General considations

As the primary author, you are typically also the corresponding author. This means you should be publicly responsible for the research content and able to address any of the paper’s queries, concerns, and criticisms. As primary author, you are also the first point of call when liaising with journals. This includes writing the cover letter to the journal, communicating with the Managing Editor or the Handling Editor, fielding responses from the journal and relaying these to your co-authors, setting the direction for addressing reviewer comments, and making the final decision on the fate of the paper. Therefore, your decision on choosing a target journal should reflect your willingness to be publicly responsible for the research findings and handle the responsibilities of liaising with the journal editorial board. As an author, the writing, literature synthesis, executing the methods and analysis of the paper, and general commitment to the research topic causes a significant level of investment in the paper. That is, primary authors will tend to naturally feel responsible for the fate of the paper and thus voluntarily make the publication decisions, including selecting the target journal. Primary authors should also encourage co-authors to recommend target journals, as co-authors can often be knowledgeable in the field, have more publishing experience, or have a different perspective on the research.

In the event that co-authors disagree when deciding on a target journal, the best course of action is to re-evaluate the message of the paper, decide whether this message is suited to the scope and readership of the journal, and determine whether the type of paper you plan to write is suitable for that journal. Agreeing among co-authors on a shortlist of potential target journals before submitting your paper can help identify the type of readership your paper aims to target, thereby reducing any potential disagreements. Another strategy for mediating potential disagreements is creating a shortlist of peer reviewers you plan to recommend to the journal for reviewing your paper. When choosing your peer review candidates, you are subjecting the message of your paper to the scrutiny of current experts in your field, thereby helping place your research in a broader research context. Therefore, the exercise of shortlisting candidates among your co-authors will help clarify the type of readership and thus target journal to which your research is best suited.

Practical example for Life Sciences

Within the life sciences, the primary author is responsible for the main decisions of the paper, including correspondence with the journal and setting the direction for responding to reviewer comments. The primary author will also often confer with co-authors on selecting a target journal.

Practical example for Social Sciences

While the primary author has the final say on journal selection, the decision is most often come to through discussion with the co-authors. Many social science journals require the stated consent of all authors to submit to the journal so it is important that a consensus is reached between co-authors.

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