Publishing in "Sister" Journals

You've revised your article and resubmitted it to your preferred journal, but the decision letter arrives in your inbox with the following message: "We regret to inform you that your article has not been accepted at "Your Preferred Journal." However, we would like to offer you the chance to transfer it to our sister journal…". What now?

Many publishers have jumped on the bandwagon to offer "sister" or "companion" journals, often Open Access, alongside their successful flagship counterparts. From the business perspective, it makes sense: when you have more submissions than you have room to publish, you make more room. Open Access journals especially offer a host of benefits, including greater flexibility, that a traditional journal cannot, and Open Access promotes greater accessibility to scholarship. Transferred papers help reduce reviewer and editor burden and burnout, which is positive for the peer review process overall. But what's in it for you, and how do you make the best choice in this case?

Benefits to Consider
For you, as the submitting author, the transfer process is easy! Usually, if you agree to the transfer, the paper is sent automatically to the other journal. You probably won't have to re-do the extensive submission process again! This saves you a lot of time, in contrast to submitting to an entirely different journal, and you may not even need to edit your cover letter. You are also still working with your preferred society or publisher, instead of potentially dealing with an unknown entity. Additionally, you might qualify for a discount on the Article Processing Charge (APC), though eligibility for discounts varies widely in practice. The article typically won't have to go back through extensive review, though transferring to the sister journal is not a guarantee of acceptance either. Overall, the process is painless and speeds up the process at the second journal.

Drawbacks to Ponder
There are a few drawbacks to consider as well. Many of these sister titles are newer and may not be well indexed in databases or have an Impact Factor or other metrics, so your article may be less discoverable. For example, articles may not be included automatically in PubMed (though, you can potentially add it via PubMed Central). There may be APCs for an Open Access title, and your funding may not cover them, unless you have wiggle room in your grant or discretionary funding.

The Bottom Line
So, if you receive this email – don't panic! Simply decide what's best for you, your research team, and the content of your article. As discussed above, there may be many factors at play: funding availability, time for reformatting the paper and submitting to another journal, or the reputation/indexing of the journal. Weigh all these options carefully, consulting the journal's website or editorial office as needed, and communicate everything to your team so you can make the right call.