What do scholars want in a journal?

Members of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCoP) have just learned that their executive committee unanimously took the courageous step of abandoning the society’s journal to its publisher. Instead, we are focusing our efforts on launching a new journal, one that is designed to appeal to and benefit scholars. You can find Sebastiaan Mathot’s summary of why we took this decision here. In short, it was frustrating for us to imagine that we could spend the coming years working hard to make our journal better, but that ESCoP would not necessarily derive any additional benefits from our extra effort. If scholars are going to invest so much, we should make sure that scholars are the principle beneficiaries of our work.

We now have the opportunity to create a cognitive psychology journal that serves scholars, that puts our priorities first. How do we want journals to function? This is what I want:

  1. Rigor: I want editors and peer reviewers to hold me to high standard. When I submit a paper, I hope that reviewers suggest ways I could improve it. If my research design has a fatal flaw that limits the conclusions that I can draw too much, I want them to catch that and stop me from publishing it. I do not want the editors to reject my otherwise excellent paper merely because they do not imagine that it will incite a lot of publicity.
  2. Transparency: I want to have access to data and materials of the papers I read. Sometimes this is the only way to get the details necessary to evaluate the methods. This may not be crucial for a casual reader, but it is absolutely crucial for the scientist thinking of planning an extension of the published work, or the scholar trying to meta-analyze some aspect of the data that the original authors did not thoroughly describe. Much time is wasted on the misunderstandings that arise from relying merely on narrative text for conveying every detail that was important for running or analyzing a study. If we leave this to the authors’ discretion, it is all too likely that the data and materials will not be preserved and curated properly. I want scholars to encourage each other to pre-emptively curate their work.
  3. Accessibility: I want my work to be accessible to everyone. I believe that accessibility will increase its impact. I don’t want to pay a huge fee to a publisher to compensate for the loss it takes when making my work accessible.
  4. Promotion: I want my work to spark discussion and new ideas. I want the journal I publish in to match the efforts I take to let interested readers know about my work, and to take steps that encourage interested readers to discuss the work.

A scholarly society is in the ideal position to create a journal that prioritizes scholarship first. ESCoP’s motives are aligned with the motives of the scholars seeking to publish with us. We don’t want to hide your work behind paywalls to anyone who hasn’t paid for access. We don’t need to own your work and generate profits from it; though we haven’t settled on a fee yet, the margin we assume beyond the necessary fees for the labor involved in processing an article will be thin. If any profit is realized, it will be spent by ESCoP on things valuable to scholars, like affording opportunities for summer schools and conference attendance to PhD students. Most importantly, ESCoP wants to take pride in the quality of the work it publishes. We do not need to fill a specific number of pages, nor do we need to limit ourselves to some arbitrary number of papers. We can publish and promote as much high-quality cognitive psychology as scholars want to entrust us with.

ESCoP has entrusted me and my editorial board to design an open-access journal that serves the scholar. We’re excited about this. Are you? What policies would you appreciate in such a journal? Please tweet them to me @CandiceMorey.

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