WHERE TO PUBLISH
Choosing a publication outlet for presenting the primary outcomes of a behavioral intervention takes some thought. There are three key considerations: (a) the audience one wants to impact, (b) journal characteristics, and (c) strength of the evidence and study design.
The underlying purpose or ultimate goal of developing and evaluating behavioral interventions is to change practice and improve health care or health outcomes for a specified population. Thus, one consideration is determining the stakeholders one wishes to impact and the journal that effectively targets that group. For instance, let’s say one is interested in changing the way in which family caregivers of frail older adults are integrated into the medical encounter with physicians (Wolff et al., 2014). Identifying and submitting the manuscript to a journal that is widely read by primary care physicians, geriatricians, and other health professionals in geriatrics would be appropriate and a preferred approach. A related consideration is whether to publish in a discipline-specific journal or one that has a broader readership. An evaluation of a social work-based intervention published in a journal that is read mostly by social workers may bring needed evidence to that professional group, but other health professionals might not have access to a discipline-specific journal or become aware of what might be a potentially beneficial program to their practice setting.
Another consideration concerns the characteristics of a journal. Factors such as its reach or breadth of distribution, whether its focus is general or disease- or topic- specific, its impact score, word limitations, and turnaround time from acceptance of the manuscript to its publication are considerations in decision making as to the relative benefits of publishing in a journal. As to word limitations, most medical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Annals of Internal Medicine, or the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, impose word limitations that can hinder the inclusion of important details of an intervention such as its theory base or fidelity plan. Further, some journals may have a 1-year or more delay between accepting a manuscript and its actual publication. This delay significantly slows down dissemination processes. Thus, selecting a journal outlet entails balancing all of these factors with the underlying message and impact one seeks.
A helpful Internet-based tool for selecting a journal by inputting the manuscript title is JANE (journal/author, name estimator; biosemantics.org/jane/index. php). Upon identifying a journal, the first course of action is to carefully read the instructions for authors, as they will vastly differ from one journal to the other. Also, it is important to understand the rules for presenting findings in other outlets. Most medical journals will embargo the presentation or reporting of outcomes prior and up to the publication release date. It is essential that an embargo be strictly followed; otherwise, the journal may refuse publication. Finally, some journals refuse to publish a manuscript in which the data has previously been displayed on a website as it has already been released for public consumption. Thus, knowing the rules of the targeted journal is critical for a successful publication outcome.
A final consideration is the strength of the design of a study and its outcomes. It can be difficult to find a publication outlet for very weak or negative results unless the null findings are groundbreaking, contradict previously reported highly touted findings, or disprove a prevailing popular theory. Reports of studies using quasi-experimental designs or a pilot may best be classified as a brief report or titled “preliminary findings,” in recognition of the need to build the evidence for the intervention. Reports of randomized controlled trials with statistically significant and clinically meaningful outcomes have a better chance of being published in a high-impact journal.