Symposia versus regular issues?

Imagine journals publish two types of papers. One appears in a regular issue, loosely connected to other papers that survived peer review at roughly the same point in time. The other type appears in a symposium so it’s connected to the other papers through a thematic focus and is curated by the special editor that convened the event. 

In a world populated by an increasing number of complex, specialized papers, which publication model do you value more? 

There are many arguments to be made on each side. Symposia cut search costs. They increase the potential benefits of cross-paper fertilization. Regular issues are more likely to include niche topics, but are they more likely to include high-risk research? 

Some journals value symposia out of the belief they work better in the chase for impact factors. Others shy away out of the belief that the within-issue quality can be low (though there may be ways to limit that).

I’m undecided, but I do believe the debate will continue with an increasing number of papers submitted to a fixed number of journals. At the individual level, I’ve always worried more about my research portfolio, and so focused on diversification. I suspect there are aggregate effects of symposia that we don’t discuss much.

Did I miss an argument for or against symposia? Comments are closed but you can let me know on Twitter at @abwhitford.