One of the norms of manuscript writing and paper submission I came across as a graduate student was the general process of submitting a manuscript to a conference, presenting it to an audience (assuming it is accepted), get substantive feedback, revise the manuscript into a ‘better’ version, and then submit it to a journal. This seemed a very logical sequence to me at the time. However, it became apparent from my early and current conference attendances that this is not the case.
The catalyst for my realization was one presentation I attended where a well-known communications scholar presented a work and the last PPT slide included a journal reference to the presented work that was “in press” with a well known journal. My initial thought was: Aren’t we not supposed to submit published work to conferences? I guess this depends on whether “in press” is the same as “published”. But nowadays “in press” articles are usually published as “online first” articles as the manuscript is held in the queue/line for an issue number. Interestingly, ICA and AEJMC seem to have different policies about this judging from the most recent CFPs:
ICA 2017 CfP
“Publication or presentation history: If material in your presentation has been published, presented, or accepted for publication or presentation, this must be disclosed in your paper or proposal and may be ineligible, depending on the Division/Interest Group”
AEJMC 2016 CfP
“Papers accepted for the AEJMC Conference should not have been presented to other conferences or published in scholarly or trade journals prior to presentation at the conference.”
AEJMC is quite specific though it is not clear whether “published” also includes “online first” versions. ICA appears more strict given that even “accepted” manuscripts need to be disclosed, though leaves the ultimate decision to the Divisions. In any case, I can understand the logic of concurrent submissions. For example, the ICA submission deadline is usually early November and the acceptance/reject results are announced in January. Then the work is presented in mid-May at the conference. Assuming feedback is collected and the manuscript is revised then it can be ready to submit to a journal in June. Basically this adds up to around 8 months even before the manuscript goes through the whole journal review process which can take up to a year — assuming that the first journal it is submitted to eventually accepts the manuscript! For early scholars and graduate students in particular, where there is extra pressure to get work published, the timeline may be simply too long. Added to this is the common acknowledgement that the quality of conference paper reviews are generally quite poor. Therefore, it is understandable that people would forgo whatever benefits/feedback one may get from the conference for a quicker manuscript decision from a journal.
In my case, I generally follow the ‘ideal’ path in situations where the Division/Interest Group I submit to includes a Respondent, such as the Political Communications Division at AEJMC which does a great job of arranging senior scholars to give comments on the accepted papers at the conferences. These are great opportunities to pick their brains and get some additional ideas and insights, which can help improve the manuscript. In other cases, I do submit both to conference and journal at the same time — not exactly but maybe a few days/a week apart. The assumption is that the 8 month time period can be used “in parallel” for the journal reviewing process. Given that two rounds of reviews and final decisions take much longer than 8 months the chances of the journal article being published or even “in press” at the same time as the conference presentation is very remote. The only possibility of such a scenario is if the journal review process has already been underway for a while before the same manuscript is sent to a conference. Things get interesting of course if the conference paper gets rejected because this adds to the timeline if the manuscript is to be sent to a later conference. Though I have not been in such a situation and I would personally never submit a paper to a conference if it is already far into the journal review process (e.g. revise and resubmit).