The pandemic and changes in early career researchers’ career prospects, research and publishing practices

Authors : Hamid R. Jamali, David Nicholas, David Sims, Anthony Watkinson, Eti Herman, Cherifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Blanca Rodrıguez-Bravo, Marzena Świgoń, Abdullah Abrizah, Jie Xu, Carol Tenopir , Suzie Allard


As part of the Harbnger-2 project, this study aimed to discover the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on junior researchers’ work-life, career prospects, research and publishing practices and networking.


An online international survey of 800 early career researchers (ECRs) was conducted in 2022. A questionnaire was developed based on three rounds of interviews and distributed using multiple channels including publishers, social media, and direct email to ECRs.


The impact of the pandemic on career prospects, morale, job security, productivity, ability to network and collaborate, and quality and speed of peer review has on the whole been more negative than positive.

A quarter of ECRs shifted their research focus to pandemic-related topics and half of those who did, benefited largely due to increased productivity and impact. The majority worked remotely/from home and more than two-thirds of those who did so benefitted from it. While virtual or hybrid conferences have been embraced by the majority of ECRs, around a third still preferred face-to-face only conferences.

The use of library online platforms, Sci-Hub, ResearchGate, Google Scholar and smartphone to search and access full-text papers increased. ECRs prioritised journals with fast submission procedures for the publishing of their papers and spent more time on increasing the visibility of their research. Fees were a problem for publishing open access.


Although, generally, the pandemic negatively impacted many aspects of ECRs’ work-life, certain research areas and individuals benefited from being more appreciated and valued, and, in some cases, resulted in increased resources, better productivity and greater impact.

Changes, such as the use of digital technologies and remote working created new opportunities for some ECRs. While continuing work flexibility and hybrid conferences might benefit some ECRs, institutions should also take measures to help those ECRs whose career and productivity have been adversely impacted.

URL : The pandemic and changes in early career researchers’ career prospects, research and publishing practices


Choosing the ‘right’ journal for publication: Perceptions and practices of pandemic-era early career researchers

Authors : David Nicholas, Eti Herman, David Clark, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Abdullah Abrizah, Anthony Watkinson, Jie Xu, David Sims, Galina Serbina, Marzena Świgoń, Hamid R. Jamali, Carol Tenopir, Suzie Allard

Presents early data from an investigation of the work lives and scholarly communication practices of 177 early career researchers (ECRs) from eight countries. Utilizing mainly coded and textual data from interviews, the paper reports on the findings that pertain to publishing papers in peer reviewed journals.

We examine which factors are taken into account when choosing the journal to publish their research in, identifying similarities/differences by country, age, academic status and discipline. Also, explored is whether the pandemic has changed decision-making. Main findings are that the aim for ECRs is to publish in the ‘best’ journals, variably measured by prestige, impact factor, standards of peer review and indexation.

Appropriateness of audience is the only factor unrelated to the quality of the journal that figures highly among the factors that guide ECRs in the process of selecting a journal.

The pandemic has made little difference to the majority of ECRs when they decide on a journal for publishing their research. However, there is a greater awareness of the need for a faster turnover rate, brought on by the importance accorded to speedy publication during the pandemic.



Why do journals discontinue? A study of Australian ceased journals

Authors : Hamid R. Jamali, Simon Wakeling, Alireza Abbasi

Little is known about why journals discontinue despite its significant implications. We present an analysis of 140 Australian journals that ceased from 2011 to mid-2021 and present the results of a survey of editors of 53 of them. The death age of journals was 19.7 (median = 16) with 57% being 10 years or older.

About 54% of them belonged to educational institutions and 34% to non-profit organizations. In terms of subject, 75% of the journals belonged to social sciences, humanities and arts. The survey showed that funding was an important reason for discontinuation, and lack of quality submission and lack of support from the owners of the journal also played a role.

Too much reliance on voluntary works appeared to be an issue for editorial processes. The dominant metric culture in the research environment and pressure for journals to perform well in journal rankings negatively affect local journals in attracting quality submissions.

A fifth of journals indicated that they did not have a plan for the preservation of articles at the time of publication and the current availability of the content of ceased journals appeared to be sub-optimal in many cases with reliance on the website of ceased journals or web-archive platforms.

URL : Why do journals discontinue? A study of Australian ceased journals


The impact of the pandemic on early career researchers: what we already know from the internationally published literature

Authors : Eti Herman, David Nicholas, Anthony Watkinson, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Abdullah Abrizah, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Hamid R. Jamali, David Sims, Suzie Allard, Carol Tenopir, Jie Xu, Marzena Świgoń, Galina Serbina, Leah Parke Cannon

In order to take account of the impact of the pandemic on the already changing scholarly communications and work-life of early career researchers (ECRs), the 4-year long Harbingers study was extended for another two years.

As a precursor to the study (featuring interviews and a questionnaire survey), currently underway, an analytic review of the pertinent literature was undertaken and its results are presented here.

The review focuses on the challenges faced by ECRs and how these compare to the ones more senior researchers have to tackle. In the examination of the literature three general questions are posed: Q1) What are the identifiable and forthcoming impacts of the pandemic-induced financial pressures felt in the Higher Education sector on ECRs’ employment and career development prospects? Q2) What are the identifiable and forthcoming pandemic-associated disruptions in the pace/focus/direction of the research undertaking? Have any disruptions been predicted to exert an impact on ECRs’ research activities, and if so, with what scholarly consequences? Q3) How is the work-life of ECRs shaping up under the virus-dictated rules of the ‘new normal’ in the research undertaking? What challenges, if any, arise from the changes in practices identified, and what might their potential consequences be for ECRs?

The broad conclusion of the study is that the literature leaves little room for doubt: junior researchers are already disproportionally affected by and bear the burden of the ongoing pandemic-incurred hardships and they are likely to remain similarly impacted when more trials, still unfolding, materialise.


How is open access publishing going down with early career researchers? An international, multi-disciplinary study

Authors : David Nicholas, Hamid R. Jamali, Eti Herman, Jie Xu, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Anthony Watkinson, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Abdullah Abrizah, Marzena Świgoń, Tatiana Polezhaeva

This study explores early career researchers’ (ECRs) appreciation and utilisation of open access (OA) publishing. The evidence reported here results from a questionnaire-based international survey with 1600 participants, which forms the second leg and final year of a four year long, mixed methods, longitudinal study that sought to discover whether ECRs will be the harbingers of change when it comes to scholarly communications.

Proceeding from the notion that today’s neophyte researchers, believed to hold millennial values of openness to change, transparency and sharing, may be best placed to power the take-up of OA publishing, the study sought to discover: the extent to which ECRs publish OA papers; the main reasons for their doing or not doing so; and what were thought to be the broader advantages and disadvanta-ges of OA publishing.

The survey data is presented against a backdrop of the literature-based evidence on the subject, with the interview stage data providing contextualisation and qualitative depth. The findings show that the majority of ECRs published in OA journals and this varied by discipline and country.

Most importantly, there were more advantages and fewer disadvantages to OA publishing, which may be indicative of problems to do with cost and availability, rather than reputational factors.

Among the many reasons cited for publishing OA the most important one is societal, although OA is seen as especially benefiting ECRs in career progression. Cost is plainly considered the main downside.

URL : How is open access publishing going down with early career researchers? An international, multi-disciplinary study

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Do Younger Researchers Assess Trustworthiness Differently when Deciding what to Read and Cite and where to Publish?

Authors : David Nicholas, Hamid R. Jamali, Anthony Watkinson, Eti Herman, Carol Tenopir, Rachel Volentine, Suzie Allard, Kenneth Levine

An international survey of over 3600 academic researchers examined how trustworthiness is determined when making decisions on scholarly reading, citing, and publishing in the digital age and whether social media and open access publications are having an impact on judgements.

In general, the study found that traditional scholarly methods and criteria remain important across the board. However, there are significant differences between younger (age 30 & under) and older researchers (over 30).

Thus younger researchers: a) expend less effort to obtain information and more likely to compromise on quality in their selections; b) view open access publishing much more positively as it offers them more choices and helps to establish their reputation more quickly; c) compensate for their lack of experience by relying more heavily on trust markers and proxies, such as impact factors; d) use all the outlets available in order to improve the chances of getting their work published and, in this respect, make the most use of the social media with which they are more familiar.


Changes in the digital scholarly environment and issues of trust: An exploratory, qualitative analysis

Authors : Anthony Watkinson, David Nicholas, Clare Thornley, Eti Herman, Hamid R. Jamali, Rachel Volentine, Suzie Allard, Kenneth Levine, Carol Tenopir

The paper reports on some of the results of a research project into how changes in digital behaviour and services impacts on concepts of trust and authority held by researchers in the sciences and social sciences in the UK and the USA.

Interviews were used in conjunction with a group of focus groups to establish the form and topic of questions put to a larger international sample in an online questionnaire. The results of these 87 interviews were analysed to determine whether or not attitudes have indeed changed in terms of sources of information used, citation behaviour in choosing references, and in dissemination practices.

It was found that there was marked continuity in attitudes though an increased emphasis on personal judgement over established and new metrics. Journals (or books in some disciplines) were more highly respected than other sources and still the vehicle for formal scholarly communication.

The interviews confirmed that though an open access model did not in most cases lead to mistrust of a journal, a substantial number of researchers were worried about the approaches from what are called predatory OA journals. Established researchers did not on the whole use social media in their professional lives but a question about outreach revealed that it was recognised as effective in reaching a wider audience.

There was a remarkable similarity in practice across research attitudes in all the disciplines covered andin both the countries where interviews were held.