1.2 Go for the highest possible impact, but check what impact means in your specific field

Research is competitive. The resources available for research will never stretch to cover all the research that’s important at any given time. That’s one reason why aiming to achieve a high-impact publication from the research paper you’re writing is important.

When your published paper has high impact in your field, it will help you to access resources that will facilitate your ongoing advancement in research.

But what, exactly, does ‘high impact’ in research mean? This definition varies from one field to another, from one organization to another, and even from one point in time to another. Thus, it’s important to find out the definition of high impact research according to the main organizations that provide you with resources to do research, and then target that same definition.

As an example, the main provider of my (Amanda’s) resources to undertake research is the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia. Thus, whatever the NHMRC is using as their current definition of high impact research, that’s what I aim for with my publications. In the past, the NHMRC often judged the impact of individual research papers from the impact factor or relative ranking of the journal in which the paper was published. Then that changed, and the number of citations (or field-weighted citation index) for an individual research paper emerged as a more important definition of high impact research, according to the NHMRC. Now their definition of high impact research is changing again: it’s not so much about citations of publications, but more about a wider definition of tangible changes in the world as a result of the research and citations. This includes things like new academic collaborations, industry partnerships, and translation of the research into practical applications. As such, I keep these things in mind when I think about potential publishers for my papers.

As another example, one of my colleague’s major sources of resources for his research is the university that employs him. The university’s definition of research impact places high importance on journal impact factors and journal rankings, and so that’s what he aims for when he’s looking for suitable journals to target for his papers.

The message from this sub-step is that when you’re thinking about which journal to target when writing your paper, consider the current definition of high impact research according to the major organizations that provide the resources with which you do your research. It’s a good idea to seek advice on this from several mentors in your field.

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