IAG Guide To Publishing



By Heather Viles  IAG/AIG EC member with responsibility for International Publishing

For all scientists today the aphorism ‘publish or perish’ has never been more apt. We are all under increasing pressure to maintain a very high level of publications in the international literature in order to secure tenured positions and to ensure that the outputs of funded research projects are made widely available. Whilst the IAG/AIG already has a publications policy on its website (see STATEMENT pageon IAG/AIG website) this mainly covers the importance of having an IAG/AIG newsletter, and encourages the production of books such as conference proceedings and edited volumes which come out of the activities of IAG/AIG working groups. For most geomorphologists, publishing articles in international scientific journals is the major goal, and getting started can be a difficult exercise for many young geomorphologists and those from non-English speaking backgrounds (as the international literature is now largely written in English). The following ‘How to’ Guide on publishing in geomorphological journals is designed to provide a starting point for every geomorphologist who wants to get their research published.

How to publish in international geomorphological journals

  • The ethics of journal publishing. The first consideration when planning to write a journal article is to ensure that everything that you have done, from designing the project to writing it up, has been based on the highest ethical standards. Most journals provide an outline of what this means on their website (see, for example, what ESurf says about the general obligations of authors at OBLIGATION FOR AUTHORS page). Ethical publishing involves amongst other things the following:

    • ensuring that the paper concisely describes the research performed, giving enough information so that other scientists could repeat the study;

    • making sure that all those who contributed to the research are properly credited;

    • ensuring that all named authors have played a clear role in producing the research and the paper and have read the final submitted version;

    • giving proper credit to previous research that has inspired your work.

A fuller statement for authors on the ethics of journal publishing is available from the Committee on Publication Ethics website (DOWNLOAD PDF) and is well worth reading.

  • Writing your paper – getting started.  Geomorphology journals usually have a lot of helpful information for authors on their website, but many authors only look at this information at a rather late stage in producing their papers. Taking a look at what is required at a very early stage is really helpful, and can save a lot of wasted time later. The key things to check are:

    • Word limits – what are the preferred lengths of different types of articles?

    • Structure – what is the recommended style for structuring the text of your article?

    • Figures and tables – how many are allowed and what style is preferred?

    • Bibliography – what is the format for references both in the text and in the reference list?

  • The importance of a good title, abstract and keywords. As titles, abstracts and keywords are now freely and easily available to everyone via online search tools, it is crucial that you write them so that they are found easily. The publisher Sage, for example, provides a good set of guidelines on how to ‘help readers find your article’ (HELP READERS FIND YOUR ARTICLE page) through a clear and descriptive title, sensible repetition of key phrases in the abstract and well-chosen key words. In essence, you want to grab people’s attention and ensure that they read your work in full, rather than simply glossing over it and moving on to something else. Make sure you think hard about an informative title, and read carefully any guidelines that geomorphological journals provide about the purpose, length and format of an abstract. Good advice, for example, is given in the Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie ‘Instructions to authors’ which notes that “The summary should not be a list of intentions, but a concise presentation of the highlights and results of the paper” (ZFG INSTRUCTION TO AUTHORS page).

  • Writing in good English. The importance of using good, correct and concise English in manuscripts being submitted to international journals cannot be over-stated. Reviewers of papers cannot be expected to correct the English, and journal editors may well reject a badly written paper straight away however good the science might be. If English is not your first language there are several ways to ensure a good quality English text, and thus maximise your chances of getting the paper properly reviewed and evaluated:

    • Find a native-English speaking colleague who would be prepared to correct the English.

    • Pay for a translator from your institution to check the English.

    • Use the English language editing service that some large publishers provide or recommend (e.g. Elsevier (see ELSEVIER ENGLISH LANGUAGE EDITING page) or Wiley (see WILEY EDITING SERVICES page).

  • Highlights. Several international geomorphology journals now also ask authors to submit ‘highlights’ – usually around 3 bullet points which summarise why the paper is worth publishing. If the journal you are aiming for asks for these, then think carefully about what to write so that you demonstrate why your paper is timely, of international appeal, and of geomorphological importance.

  • Supplementary information. Many international geomorphology journals also encourage the submission of supplementary information (data, methods, technical information, movies etc.) which will be available online linked to your paper. This information will also be evaluated when the manuscript is reviewed, and is a useful opportunity to convey more details of your research.

  • Open Access and publication charges. Most scientists and organisations are in favour of the outputs of publicly-funded research being openly and freely available. As a step towards this, most international geomorphology journals offer an Open Access route (often called ‘Gold Open Access’) whilst many journals also acknowledge the right of authors to make available drafts (i.e. without journal formatting etc., and after an appropriate embargo period) on data archives (often called ‘Green Open Access’). There are different models of ‘Gold Open Access’, and the landscape of Open Access is changing very rapidly, so it is important to be informed and keep up to date with this. Some international geomorphology journals are entirely open access and charge every author or their institution or funding body for publishing; other journals are hybrid ones – where authors can decide whether or not they want their papers to be available openly or only to those who subscribe to the journal. Usually, ‘Gold Open Access’ requires the authors to fund an Article Processing Charge (APC) which is usually in the range of $1500 to £3500 per article. On top of this charge, some international geomorphology journals levy a publication charge (for example, the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface which currently charges $1000 per article). These charges are sometimes called ‘page charges’. Many journals, which charge for publication and/or open access also waive these charges under certain conditions, so it is worth checking what the rules are.

Sources of further information
The following international geomorphology journals (listed in alphabetical order) all have very helpful websites with many resources for authors, which will help you prepare good quality manuscripts:

Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf)

Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

Géomorphologie : relief, processus, environnement


  • Guide for authors (includes their open access policy) web page

Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie