My journal life list

I enjoy watching birds, but I don’t keep a life list.  I don’t keep a life list for anything, really, which might surprise people who know how data-nerdy I am.  The exception: the journals I’ve published in.  I don’t really know why I track this, but for some reason I find it fun. (To be honest, I’m kind of proud of it and I celebrate each new addition, but I can’t tell you why and I have a sneaking suspicion that I shouldn’t*).

So here’s my list as of today:

My list includes journals that are broad-scope and narrow ones, high-impact and low-impact, society and independent and corporate, open-access and paid-access.  There are all kinds of issues there, and maybe I’ll blog about them later.

What interests me most about my list is that it seems long to me.  My P = 69 papers (excluding monographs and book chapters) appear in J = 42 journals, giving me a Journal Diversity Indix (JDI) of 0.61 – where the JDI (which I just invented) is simply J/P. The JDI ranges from zero (an infinite number of papers, all in one journal) to 1 (every paper in a different journal)**.

I speculate, without any data at all, that my JDI is large for my field.  If so, that’s probably in part because I’ve been more impatient about publication than I should have been – that is, I’ve often gone for the lower-impact sure thing rather than send everything to Evolution or The American Naturalist.  More interestingly, I suspect my JDI is large because I’ve done a lot of field-hopping through my career.  I may be the only living human to have published in the Journal of Immunology and also in Forest Ecology and Management.

Once upon a time, having a low JDI was probably a Good Thing.  In the days when it was harder to search for papers, journal “fit” was probably more important than it is now***, and it might have been more important to place related papers in the same journal.  These were the glory days of the numbered series of papers: “Remarks on the Systematics of Gastroplusiidae I”, “Remarks on the Systematics of Gastroplusiidae II”, “Remarks on the Systematics of Gastroplusiidae III”…“Remarks on the Systematics of Gastroplusiidae LXVII”.  Now that fewer people find papers by scanning the tables of contents of their favourite journals, and more use text-mining tools like Google Scholar Alerts, a high JDI probably carries a lower cost in apparency of one’s work.  It would be interesting to know whether JDIs have increased as a consequence, although one would have to somehow separate this from the confounding effect of proliferation in the number of published journals.

Now it’s you turn (please leave a Reply).  Does anyone else pay attention to their journal life list?  If you do, how does your JDI compare to mine?  What do you think a low or a high JDI implies about your career?  Should one aim to keep JDI low or enjoy when it creeps up (as I do)?   Should I stop tracking minutia and go back to my day job?  OK, maybe don’t answer that last one.

© Stephen Heard August 3, 2017

UPDATE: I’m not the only one who finds this fun.  Here, for example, are Andrew Hendry’s data (although not quite comparable because he includes commentary pieces, which inflate influence his profile).  And via Twitter, here are journal life lists from Damien Farine, Nathan Furey, Jeff Clements, Roland Kays, Chris MacQuarrie, Kevin Wood, NK Simons, Julia Koricheva, and Viktor Baranov.  Finally, here are two very early-career life lists, and I’m quite jealous of each of them:  Matt Grobis and (especially) Heather Penney.

UPDATE #2: In the Replies, Andrew Jackson provides code to automate extraction and analysis of JDI data.  Wow.

In case anyone wants to play around with different indices, here are my data as an Excel file.


*^“Is it a new journal you can add to your life list” does not typically appear either in informal advice for how to choose where to send a manuscript or in formal models of optimal submission strategies. There are good reasons for this.

**^There are probably better indices.  The JDI doesn’t capture the shape of the J-shaped curve.  To see this: 16 papers in one journal and one in each of 4 others gets the same JDI (0.25) as would 4 papers in each of 5 journals.  In an attempt to improve my analysis, I calculated a bunch of other indices, including Lloyd’s (1967) index of mean crowding, M*J = Σ(ni(ni-1))/ Σni, where ni is the number of papers in the ith journal.  Then common sense and task prioritization regained control and I stopped.

***^Megajournals like PLoS One don’t have “fit” at all.  We are collectively running a very large experiment about whether this matters.

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49 thoughts on “My journal life list

  1. roots & rhizomes

    I have also 42 journals! it is magic number, is not it? But I have altogether 121 papers published in them. Between my and your journal list there is only 8-journal overlap (no molecules, no entomology on my side).

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  2. Jeremy Fox

    I have a journal life list too. I’m proud when it expands. Not because my goal is to maximize the number of journals I publish in. But because I like to imagine myself as a generalist with lots of ideas. When my journal life list expands, that’s a tangible sign that I had a good idea that was different in some important way from the ideas I’ve had in the past.

    Of course, I’m not nearly the generalist you are! I’m sure your JDI is exceptionally high.

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  3. Pavel Dodonov

    This is fun! I have 18 papers in 14 journals. JDI = 0.78. Not quite due to field-hopping, but because I’ve always had main projects (some of which, such as my PhD work, still unpublished) and secondary ones or collaborations. Not sure how this might act on my future carreer.
    The journals: Acta Oecologica (3), Brazilian Journal of Biology (3), Revista Brasileira de Educação Ambiental = “Brazilian Journal of Environmental Education”, Educação em Revista = “Education as a Journal”, Ecology and Evolution, Revista da Biologia = “Journal of the Biology”, Austral Ecology, Journal of Insect Conservation, Plant Ecology, Biotemas, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, New Zealand Journal of Botany, New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science, Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Educação Ambienta = “Journal of the Brazilian Society for Urban Treeing” (all of them with 1 paper).

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  4. millerjm86

    JDI of 0.59 here (10 journals for 17 papers). Would be interesting to see a breakdown by field and career stage. For what it’s worth I’m ~3 years out of my PhD and consider myself a molecular ecologist/conservation geneticist so there may be more venues in which to publish.

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  5. jeffollerton

    I need a new life list like I need a hole in the head….. …..another thing to obsess about 🙂 A few of us were talking about life lists at the IBC in China; there was some amusement that I keep a life list of plant families that I’ve eaten. BTW, I added two new ones while I was out there: Portulacaceae and Saururaceae.

    OK, what are the rules here: are we talking just peer reviewed papers or can we include non-peer reviewed commentaries? And can we include non-peer reviewed journals?

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  6. Jeremy Fox

    I wonder what Paul Erdos’ JDI was. He was famously diverse in his mathematical interests and also massively prolific. A friend of his once wrote a joke limerick about how he’d published in a paper on combinatorics in Urdu (I may be misremembering details, but that’s the gist). In response, Erdos tried to find a combinatorics journal written in Urdu, so he could publish a paper in it. But there isn’t one, sadly.

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    1. ScientistSeesSquirrel Post author

      Good question. I might have to put some effort into that one. And should probably post on Erdos number too. Mine isn’t bad, as long as you count Annals of Improbable Research as a valid connection.

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  7. Tim Jardine

    My JDI as an author is 0.52 – not too far behind you Steve! My JDI as a reviewer is 0.44. I suspect these two metrics are related, as suggested above.

    I wonder sometimes if I publish in too many different journals. Could there be a drawback? Perhaps not developing a strong “relationship” with a journal that is important in your field?

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  8. Peter Apps

    54 papers in 27 journals for a neat 0.5 (excluding proceedings and chapters). I have shifted from zoology to chemistry and back again and had a chunk in the middle in industry when publishing was not what we did.

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  9. jeffollerton

    Another thought: an alternative measure of how generalist one is could be the number of major clades/phyla that have featured in your research papers. Off the top of my head mine would include:

    Flowering plants
    Insects
    Birds
    Fish
    Coelenterates
    Molluscs
    Mammals (actually, humans – I can count that, right..?)

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    1. Richard

      But may also be a generalist working with multiple approaches or sub-fields but within a single taxonomic group… depends if research is driven by an interest in the system, or an interest in processes.

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  10. Runner24

    Try the “journal entropy index” instead.

    JEI = -sum_i(p_i * log2(p_i)), where p_i is the proportion of your articles that are published in the ith journal and you sum over all journals. If you want to ensure it falls between 0 and 1, you could use JEIs = sum_i(p_i * log2(p_i)) / log2(1/n), where n is the number of articles you’ve published. The numerator represents the actual amount of ‘surprise’ in your publishing pattern; the denominator represents the maximum attainable ‘surprise’, had you published all n of your articles in different journals.

    In your example, 16 papers in one journal and one in each of four others gets a JEI of 1.12 (JEIs = 0.184), but four papers in each of five journals gets a JEI of 2.32 (JEIs = 0.537).

    Your JEI is 5.16 (JEIs = 0.844).

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    1. ScientistSeesSquirrel Post author

      Thanks – a familiar index to ecologists, of course. But calling it the terms “surprise” is a nice touch. I have to admit in most contexts preferring Simpson diversity to Shannon-Wiener, but of course YMMV. Cheers!

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  11. Catherine Scott

    As a mid-PhD student my JDI is 0.89 (8/9; the only journal I have 2 papers in is the Canadian Entomologist). My 10th paper is currently in review at a 9th journal, and I’m writing an invited review for a 10th journal, but I strongly suspect that my number of journals will very soon begin to curve and level off! All of these papers are about behavioural ecology of insects and spiders. My RDI is identical (8/9) with again only 2 reviews at one journal and the rest unique.

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    1. ScientistSeesSquirrel Post author

      Yes, you are right, I expect the JDI has trouble with early-career records. When I published my first paper, it was (of course) 1.0; and it would have taken a while to stabliize. So I should plot mine through time! Ooh, shiny distraction so I can stop revising this manuscript! 🙂

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  12. stireman

    My JDI is nearly the same as yours (0.617), with a similar number of papers (60,including some in press), although it is all entomology, ecology & evolution.

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  13. Joacim Näslund

    My JDI = 0.75, with 28 papers in 21 journals. Interesting, my “submission JDI” (journals submitted to – yes, I keep a list of rejections) is a bit lower at 0.62. I guess (quite sure) it reflects a strategy of sending manuscripts first to the core-journals that we like, and then diversifying (trying something new) when rejected… Peer Review JDI = 0.61 (36 reviews in 23 journals).

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  14. notesfromberingia

    Interesting statistic, Stephen. In a fit of distraction behavior I calculated my own JDI = 0.39 (146 peer-reviewed papers in 57 journals). Seems likely to decline with age, unless one moves fields.

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    1. Peter Apps

      Mathematically there has to be a trend with number of papers, which surely correlates with age; everyone starts with one paper in one journal, for a JDI of one, and it would take a planned campaign to publish every subsequent paper in a different journal to keep it up there.

      On a different tack; the self-plagiasists’ habit of publishing the same work in different journals gives them a JDI greater than one.

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  15. sleather2012

    After slaving all night counting up refereed journal papers I have my tally 🙂 193 papers in 70 journals JDI= 0.36; my first paper published in 1980, most frequently published in Journal of Applied Entomology (16). I have published mainly on insects, but also arachnids, flowering plants, birds, molluscs and nematodes

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      1. Rafael Pinheiro

        I am a very early career ecologist and I have only 5 papers, in 5 different journals.
        However, I think I deserve a “generalist bonus” because it includes journals with very different subjects: PlosOne (general), International Journal for Parasitology (parasitology), Ecography (ecology), Plant Biology (botany) and Acta Botanica Brasilica (botany).
        Maybe you should take the “taxonomic” diversity of journals into account in the index.

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  16. Pingback: Friday links: what is the (dissertation) matrix, bidding for preprints, and more | Dynamic Ecology

  17. Nicholas Jeffery

    My JDI=0.79! 19 papers in 15 journals. I have published more than one paper in only 2 journals (Genome and Mol Ecol Res)

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  18. Quinn Webber

    Really interesting, Steve! As seems to be the case for most early career researchers, I’ve got a JDI of 1 (7 papers, 7 journals), although that will presumably change soon as I have a papers in revision at two of those seven – it seems (based on others responses) the plateau starts between 8 – 15 papers, although there does seem to be some variation.

    I also wonder if co-authors/collaborators have similar JDIs? Do specialists collaborate with specialists and generalists with generalists? Neat stuff!

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    1. Peter Apps

      Interesting question about generalists and specialists collaborating – I would say that a research dream team has a set of complementary specialists and a generalist who acts as interpreter between them.

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  19. Pingback: Temporal trends in the Journal Diversity Index | Scientist Sees Squirrel

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