanks.

The conversation is probably mostly a part of the field of Positive Psychology and Meaning in Work literature, a summary of which I cite (Martela and Steger); however, when researching the field (I probably read about 50 academic articles), I didn't see any discussion about value theory (in the realm of philosophy). I have a connection to one of the researchers and maybe I can reach out to start the conversation.


Yes, I'd reach out to someone who is already in the field to see whether your ideas could be of interest.


Thanks, I've added an existing research section and will reach out to researchers in the field for more feedback.

The biggest problem with this paper, as a published scientist, is that I read the abstract and had no idea what your paper was about. Your abstract needs to be more substantial, and cover a) the problem you're addressing, b) the approach you took, and c) the degree to which you succeeded.


Thanks, I've tried to expand the abstract.

Comments from a machine learning / AI focused PhD student. Sorry if I get a bit ridiculous below, I'm up to my neck in coffee and having one of my more "esoteric" days...

0) Golden rules:

- Readability & formatting matters.

- Know your audience.

- Context matters.

- Brevity is best.

- Be clear & concise.

- Abstract, General Intro, Aims, Background/Previous work, Method, Results, Conclusions, Future work => In that order.

- Most important: Nothing goes into the main body unless it makes a tangible, useful & clear contribution.

Some of the best papers are the shortest ones: I can read, understand and explain it to someone else in 1 hour. Among the worst are the 25 pagers that take me 2 days to realise that they aren't useful to me.

1) Footnotes

You aren't commenting code. If it doesn't go in the main text, why is it even there? It is distracting away from the important part - the main body of text.

It either lives in the main text body, a reference or the appendix. If it doesn't live there, then maybe footnote (e.g. a url to some very specific data you trained against).

Get very delete happy with them. For example:

- viii & xiii @ on page 3, xvi @ page 4 should either be in main body (if important, they don't look it), or deleted.

- Things like python commands should just get dumped in the appendix. No footnote / reference. A blanket "you can see all the commands used along with descriptions in the appendix". I'm going to look at what is in the appendix anyway. Because I'm a pedantic academic.

2) Formatting:

- Think about using a template like [1].

- Reduce your font size to 10pt please.

- If you are going to be very maths heavy, think about moving to a single column style. I, personally, find it makes it easier to read eqns and to follow their logic. Currently I have to jump from around the page and keep getting lost.

- For sections 5 & 6: Stop putting something in bold every paragraph. Bold is only to highlight when it's really important. The name of something is not really important. Prefer italics over bold, but even use that sparingly. How difficult was it to focus on reading this paragraph when the words keep changing shape?

3) Graphs & Tables

Graphs & Tables exist at the top of a page. That's the only place they live if they live in the main body. They don't have to be on the same page as where you refer to them, and you can group them together. Otherwise, appendix that stuff.

Else you'll to end up with blank space (like end of page 4 & 5) and formatting headaches later on.

You haven't done your results discussion part yet... When you do, make sure you don't talk about every single table/graph. Only talk about the results that are important. Otherwise it's guff that will bore your audience.

4) Structure:

You have so many sections that I need a table of contents to work out where I am. For a 10-15 pager, that's silly. Learn to love subsections. Especially those early parts.

5) Intro & Background work:

I have no idea what previous work this relates to. Is there previous work in the field? If so, talk about it. Talk about how you're improving it. Talk about what the context of this paper is.

Don't know what the context is? Then you better find out... People will ask!

6) Quotations

This seems like a technical paper, not an English lit assignment. If you directly quote anything, let alone a whole paragraph, it better blow my mind. I am afraid page 3, column 2 does not. Remove it. Just reference anything like that. If people want/need to know, they will read it too.

[1] https://www.ctan.org/pkg/ieeetran


I've integrated your feedback here: https://github.com/freeradical13/ValueBasedPrioritization/ra...

I tried to let the figures and tables float but I disliked the strange spacing that resulted. I also tried putting them at the top and it was very hard to follow.

Thanks again for your very thoughtful feedback!


Thanks so much! I'll review this in depth after work.


Sorry for the delay; a few unexpected things came up. Thanks again for the thoughtful comments.

> Most important: Nothing goes into the main body unless it makes a tangible, useful & clear contribution. > Some of the best papers are the shortest ones: I can read, understand and explain it to someone else in 1 hour. Among the worst are the 25 pagers that take me 2 days to realise that they aren't useful to me.

This is an interesting point because I see both sides of it. Brevity can lead to opacity in some cases; however, I agree brevity's a good ideal (in whatever sense brevity is reasonable).

> - viii & xiii @ on page 3, xvi @ page 4 should either be in main body (if important, they don't look it), or deleted.

Agreed, I'll move those to the main body.

> Things like python commands should just get dumped in the appendix. No footnote / reference. A blanket "you can see all the commands used along with descriptions in the appendix". I'm going to look at what is in the appendix anyway. Because I'm a pedantic academic.

Agreed, I'll move the commands to the appendix.

> - Think about using a template like [1]. > - Reduce your font size to 10pt please.

Thanks, I do like the compactness. Draft: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/freeradical13/ValueBasedPr...

> - If you are going to be very maths heavy, think about moving to a single column style. I, personally, find it makes it easier to read eqns and to follow their logic. Currently I have to jump from around the page and keep getting lost.

I do like the double columns but I'll think about this.

> - For sections 5 & 6: Stop putting something in bold every paragraph. Bold is only to highlight when it's really important. The name of something is not really important. Prefer italics over bold, but even use that sparingly. How difficult was it to focus on reading this paragraph when the words keep changing shape?

I didn't think about that. I'm not sure why I decided to do that, but I agree and I'll remove those.

> Graphs & Tables exist at the top of a page. That's the only place they live if they live in the main body. They don't have to be on the same page as where you refer to them, and you can group them together. Otherwise, appendix that stuff. > Else you'll to end up with blank space (like end of page 4 & 5) and formatting headaches later on.

Yeah, I had to use `\raggedbottom` for a nice flow. I'll try the more classic way.

> You haven't done your results discussion part yet... When you do, make sure you don't talk about every single table/graph. Only talk about the results that are important. Otherwise it's guff that will bore your audience.

Makes sense.

> You have so many sections that I need a table of contents to work out where I am. For a 10-15 pager, that's silly. Learn to love subsections. Especially those early parts.

I hadn't considered sub-sections. I'll try those out.

> I have no idea what previous work this relates to. Is there previous work in the field? If so, talk about it. Talk about how you're improving it. Talk about what the context of this paper is. > Don't know what the context is? Then you better find out... People will ask!

As far as I could tell, not much, or very orthogonal, but I've seen this feedback multiple times, so I'll do my best.

> This seems like a technical paper, not an English lit assignment. If you directly quote anything, let alone a whole paragraph, it better blow my mind. I am afraid page 3, column 2 does not. Remove it. Just reference anything like that. If people want/need to know, they will read it too.

That makes sense and I'll remove that huge paragraph. I think it's worthy of highlighting, but best for the appendix. I do wish academic writers would more often quote what they found most relevant from critical papers instead of just using obscure citations.

I'll be away for a few days, but I'll integrate this feedback soon. Thank you very much, again. I'll post an updated draft here when finished, or feel free to email me (see my bio) if you'd rather get a push then pull (and I totally understand if I never hear from you again). If you ever need help with anything, please let me know.

Cheers!


It bothers me that HTTP + aggregators or search failed so hard in this arena. I'd prefer an "IPFS + curated journal documents" model to any of these "hubs."


Walt Crawford has done quite a bit of interesting work in this area, he's got a book out that looks at OA journals here:

https://waltcrawford.name/goaj3.pdf

More writing here:

https://waltcrawford.name/goaj.html

I'm not sure that's exactly helpful for what you're asking about, but it's a good read for anyone interested in this area.


If you are into AI/ML, I believe that https://distill.pub/ allows you to submit papers as a non-academic.

Be aware that they are slightly different than other publications and have some special requirements (for example, I believe that your paper should have some interactive diagrams if possible).


For articles on open-source software, I would recommend JOSS [1]. The organization that publishes JOSS has other journals [2], but nothing in the lines of your study.

[1] https://joss.theoj.org/

[2] http://www.theoj.org/


Does this journal have a ranking or impact factor?


I see plenty of unaffiliated submissions on Arxiv. Why not just post it there and distribute the url? My one suggestion would be to read the target style guide of the academic journals you'd like to be in (such as Nature). And hew as near as polished for your own paper before submitting.


You can't "just post" something on arXiv as an unaffiliated researcher, you need to be endorsed first.

https://arxiv.org/help/endorsement


If it's software you can submit to The Journal of Open Source Software https://joss.theoj.org which will cost you as much as making a pull request as far as I know :-)


That would depend on the topic of the article.


Interesting... there should be a good one available. Will be following this post.


Definitely depends on what the topic of the article is I should think.




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