Recently, in cooperation with our partners – Elsevier, we have conducted a survey investigating the perceived differences between publishing monodisciplinary and interdisciplinary research. The aim of the survey was to discover whether the factors that influence the decisions which journal to publish in, the writing strategies authors employ to ensure the articles are accepted by the journals, and the selection criteria of reviewers and editors differ with respect the research being mono- or inter-disciplinary.
The participants were selected based on the criterion that they have published an article in one of Elsevier’s academic journals. The majority have published an article in one of the 11 journals that our analyses are focussing on, which include: Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (AEE), Biosystems (B), Computers, Environment and Urban Systems (CEUS), Environmental Pollution (EP), Global Environmental Change (GEC), Journal of Rural Studies (JRS), Advances in Water Resources (AWR), Journal of Strategic Information Systems (JSIS), Plant Science (PS), Resource and Energy Economics (REE), and Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment (TRTE). In addition to researchers with experience in interdisciplinary research, the survey also aimed to include reviewers and editors of both mono- and inter-disciplinary journals, which were identified from the sample.
Our survey respondents were generally experienced researchers, with more than a third (34.8%) respondents having more than 20 years of experience in doing research, and more than a half (51.3%) being involved in research between 6 and 20 years. In addition to that, none of the respondents were inexperienced researchers with less than one year of research experience. The results are summarised in the graph below.
Years of research experience:
Apart from generally being experienced researchers, the vast majority of our respondents had some experience in doing interdisciplinary research, with only 6 respondents (5.2%) not being involved in interdisciplinary research. Furthermore, the majority of researchers published their work in interdisciplinary journals (45.2%) or both in mono- and inter-disciplinary journals (41.7%), with only 13% publishing their research in monodisciplinary journal only.
The type of journals researchers publish in:
Regarding their experience in doing interdisciplinary research, the number of respondents having more than 20 years of experience is somewhat lower than general research experience, with only 14.7% reporting more than 20 years of interdisciplinary research experience, compared to 34.8% of total research experience. Similarly, 27.5% reported having less than 5 years of experience in interdisciplinary research, compared to only 13.9% having less than 5 years of total research experience. These results imply that either the interdisciplinarity is a more recent trend in academic research, or that researchers take part in interdisciplinary research later in their careers.
Interdisciplinary research experience:
We have also asked our respondents on their experience in editing academic journals, with about a quarter (25.2%) having edited a journal. Furthermore, the majority of respondents were involved in editing interdisciplinary journals, with 2 respondents having experience in editing both mono- and inter-disciplinary journals.
Proportion of editors:
Type of journals edited:
All but two (98.3%) respondents reviewed submissions to journals. Although some of the respondents had less than one year of experience in doing so, the majority had 6 or more years of experience. The reviewers predominantly reviewed for both mono- and inter-disciplinary journals, with 29.2% reviewing for interdisciplinary and 13.3% for monodisciplinary journals exclusively.
Type of journals reviewing for:
We believe that the collected data provides a good sample to answer our questions regarding the publication of interdisciplinary research. The majority of participants have had experience both in doing interdisciplinary research and publishing in interdisciplinary journals. Furthermore, a significant number of participants have had experience both in mono- and inter-disciplinary environments, which allows them to make good comparisons between the two. Additional benefit is that the almost all the researchers have reviewed for journals and have experience in making value judgments on the quality of research and writing. Finally, the number of participants with experience in editing journals will allow us to investigate how their criteria for accepting submissions define the their journals.
In the following posts we will publish the results of the survey regarding our research questions. Thus in the following post we will examine the factors which influence the decisions where to publish one’s research. This will be followed by a post on the writing strategies authors employ to ensure their paper is accepted by the journal. We will also examine how the participants reacted to a series of statements regarding the differences between mono- and inter-disciplinary research. The final two posts will summarise the responses from reviewers and editors, focussing on the criteria they set for accepting journal submissions, as well as the changes they have observed in the language and the types of research published in their journals.
If you have any comments regarding the results of the survey or potential lines of inquiry, please leave us a comment below.