January 15, 2019

New Year, New Content

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas/winter [1] break. This is my fifth day back in the Exchanges saddle, although only my second one in the office due to conference attendance [2] and a spot of working from home. Always nice to be back at the IAS here in (currently not very) sunny Coventry though, as I find it’s a powerful and inspirational location at which to work.

My first day back on site last week was one filled with meetings, not least of which was our semi-regular departmental team meeting [3]. So packed with meetings in fact, that I actually forgot to take a lunch break – whoops! Two meetings that day standout in particular. The first was a long and perhaps rather rhizomal conversation with one of my editorial board (hello Marcos). It’s always a real pleasure to spend some time with my editors in person, and their generosity in talking about their own research, teaching, careers and lives represents a particular honour. Part of what Marcos and I were talking about though, were some ideas we’d sketched out before Christmas around some invited bilingual submissions for a future issue of Exchanges. I can say, it is (fairly) early days with regards to this, but I think it looks like there’s some genuine interest in this from our contacts, so it’s quite exciting.

Later in the day I also had the chance to chat at length with a visiting lecturer in critical safety systems (and oddly expert in Viking culture, literature and life), from the University of York. She’s an old friend of mine, and she’d taken the time between lectures to pop in for tea and a chat. Once again the topic of contributions to the journal came up, and quickly it emerged there was a sense her own students (home and abroad) could benefit from a guest appearance from yours truly to talk about the wonders of publishing with Exchanges. And maybe even contributing to the journal, as I’m sure they’d have some wonderful contributions to make. Fingers crossed something comes of this, as there’s nothing I like more than talking with post-graduate and early career researchers about publishing opportunities.

That was enough for one day, but I’ve been delighted since then again, as on Monday this week I received a further approach from some literature scholars wanting to explore publishing a special issue through Exchanges. I’m very much looking forward to some longer conversations about this next week, but if this and the bilingual issue come off, there’s a very exciting 2020 in terms of new content, original thought and valuable additions to the research discourse ahead of us.

All in all, I’m sure you’ll agree a great start to the new year. Don’t forget I’m always happy to talk to potential authors (or groups of authors) about future submissions, special issues or where academic publishing is going these days. Just drop me a line. In the meantime, I’m going back now to continue writing some new marketing material for Exchanges, and planning my communications for scholars workshop for next month.

[1] Or summer, if you’re part of my southern hemisphere readership/editorial team!

[2] Understanding the Social in a Digital Age, UEA, Norwich. Delightfully for once I wasn't speaking!

[3] Probably less of interest to readers, but all the same a very handy way to keep up with what’s going on here in the IAS


December 12, 2018

Article Focus On: Critical reflections – what’s their value?

In my last post I talked about interviews, or the Conversations with, series of articles that we publish in Exchanges. In today’s post, I’m going to talk about the other kind of article which stands alongside the more research intensive pieces in the journal: critical reflections. According to our author guide a critical reflection article comprises:

Focussed, critical appraisals typically covering an area of emerging research, a key event or a crucial new text. (1,000-3,000 words).

That’s not a long explanation for what are actually highly readable and insightful articles, so let me expand a little here. When people approach us with a critical appraisal article, most commonly they want to write about an event they have recently attended. This is a great start, as we are all interested in reading about conferences, workshops, seminars and symposia others have attended which (for whatever reasons) we didn’t have the chance to. However, so far, so much a blog post. Where the critical reflection article differs is that they are not intended to be a simple narrative of what was said and/or who spoke. Yes, this sort of contextual information is still an important part of the content, but where the critical reflection article takes a step forward towards being a more academic piece of writing is right there in the title.

Context - What are they?

In short, these pieces are supposed to entail a critical reflection about an event that is to say for example, what was it about the context, content and theme, which was of value or importance? Did the author agree with everything which was said or, from their own scholarly perspective, were there aspects that they wanted to take issue with or even wholesale challenge? Ideally too, there needs to be an element of how the event changed the author’s perspectives, thinking or knowledge. Essentially, how did it have an impact upon or affected them. Incorporating these evaluative and self-reflective elements is what changes an ‘event report’ from a tasty but ultimately unsatisfying intellectual snack, into a gourmet and rewarding scholarly treat. In short, this is what makes the paper a critical reflection.

Now, in the prior paragraph I’ve been writing about critical reflections of events. However, you will have noticed Exchanges is not only interested in critical reflections on events, but on essentially any reflections on aspect of scholarship. Typically, what should stimulate the writing of a critical reflection is an intellectual intervention or encounter of any kind. I’ll acknowledge events are the most common or perhaps most prominent such circumstances. Yet, other artefacts or circumstances can move us as much, if not more sometimes. For example, you might have spoken with a particular author, or read a lot of their work lately, which has stimulated your thinking in new directions. Alternatively, you might have read a particularly challenging paper, report or monograph which has caused you to reconsider your own research practice. Writing a critical reflection concerning these ‘events’ can be therefore as valuable and timely a piece of written scholarship as writing about a literal event. Personally, with our engaged, broad and interdisciplinary readership in mind, I’d like to see far more critical reflections about non-conference type events appearing in our pages.

The last kind of critical reflection is perhaps less easy to predefine, at least structurally, and that’s the opinion piece. For example, as a scholar there might not be a singular specific event or work you’re looking to critique. What you want to offer instead is your own, unique insight into an aspect of your discipline. In this respect, here is where Exchanges can be a most valuable publication destination especially for those scholars in the STEM subjects, where opinion pieces are less commonly accepted in major journals. Certainly, many major journals may perceive early career researchers have more ‘limited’ disciplinary experience and insight to offer, and may decline to publish such submissions as a matter of course. Here at Exchanges, we’d respectfully disagree with this stance, as per our mission, we strongly believe that new, original and insightful thought which critically reflects on a field can emerge from scholars at any stage in their career. Hence, as Editor-in-Chief I’d strongly encourage anyone who’d like to ‘make a scholarly statement’ about their field, to consider writing it as a critical reflection for us.

Criticial Refelction Advantages

One advantage of the critical reflection piece by the way, is that they are mercifully brief pieces of work, which means they can be written, edited and ready for publication quite rapidly. They can be almost as brief as this blog post in length, in fact! Naturally, the manuscript should include the context and set the scene, as with all our articles, remember you are writing for a readership which doesn’t automatically have a deep familiarity with your field. Nevertheless, this should diminish the depth or breadth of scholarship that can be include. Have a look at these recent examples, for an idea of the sort of things you might write about.

Eden, A.A., 2018. Enchanted Community: Reflections on Art, the Humanities and Public Engagement. https://doi.org/10.31273/eirj.v6i1.252

Mulcahy, S., 2018. Dissents and Dispositions. Reflections on the Conference of the Law, Literature and Humanities Association of Australasia. https://doi.org/10.31273/eirj.v5i2.247

Crealock-Ashurst, B., et al., 2018. A Critical Reflection on the 28th International Biology Olympiad. https://doi.org/10.31273/eirj.v5i1.221

Messin, L.J., & Meadows, J.C., 2018. Science for All. https://doi.org/10.31273/eirj.v4i1.153

Incidentally, a critical reflection can also act as a promotional piece. Not only for the author, but for institutions, research groups and projects, looking to raise their profiles. I really do believe these are exactly the sort of article which can really help to get a scholar noted. Hence, critically appraising some work you are intimately involved in, not only helps to develop your own career, but can serve as a valuable adjunct to other ongoing efforts.

In Conclusion

So, there you go. The critical appraisal, a valuable and relatively easy article type you can publish with Exchanges. And if you’re reading this and thinking you’ve got a great idea for one, either speak to myself or any of the Editorial Board about it. Or better yet, get writing and submitting – there’s every possibility critical reflections submitted in the first few months of 2019 can see publication in our spring issue of Exchanges! (possibly!)

Finally, on a personal note, I’m signing off as the Managing Editor-in-Chief for the Christmas break today. So can I wish all our readers, reviewers and authors (old and new) a most festive, relaxing and perhaps critically reflective break!


December 03, 2018

Article Focus On: Interviews – why do they matter?

One of my favourite kinds of articles frequently submitted to Exchanges are interviews, also known as ‘Conversations with…’, with key disciplinary figures. Since the first issue where Walsh interviewed Oliver Sacks [1] through to Kremers and Eggert’s efforts in the most recently published volume [2, 3], these have been perennially popular articles for authors and readers alike. Personally, I love the idea that through being an author of one of these pieces provides the author with a great excuse to talk directly with the great and the good within their field. You see, it can be challenging when you’re trying to network at conferences and other academic events, to think of a good topic to break the ice with an ‘academic celebrity’. I’ll admit it, I’ve been tongue tied myself when meeting notable names in my own field, and gushing ‘Oh I just love your books!’, isn’t quite the professional demeanour you might want to project. Nevertheless, asking someone if you can interview them for a publication is a great starter to at least a good chat, and who knows what else.

In terms of what we expect from an interview, the outline on our author guidance page is quite brief:

A dialogue with significant research figures in any field, with a particular focus on their interdisciplinary contributions (3,000-5,000 words).

Although, it does go on to note that authors considering writing one of these ‘are strongly encouraged to discuss the proposed content with the Senior Editor or a member of the Editorial Board, prior to submission. This will allow us to scope if the proposed piece will be suitable for Exchange’s diverse readership.’ [4]. As a result, I’ve realised it’s probably worth talking briefly about the type of content we’re looking for, to help guide future authors.

Content

In terms of the content, what the best of these articles do is initially to provide some context about the interviewee themselves. While we have had some considerable public intellectuals interviewed in past issues, there’s no guarantee a figure who is a giant in your field will always have instant recognition among our diverse readership. Hence, providing a potted biography at the start of an interview article really helps set the scene for readers and draws them in to why this person is important and worth their time reading about. For me, the best revcent example of how to approach this section of the article was provided by Roca-Lizarazu and Vince [5] who not only take the time to introduce their interviewee, Stef Craps, but also a rather neat introduction the field within which he has been so crucial. Aspiring Exchanges authors could do a lot worse than by following their approach.

Questions & Answers

One thing we don’t demand of our interview articles, is that interviewers make use of a pre-defined set of questions. We want the authors themselves to put their own particular spin on things and have an effective presence within the article. Certainly, as an experienced research interviewer myself, I know some of the best and most revelatory conversations can be rather freewheeling ones, rather than ones slavishly sticking to the script. That said, given our interdisciplinary nature as a journal, I would hope to see every interview develop conversations around each interviewees’ career, their influences and especially how/where they see the relevance of their work to the wider domain. We often also see interviewees holding forth on the ‘state of the art’ within their discipline, and sometimes looking towards the future. Alongside this, there is often some useful discussions around the authors and works they’ve been influenced by themselves. Given their expertise, what has piqued their interest, is generally something aspiring or new scholars within a field are likely to be very interested in reading about.

Benefits

As a result, this means interviews serve rather neatly as mini-review articles, exploring the field as guided by a noted expert. I believe this provides a reason why these types of articles are some of our most downloaded ones. That is because for scholars new to a field, they provide a wonderful guided entrance point through which to explore and expand their own knowledge. The other reasons I think they are popular are firstly partly due to the name recognition of the interviewees, big names are always a draw for scholarly journals as authors or subjects of discussion. Hence, as an editor, ever mindful of increasing our readership and visibility across the academy, I find them very useful.

That said, the other key reason is generally the sheer readability and accessibility these conversation articles offer. Even as an interdisciplinary journal, we cannot claim that every paper will be accessible to all readers, there is just no escaping from the specialised lexicon of most fields at times. Nevertheless, within interviews scholars are generally speaking in more naturalistic tones than you would find, say, in one of their articles or books. Similar to a lecture, this permits readers from outside their immediate field to more readily access their expert thought, insight and knowledge. Hence, I strongly believe this demonstrates why interviews are very much at the heart of Exchanges’ mission to propagate and support interdisciplinary research discourse.

Setting Up Interviews

Now, how do you go about setting up an interview for the purposes of publishing with Exchanges? Well, you’ll have to wait until my a future post for a discussion of that.

[1] Walsh, J., 2013. Oliver Sacks. Exchanges: The Warwick Research Journal, 1(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.31273/eirj.v1i1.69

[2] Kremers, R., 2018. Conversation with…Wendy Larner. Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Journal, 6(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.31273/eirj.v6i1.243

[3] Eggert, J.P., 2018. Researching Terrorism and Political Violence: An Interview with Louise Richardson. Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Journal, 6(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.31273/eirj.v6i1.266

[4] Exchanges, 2018. Author Guidelines. Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Journal. Available at: https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/guidance

[5] Roca-Lizarazu & Vince, R., 2018. Memory Studies Goes Planetary: An Interview with Stef Craps. Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Journal, 5(2). Available at: https://doi.org/10.31273/eirj.v5i2.245


November 19, 2018

Come Link In with Exchanges

One of my ongoing (and probably never ending) tasks, is increasing the visibility of Exchanges. As a journal for interested readers, as a publishing destination for potential authors, and hopefully a scholarly work reviewers will be generous enough to contribute to as well. While in discussion with my illustrious Editorial Board I’ve been mulling around various approaches to this end (some more old school than others), one of the most recent steps has been to set up another social media environment for the title.

In case you've missed it via our other channels, we've set up a LinkedIn group for authors, reviewers, readers and frankly anyone with even the slightest interest in what we're doing with the journal. I can't swear it's an absolute 'must read' location (indeed is ANYTHING on LinkedIn that valuable?), but hopefully this will serve to further our mission of publishing quality assured, interdisciplinary research from early career researchers.

You can find the group (and the first few posts) here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12162247/

Do come and join us there, you’ll be more than welcome!


November 06, 2018

Exchanges Issue 6.1 Published

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/issue/view/19

exchanges_cover_v6-1-small-2.jpgThe Institute for Advanced Study, and myself on behalf of the Editorial Board, is delighted to announce a new issue of Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Research Journalhas been published. The autumn issue contains a number of articles, including some addressing the theme of Narrating, Nation, Sovereignty and Territory.

Exchanges, in case you didn't know, showcases peer-reviewed research articles, critical reviews and interviews with significant disciplinary figures, written primarily by early career fellows across all disciplines. Managed and published by IAS at Warwick since 2013, the Senior Editor (that'll be me) is always happy to speak to prospective authors or scholars with an interest in publishing with us. There is an open call for submissions 365 days a year.

To read the articles, contact us or find out how you can contribute to future issues go to: https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk

There's also a general call for papers you might like to read too: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/ias/activities/exchanges/cfp-exchanges_nov_2018.pdf


October 31, 2018

Ghosting & Peer Review

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/peerreviewer

This summer if you happened to be listening to one of my talks about the importance of peer review, and the associated challenges around it, you’ll have probably heard me mention the biggest issue for me as a journal editor-in-chief: ghosting peer reviewers. A suitable topic for a Halloween post, I thought.

When we initially locate and approach prospective peer reviewers for Exchanges, part of the subsequent discussion is making them aware of the timescale within which we’d expect them to be able to complete the review. We’ve a nominal month set as standard for a review turnaround, as we’ve found that seems to have suited most of our reviewers and authors over the years. However, peer reviewing is not a time trivial task for anyone to take on, for example with have a a guestimate that it will take at least 5 hours to peer review a single Exchanges article. Other titles can put the anticipated commitment even higher still. This is one of the reasons why the COPE ethical guidelines for peer reviewers state, individuals should ‘only agree to review manuscripts for which they have the subject expertise required to carry out a proper assessment and which they can assess in a timely manner’ [1]. Unsurprisingly, this time commitment is why some reviewers we approach, decline to participate.

Nevertheless, from the outset there’s an expectation on reviewers once they’ve agreed to conduct a review that they’ll carry it out. Naturally, as an editor it is important to understand how real life can get in the way, with peoples’ circumstances liable to change without prior warning. That’s why you have to ensure there’s an accommodation for individuals who suddenly need a little more time to conduct the review or who might need to drop out altogether. This is quite understandable, and as a journal we have our share of reviewers who have to drop out.

For us though, a problem arises when reviewers run silent, deep and dark. Typically, we spot this when they pass the review deadline without producing their review, and yet also stop responding to messages from the Editorial Board. There’s a tricky balancing act here for my team, we don’t want to bombard tardy reviewers with too many communications least we risk wreaking our relationship with them. Yet, reviewers have made a commitment to contribute to our quality assurance processes that we’d ideally like to see honoured. To borrow a term from the dating sphere, being ghosted, ‘The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone’ [2] has never represented a favourable turn of events, in either life or journal communications. Certainly, being ghosted as an editor can be a deeply frustrating experience. Even more so, the delays it creates in the editorial workflow present a bugbear for our authors, who end up waiting far longer than they’d reasonably expect to receive feedback or a decision on their work.

You might think being ghosted by reviewers was a rare occurrence, and yet over my 6 months as editor I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spotted one or more of my editors having to deal with it. On some submissions it’s been known to happen multiple times. While, as I said, I can appreciate life is rarely straight forward, I retain an optimistic view that scholars would have the requisite professionalism to let me know if suddenly being a reviewer is no longer a task they can satisfy. I’m never offended by a big, bold and honest ‘No, I can’t do this anymore’, as it is far better to know for certain than be left in the dark. Yet, sadly, I have no easy solution to reviewers who choose to start ghosting the editorial team. Beyond that is, taking reviewers who fail to respond off our call sheets for future assignments, albeit a move I’m loathed to take, given the diversity and spread of our reviewers’ pool importance to myself and the title.

With this in mind, I was interested to read today about technological solutions for ghosting [3]. OJS, the platform we run Exchanges on, does have the ability to send automatic and manual prompts to reviewers [4], but perhaps we’ve not been using these as systematically as we could. Perhaps too, we could think again about how and when we send out reminders to reviewers. I’m not sure I have any immediate solutions to the issue, but it is one that’s going to occupy me for some time to come, long after the last pumpkin has been consigned to the compost heap!

[1] Hames, I., 2013. COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers. Committee on Publication Ethics. https://publicationethics.org/files/Peer%20review%20guidelines.pdf

[2]: Illa, G., 2013. Ghosting. Urban Dictionary. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Ghosting

[3] Hern, A., 2018. Ghosting Busters: why tech companies are trying to stop us blanking each other. Guardian, 31 October. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/31/ghosting-busters-why-tech-companies-trying-stop-blanking-each-other

[4] And authors too – authors ghosting us is also a problem


October 16, 2018

The Challenges of Enhancing Scholar–Led Journal Visibility to Disparate Audiences

While we move towards the publication of the next issue of Exchanges, today I’ve been doing some background work with my Editorial Board looking towards the future. At its core is something dear to my heart as the Senior (EIC) Editor, which is considering ways to better market and promote the journal. I know for some the idea that we have to market academic scholarship leaves a rather nasty ideological taste in the learned mouth; it does in mine certainly. Nevertheless, academic publishing, even scholarly-led initiatives, operates in a domain of realpolitik; although you’ll excuse me if I’ll continue to cleave to my zeal and vision for a greater agency over publishing for the academy as a result.

The issue we face though for a currently, small and not especially well-known title like Exchanges, is we need to raise the visibility of the title, its mission and the scholarship it publishes. This is not an uncommon challenge for scholar-led titles and is exacerbated by the protectionist policies of the commercially owned key research publication indexes. I’m grateful at the very least that we appear in the DOAJ. Addressing this visibility challenge, means we need to work out ways of reaching out to hitherto unaware members of our various target audiences. In this respect, prospective authors without a doubt are a key demographic, but so too are potential members of our peer reviewer and reader communities. Alongside these there are certainly other audiences we could and should be also marketing to, although currently I’m most concerned with engaging these three most pressingly. Why? Well, without authors we have no content, without reviewers we have no quality assurance and without readers…well, there’s the existential threat writ large. Hence, this is why these are the groups I’m most concerned about making more aware of us.

So, one thing I’ve been doing recently is working out where Exchanges stands in terms of outreach: a term I’m perhaps more ideologically comfortable with than ‘marketing’, as it smacks more of activism than it does or corporatism. What I’ve isolated in my exercise is there’s a surprising range of things which myself, and members of the Editorial Board, have been doing over the past six months [1] to raise the journal’s visibility. Personal appearances at conferences and training events, developing a social media presence [2], redeveloping the website materials, considering approaches to developing ancillary and complementary media content, alongside producing the more traditional posters and flyers. Interestingly, I think my audit of marketing efforts has also revealed a tendency in the tenancy of prior Senior Editors towards unstructured, serendipitous and arguably ad-hoc promotional approaches. I may be incorrect in the assumption, but I’ve not uncovered evidence since the early years of any sustained coordinated activity. Former Senior Editors feel free to enlighten me here!

Yet, while what we have in development is all well and good it suggests two problematics need addressing with respect to audience outreach. Firstly, within the marketing mix we’ve adopted, are there other lucrative activities, opportunities or avenues which have yet to be explored? Secondly there is the question of how effective any of this marketing has been? The former question is one I’ve put to my Editorial Board, but naturally it's also something I’d more than welcome comments on here too.

In terms of the latter issue, this is something I’ve been working on establishing pretty much since I came on board, and certainly I’ve managed to make a handful of personal appearances at events and conferences to talk about the title. However, while these have been quite engaging and effective, they have been a touch Warwick centric. Given our global agenda for Exchanges, short of embarking on a 'Grand World Tour' to promote the title, they’re perhaps not the most cost or time effective promotional approach [3].

Hence, I’m hopeful that through myself and the Board adopting a more systematic approach through reviewing what we’re doing to promote Exchanges, that we’ll be able to answer these two questions more clearly. Naturally, with the added advantage of increasing the title’s visibility among our core audiences further, to everyone’s benefit! Watch this blog for more news as we move into the next phase of bringing the world to Exchange’s door.

[1] And doubtlessly before, but my journey with Exchanges started back in April, so please excuse the slight temporal myopia.

[2] Yes, of which this blog is a facet. So too is our twitter account (@ExchangesIAS), which you really should be following.

[3] Although I stand by my maxims of ‘ABM’ (always be marketing) and ‘Anywhere, any place, any time’, if people do want to hear about Exchanges from me in person. I'll keep the IAS VOTL on standby.


October 03, 2018

Expanding Internationalism & Representation

In recent months there have been a fair few changes with Exchanges’ Editorial Board membership, with some of my seasoned editors departing for pastures new. This has been largely due to exciting new developments arising within their professional careers reducing the time they had available to work with us. While I’m always sad to part with a member of my team, I can’t help but applaud as they move forward to new, exciting and intriguing roles. I can but hope they carry the positive experiences of involvement with our scholarly-led publishing endeavour with them.

Consequently, I’ve been working in the background to recruit and expand on our team of editors. Welcome aboard everyone, I’m looking forward to a long and productive working relationship with you all! Interestingly, my Editorial Board doesn’t just conduct editorial, review and copy editing work. They have an integral role promoting Exchanges as a resource for readers, reviewers and, crucially, potential authors. It’s this latter role which saw me meeting with the delightful Mike Haymes of Warwick’s European Engagement team this morning.

One of Exchanges underlying aims since I took over as Senior Editor, has been to expand our Board to include more members from Warwick’s international partners. For myself and Mike then, this was the crux of our discussions: how we could practically work towards expanding the Board in this manner. The timing of our conversation couldn’t have been more apposite, as Mike’s about to head overseas for various conversations with our partner organisations. Hence, I’m really hopeful that part of these discussions will help open up some dialogues at some of the institutions that don’t yet have representation on our Board between key institutional influencers and myself.

For the journal, this will potentially benefit us in terms of new authors and reviewers, but it will also help us promote the journal to readers who might not as of yet been aware of us. For the new editors, there’s a plethora of benefits, not least of which being the advantage of having an editorial board involvement appearing on their professional CV. This is alongside the experience gained through editing a scholar-led title and the opportunity to expand their professional networks, working alongside the editorial team. On top of this for our partners and Warwick, there’s benefits from establishing further networks of communication, collaboration and collegiality. Who knows what spin-offs, projects or endeavours might emerge from these? I’d argue it’s a win-win-win scenario for everyone!

I look forward to talking more about our expanding Board then, in the coming weeks. Once again, it seems exciting times lie ahead for Exchanges, and the IAS’ scholar-led publication activities.


Peer Review Finalé

The final day of the PLOINA Peer Review Summer School saw me spend most of the day working with the delegates. In the morning I was contributing to a session alongside some other esteemed journal editors, where we each contributed our thoughts on the process of being a reviewer from an editorial standpoint. My session was a development of a talk I’d given earlier this year to some of Warwick’s STEM post-graduate researchers, but it was still fascinating listening to the other talks (from Professor Cath Lambert and Dr Joan Marsh) and hearing their different points of view. Even as an editor, I feel there is still so much to learn about the art and application of peer reviewing, all of which is very much to the benefit to my continuing quest of quality assurance for Exchanges.

After lunch, myself and the hard working event host, Dr Charoula Tzanakou, facilitated a session wherein documents from delegates underwent a live peer review by other attendees. The idea behind this was not only offering a direct benefit to those brave souls willing to contribute their work in progress, but also to cultivate an attitude of constructive but empowering critique from the delegates. Interestingly, one of the lessons which emerged from this session was very much the amount of time and effort that goes into making a constructive peer review critique. It certainly isn’t a trivial exercise, and I hope the delegates were all able to take on board that while it can be a challenging exercise it is also a deeply satisfying one. Satisfying, especially in terms of being exposed to new thought, but also in helping to shape scholarship and assist fellow scholars in the development of their authorial voice.

Over the three days I was in attendance, I was deeply honoured to have been involved in what was clearly a much needed, well-received and valuable summer school. My thanks to Charoula, and Polina Mesinioti, for the invite to participate and their extensive hard-work in organising and hosting this excellent event. That is, if the conversations I had with delegates were anything to base feedback on! I also feel I’ve learned a great deal about peer review myself, and will be spending more than a few minutes looking to apply this increased expertise with Exchanges and our practices. I also hope some of the delegates will consider registering with Exchanges as part of our peer reviewers’ network: it only takes a few moments, and there are so many benefits in terms of enriching your personal scholarship and contributing to developing the scholarly literature.


September 13, 2018

Handle with Care (Peer Review Day 2)

Day two of the PLOTINA Peer Review Summer School was a little more low-key for me. My only role today was to come along and help facilitate discussions during the end of day workshop, where delegates took the chance to review a range of conference abstracts. This was in contrast to the workshop I ran earlier in the year, wherein I got ECRs to look at anonymised paper submissions. I will confess, in the spirit of peer review, I think this afternoon’s workshop lacked a little of the meat of the earlier one. That said, it came at the end of a long day for the delegates, and I suspect it was more than enough for them to get a taste for the challenges of reviewing material. The light touch then, was probably far more digestible than my ‘mind bending’ challenging review.

Tomorrow of course, they’ll have the opportunity to review one another’s work in a little more depth, so I’m sure this taster session will have gotten them thinking about the whole process a bit more practically. I can’t confess that my contribution today was as valuable as yesterday, as the workshop was co-facilitated by a visiting education professor, to whom I must doff my academic cap in acknowledgement of their much greater knowledge in the realm of reviewing abstracts. Hopefully though, the few nuggets of information I chipped in were of value to participants.

I also hope they don’t groan too much when they see me turn up to talk to them again tomorrow – too much of a good thing, perhaps!

I did take away one really interesting thought myself – the idea that reviews should always be written ‘with care’, and consideration of the actual person on the receiving end of the reviewing process. Speaking as someone who’s had his share of acerbic review comments (pre and post publication), I would hope every reviewing academic would remember this maxim. Certainly, it’s an approach we’d strongly advocate to all our peer-reviewers for Exchanges. Critique not criticism, is the order of the day!


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