Growing an Academic Journal: 7 Key Tips

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Academic journals play a vital role in many fields by disseminating new research, enabling scholarly discussion, and advancing knowledge. For journal editors and publishers, growing an academic journal becomes an important key performance indicator for their role.

For academics, publishing in reputable journals is crucial for career progression and reputation.

Journals also allow researchers to keep up-to-date with developments in their discipline. Overall, academic journals facilitate the growth and spread of ideas across the academic community.

This write-up provides practical advice and strategies to editors and publishers looking to grow an academic journal. Expanding the reach and influence of a journal takes careful planning and effort, but doing so can be immensely beneficial. This post will cover key areas such as increasing submission rates, attracting readers, leveraging digital platforms, and boosting the journal’s reputation and quality. Following the strategies outlined can help take a journal to the next level.

Growing an academic journal

Whether you are starting a new academic journal or looking to expand an existing one, this guide will give you valuable insights into scaling and growing your publication. We aim to equip you with the knowledge needed to increase your journal’s visibility, readership, and prestige within the academic community.

By the end, you will have actionable steps to implement an effective growth strategy tailored to your journal’s niche and aims.

1. Understanding the Basics of an Academic Journal

An academic journal is a scholarly periodical publication focused on disseminating original research and commentary within a specific academic discipline. Academic journals play a crucial role in academia by allowing researchers to publish their work, which expands knowledge and spurs further research. Some key features of academic journals include:

Peer Review

Peer review is an essential part of journal publishing. A reputable academic journal has a rigorous peer-review process where experts evaluate submissions based on relevance, originality, methodology, and contribution to the discipline. This process aims to ensure only high-quality research gets published.

Targeted to a Specific Field

Journals focus on a well-defined academic niche like physics, medicine, education, etc. This allows for specialized research suited for experts in that field. The targeted readership also enables focused peer review.

Original Research Articles

Academic journals publish original research articles presenting new findings, data, or models. This differentiates them from magazines, which often summarize existing research. The original insights drive innovation.

Credibility and Reputation

High standards and rigorous peer review lend credibility and build the reputation of well-regarded academic journals over time. Publishing in reputable journals can advance academic careers.

Citations and References

Articles include citations and references to previous works to substantiate claims. This situates the research within existing literature and recognizes past contributions.

Types of Academic Journals

There are several types of academic journals serving different purposes:

  • Research journals – Publish in-depth, peer-reviewed research articles with original findings.
  • Review journals – Provide synthesis and analysis of past research on a topic through literature reviews. Some journals publish review articles as part of their article publication types.
  • Professional journals – Focus on industry best practices and applied research useful for professionals in the field.
  • Trade journals – Cover industry news, trends, and developments for a specific trade or commercial field.
  • Academic society journals – Published by and represent the work of a specific academic society. It is also unusual for societies to partner with an institution to form an academic journal.

Understanding the different types of academic journals can help authors identify the right journal for their paper based on its scope, purpose, and readership.

2. Why is Growing an Academic Journal a Must?

Expanding the reach and influence of an academic journal is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, increased readership leads to greater dissemination of scholarly ideas and findings. For instance, you cannot start a journal publishing eight articles per year and not increase the number of publications as part of the growth plan.

The more academics and professionals read the journal, the wider the impact of the published knowledge. This furthers academic discourse and can catalyze breakthroughs as researchers build upon each other’s work.

Growth also enhances the reputation and prestige of the journal within the academic community. Highly regarded journals tend to have an extensive readership and a global presence. By growing the journal, editors boost its competitiveness and position it as a leading publication in its field.

For contributors, publishing in a well-known journal with wide circulation gives their work far greater exposure. This can accelerate their career advancement and opportunities for collaboration. Budding researchers also benefit from publishing in a major journal’s heightened visibility and citation potential.

Readers can access high-quality peer-reviewed research when journals expand their scope and submissions. New perspectives, methodologies, and discoveries get rapidly disseminated through journals with a broad reach. This facilitates the acquisition of knowledge and sparks new ideas among readers.

More practically, growth allows journals to be financially self-sustaining through increased subscriptions and lowers per-article costs. This enables editors to enhance the journal’s quality and services continually.

In summary, widening the readership and influence of an academic journal sustains its intellectual vibrancy. The editors, authors, and readers all stand to gain significantly from growing an academic journal.

3. Planning the Growth Strategy of an Academic Journal

A clear and thoughtful strategy is crucial for successfully growing an academic journal. Efforts to expand the journal may be haphazard and ineffective without proper planning. Here are some key factors to consider when developing a growth strategy:

Defining Your Target Audience

Get very clear on who you want to reach with your journal. Consider academics and professionals in your field, scholars from related disciplines, students, policymakers, or the general public. Understanding your target audience will inform content, marketing, partnerships, and more decisions.

Articulating Your Unique Value

Determine what makes your journal stand out from others in your field. Maybe you publish on an underserved niche or use open peer review. Whatever it is, make sure your unique selling proposition is clear to promote effectively. The job of expanding will be clear when you understand the need of growing an academic journal.

Taking Stock of Your Resources

Assess your resources to support growth – editorial staff, funding, technology, networks, etc. This will help you set realistic goals and determine where you may need additional resources. You may need to scale operations or pursue partnerships and sponsorships.

Setting Concrete Goals

Define specific, measurable goals like increasing submissions by 15%, increasing publication frequency from biannually to four times yearly, or doubling email subscribers. This gives you targets to work towards and helps track progress. Goals should align with your overall growth strategy.

Allowing for Flexibility

No growth strategy is set in stone. As you implement your plan, be open to making changes based on new opportunities, challenges, and lessons learned. Regularly review progress and adjust your approach as needed.

With careful planning guided by your target audience, value proposition, resources, and goals, you can develop an effective strategy for expanding your academic journal.

4. Increasing Submission Rates

Attracting high-quality submissions is critical for growing an academic journal. Here are some effective strategies to increase submission rates:

Call for Papers

Issuing targeted calls for papers is an excellent way to solicit manuscripts. Calls can focus on special issues, underrepresented topics, or emerging research areas. Widely promote calls through academic networks, mailing lists, social media, and conferences. Make sure calls align with the journal’s aims and scope.

Networking and Outreach

Build relationships with researchers through conferences, academic societies, social media, and on-campus events. The chief editor (or editor-in-chief) and the publisher are crucial in acquiring an important network in the relevant academic fields.

Personally invite respected scholars to submit their work. Partner with relevant institutions and groups to co-host networking opportunities.

Author Support and Resources

Provide author guidelines, writing tips, and submission resources. Have dedicated administrators and support staff to assist prospective authors.

Offer writing workshops or seminars to nurture new submissions. Provide mentoring for early career researchers and students. Continue liaising with the authors even though they have not published recently. The authors will feel appreciated and will undoubtedly return to publish with your journal.

Streamlined Submission System

Implement an easy-to-use online submission system. If the journal still receives manuscript submissions via email, plan an immediate transition to a manuscript management system.

Following are some of the popular journal manuscript management systems (I have professionally used two of them):

  1. ScholarOne Manuscripts: A widely used manuscript submission and peer-review system used by many academic journals and publishers. I used this system for a decade before transitioning to an open-source platform.
  2. Editorial Manager: A comprehensive submission and peer-review system used by various journals and publishers.
  3. Open Journal Systems (OJS): An open-source platform developed by the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) and is often used by open-access journals. I am pretty familiar with OJS.
  4. eJournalPress (eJP): Offers manuscript submission and peer-review services to scholarly publishers and societies.
  5. Submittable: A versatile submission management platform used by journals, magazines, and organizations across different sectors, including academia.
  6. PeerTrack: A manuscript management system designed specifically for academic and scientific journals to streamline the peer-review process.
  7. Aries Systems Editorial Manager: Offers the Editorial Manager, a comprehensive solution for managing manuscript submissions and peer-review. We watched a demo of the Aries Systems but did not implement it.
  8. Majordomo: A journal management system academic publishers and journals use to handle the entire publication process.
  9. ManuscriptManager: Provides tools for managing submissions and peer-review processes for academic journals and publishers.
  10. Scholastica: Offers a manuscript submission and peer-review platform for academic journals and institutions.

Whichever manuscript management system you use, ensure a rapid initial decision with constructive feedback. Keep authors updated throughout the review process. Automate reminders about upcoming deadlines or requests for revisions.

Article Processing Charges

Some journals impose Article Processing Charges to fund rapid publication and open access. This can incentivize submissions but may deter authors with limited budgets. Consider discounted Article Processing Charges or waivers to broaden access.

Increasing submission rates provides more choice in selecting the best research to publish. It also grows the journal’s reputation and readership. However, quality should not be sacrificed for quantity – rigorous peer review must remain the priority.

5. Enhancing Journal Quality

The quality of an academic journal is crucial for its growth and long-term sustainability. High-quality journals tend to attract more submissions from respected researchers, gain prestige within their field, and have greater readership and citation impact. There are several strategies editors can employ to enhance the quality of their journals.

Implementing a Rigorous Peer-Review Process

A rigorous peer-review process, where experts evaluate submissions, is essential for ensuring the quality of published research. Journals should recruit qualified reviewers, provide clear review guidelines, manage the process efficiently, and make editorial decisions based on thorough reports. A double-blind review, where author and reviewer identities are concealed, can further bolster objectivity.

Attracting High-Quality Submissions

Journals must publish high-quality articles to be perceived as prestigious. Strategies to attract such submissions include:

  • Recruiting an expert editorial board known for advancing the field. Learn how to identify and select the right editorial board.
  • Get your journal indexed in top journal databases such as Web of Science, Scopus, and others.
  • Providing excellent author support and communication throughout the review process.
  • Promoting the journal at academic conferences and through academic associations.
  • Offering incentives like rapid publication times and press releases for exceptional papers.

Focusing on Novel, Impactful Research

Journals should aim to publish research that makes significant contributions to the field. Editors can prioritize papers that:

  • Present innovative theories, methods, or datasets.
  • Advance fundamental understanding of the subject.
  • Showcase important real-world applications and implications.

Favoring influential research helps cement the journal as a vital platform for groundbreaking discoveries and ideas.

By implementing rigorous peer review, attracting high-quality submissions, and focusing on impact, editors can enhance the quality of their academic journals. This helps drive growth by boosting the journal’s reputation and readership within the scholarly community.

6. Expanding Your Reader Base

Increasing readership is crucial for the growth and influence of an academic journal. A broader reader base means your journal reaches more researchers, students, and professionals in your field. This expands the impact of the knowledge and ideas published in your journal.

Highlight the Relevance of Your Content

Make sure to communicate how your journal’s content is timely, meaningful, and relevant to readers in your field. Feature articles that provide novel insights, address current issues, or have practical applications. Promote these contents through social media, email newsletters, and conferences.

Leverage Partnerships and Collaborations

Partner with relevant academic associations, research centers, universities, and other publications. Cross-promote content to reach each other’s readers. You can also invite guest contributors or co-publish special issues to share with readers.

Adopt Open Access Models

Consider open access publishing models to make your content freely available online. This increases discoverability and removes financial barriers to readership. Hybrid models allow some content to be open access while retaining subscription content.

Engage on Social Media

Maintain an active presence on academic social media like ResearchGate,, and Twitter. Share journal updates, calls for papers, and published articles to connect with more researchers. Encourage authors to share their work.

Expand Indexing and Abstracting

Having your journal indexed in academic databases expands its visibility and citation impact. Prioritize indexing in databases your target readers frequently use. Also, ensure informative abstracts are available to summarize articles.

Increasing readership takes dedicated effort but pays dividends by amplifying the journal’s reach and influence. A multifaceted approach can build a strong, engaged reader base over time.

7. Leveraging Digital Platforms

Academic journals must embrace digital platforms to reach wider audiences and increase their visibility, submissions, and readership. With more research published online, journals must have an effective digital presence.

Utilizing Journal Websites

A journal website is the hub of its digital presence. The website should be professionally designed, easy to navigate, and contain all essential information about the journal.

Useful elements include aim and scope, author’s submission guidelines, editorial board profiles, indexing databases, and access to current and past journal issues (archive). The website can also host blogs, podcasts, and videos to engage visitors.

Leveraging Social Media

Active use of social media brings vast opportunities for academic journals. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow journals to interact directly with researchers, promote content, and increase discoverability. Social media increases brand awareness and allows the building of an engaged community around the journal’s niche.

Partnering with Online Publishers

Partnering with reputed online publishers and platforms provides greater reach for academic journals. Such partnerships facilitate electronic publishing, worldwide dissemination, and integration with researcher databases. Examples include JSTOR, Scopus, Web of Science, and university library databases.

Adopting Digital Publishing Standards

To maximize online discoverability, academic journals should adopt digital publishing standards laid out by organizations like CrossRef. This includes assigning DOIs to journal articles, tagging metadata, and enabling citation linking. Such standards enhance a journal’s visibility and integration with online research ecosystems.

Offering Mobile Accessibility

With significant Internet usage shifting to mobile devices, academic journals must optimize for mobile accessibility. This includes responsive web design, mobile apps, and email/tablet compatibility. Mobile optimization allows readers to access journal content on the go conveniently.

By actively embracing digital platforms, academic journals can expand their reach, authority, and readership in the online research world. A thoughtful digital strategy is key to leveraging technology for sustainable journal growth.


Growing an academic journal can seem daunting, but this guide has provided key strategies and insights to help make the process more manageable. Let’s recap some of the main points discussed:

Recap of Key Points

  • Understand your target audience and develop a unique value proposition to attract readers and submissions.
  • Implement a rigorous peer review process to enhance the quality and credibility of your journal.
  • Leverage digital platforms and open access policies to increase visibility and readership.
  • Create a thoughtful growth strategy to expand submissions, readers, and influence.
  • Use marketing tactics, collaborations, and calls for papers to reach new audiences.
  • Focus on publishing impactful research to build the reputation of your journal over time.

Moving Forward

With careful planning and persistence, growing an academic journal is achievable. Don’t become overwhelmed by trying to implement all strategies at once. Take it step-by-step, focus on quality over quantity, and remain adaptable as you build your journal’s influence in its field.

Most importantly, stay passionate about your mission to share knowledge and connect with others who share your commitment to research and education. Growth will follow if you maintain this motivation and continue providing value for your readers and contributors.

We wish you the very best with your journal. The information in this guide equips you with strategies to help it flourish. Now, it’s time to start putting them into practice. We encourage you to take the first step and continue this rewarding journey. Your hard work will pay off in the long run.

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