Authors often ask if publishing their work in a conference proceedings automatically disqualifies it from being published in JAWRA. My answer is, “It depends.” Several factors we consider are: (1) quality and completeness; (2) copyright; (3) disclosure; and (4) level of prior exposure. I will address each specifically.
- Quality and Completeness. The question we always ask is, “Will the journal review process make this a better scientific paper?” Proceedings papers often serve as notes to a talk, and may not present the complete, systematic arguments required for journal publication. In such cases, the proceedings paper may be seen as a first draft for a fuller presentation. Even where a proceedings paper is relatively complete, schedule and logistics of conference publishing usually do not allow for fully independent, anonymous, and documented review. This doesn’t preclude quality in the original, but the review process of a journal can add an important documented quality assurance step.
- Copyright. We must be able to reproduce figures or major passages from the proceedings while respecting the letter and spirit of copyright laws. Authors are, in all cases, responsible for providing us a clear right to publish their material.
- Disclosure. We want to make informed publishing decisions based on all relevant information. Surprises are not good, especially when pointed out by reviewers! For all manuscripts, not just proceedings, we expect authors to disclose any related publication in their cover letter to us. We also expect the proceedings to be fully acknowledged and/or cited in the journal paper itself.
- Level of Prior Exposure. It serves no purpose to merely duplicate a popular and accessible proceedings paper. Many proceedings, however, fall into the category of “gray literature,” neither totally obscure nor readily and permanently available. We need to believe publishing the paper in JAWRA, in addition to any other improvements, will make the paper visible to a wider audience than is reachable through the earlier proceedings.
So, it is an extremely rare proceedings paper which gets published in JAWRA complete and unchanged; most undergo substantial modifications. All papers published in JAWRA, regardless of their source, must meet the same high review and editorial standards. Publishing preliminary work in a conference proceedings does not disqualify it from JAWRA publication, but neither does it gain a “free pass” to publication.
Given that JAWRA papers are not the same as conference proceedings, it is unfortunate that ISI’s Web of Science is identifying journal papers associated with a conference as “Proceedings” in citation counts. While this practice has no effect on our Impact Factor, it can imply a stigma for authors when counting their papers for tenure and grant applications. To avoid confusion, I want to state our policy clearly: JAWRA considers papers derived from conference proceedings equivalent in status to all other JAWRA papers.
– Ken Lanfear, JAWRA Editor