4 reasons article transfer systems are great for authors – and societies

Journal “ecosystems” are spurring new ways of working that benefit researchers, journals and societies

By Stewart Bland, PhD - March 25, 2020  4 mins
Elsevier World of Research editorial illustration

Researchers often point to the process of publishing their work as the most time consuming part of their job – and to rejection decisions as particularly frustrating. We’re working to give authors a faster and easier route to publication and to provide societies and their editors with new ways to support their communities and build strong journals.

Whilst journals have traditionally operated independently from each other, today we see the emergence of journal ecosystems which, amongst other measures, facilitate the transfer of articles between related journals.

Various STM publishers have article transfer systems and other inter-journal collaborations. At Elsevier, we have many such collaborations , including to and from journals we publish on behalf of societies.

For now, I will use the example of article transfer services in the journal ecosystem I’m most closely involved with: Elsevier’s Materials Today journals. From its origins as a single standalone publication, Materials Today is now a collection of over 70 titles - some old, some new – spanning materials science. Transferring articles between journals is a hugely important service to our authors and one that underpins the spirit of collaboration we consider vital to meeting the needs of our community.

The benefits of an article transfer system include:

1. Speeding up publication

Learn more about Elsevier’s <a href="https://www.elsevier.com/authors/journal-authors/submit-your-paper/submit-and-revise/article-transfer-service" target="_blank">Article Transfer Service</a>Authors that are rejected from their first-choice journal on the basis of scope, perceived impact, interest, novelty or article format are offered one or more transfer options within the same family. This means authors don’t have to submit and resubmit. Our journal Materials Today Communications receives over 300 article transfers per month and has reduced the time to article publication by an average of two weeks.

This makes a big difference to authors, who tell us that publication time is a major consideration for them. For our society partners that form part of an ecosystem, this makes their journals more attractive to authors. In fact, in a 2019 survey by Elsevier’s Author Feedback Programme, 75 percent of respondents stated the main benefit of the Article Transfer Service as “saving time/effort of a new submission process.

2. Route to publication for all worthy articles

We know there are journal hierarchies within disciplines, which in many cases are determined by a number of factors. In the Materials Today family, we cater to those submissions that, whilst not being suitable for high impact titles like our flagship Materials Today journal still have significant value. In the case of Materials Today Communications, the only way to submit to the journal is via a transfer, so authors have to submit to another “supporting” title before being considered for publication.

3. Better use of editor and reviewer time and expertise

Multiple journals in the Materials Today family not only consider the comments of the supporting editors and referees (following full peer review) but will honor provisional acceptance decisions made by the original editor – meaning Editors are able to work together in new ways. Whilst speeding up publication, this ensures that the work undertaken by editors and reviewers is fully recognized and used to inform publication decisions.

Given that finding good reviewers is a common problem amongst many journals, this can be a major plus point for any journal participating in a transfer system.

4. Paving the way for deeper collaborations

Article transfer is only one aspect of building a journal ecosystem, which extends to other concepts, such as shared editorial boards, shared conferences and workshops, shared awards and prizes, shared policies and systems, shared styles and submission requirements and shared branding. Our experience is that by introducing article transfers, you build relationships that can foster broader partnerships which better serve the community.

With a reduction to the overall workload, a more positive outcome for rejected authors, and lower referee fatigue, articles transfer are a win-win-win for authors, editors and reviewers. As you consider transfer and broader ecosystem opportunities for your journals program, our publishing staff would be delighted to offer you more specific advice on the best way forward for your publications. Please email s.wymbs@elsevier.com.


Written by

Stewart Bland, PhD

Written by

Stewart Bland, PhD

Dr. Stewart Bland is the Publisher of the Materials Today journals and website, where his role involves developing the family of titles as a comprehensive home for materials science publications. Previously, Stewart was Editor-in-Chief of the flagship Materials Today journal. Prior to joining Elsevier, he completed a PhD in materials physics at Durham University in the UK.

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