All entries for April 2020

April 30, 2020

Spring Issue Pushed Back to Summer

This is the post I didn't want to have to write.

Normally, the end of April along with heralding a season of better weather, also brings with it the new issue of Exchanges. However, with the challenging current working conditions for scholars around the globe, as I feared, this is not going to come to pass.

Right now many of our editors, reviewers and authors are working in environments which are far from ideal for academic productivity dealing with: caring responsibilities, home schooling, health challenges and the general background anxiety of the current world order. Understandably, this has impacted on the journal, as we’ve seen a concomitant slowdown in authorial and editorial work for Exchanges. As I posted a few weeks earlier we can only be sympathetic to our colleagues in these difficult times, and seek to accommodate them as best we can.

Practically though, what this means for the journal has been a general reduction in the rate of throughput to publication for many papers currently under review or copyediting. My Board and myself are doing all we can, as much as is possible for us all, to keep things moving and on track. Nevertheless, we remain deeply appreciative to every one of our contributors who have been engaging and responding to our requests over the past few months.

As things stand, we have a few articles ready for publication. However, we haven’t yet met our minimum threshold for publishing an issue, and currently our platform won’t accommodate publishing a partial issue to my satisfaction. As such, after discussion with the Editorial Board, we’ve agreed to push back publication of the next journal issue to the early summer. Hopefully in a month or two we should be able to bring you another vibrant issue of original thought and insight.

In the meanwhile though, I’ve been excited this week as some scholars have taken the lock-down time to produce some new manuscripts for us to consider. Exchanges has received three new submissions this week alone, and I am delighted to be in the process of editorial review with them today. I look forward to receiving many more manuscripts to consider over the coming weeks, as we remain open throughout the year for submissions from every discipline.

In closing then, to our whole reader and contributor community, let me say ‘thank you’ once again for continuing to work with us. We hope you’ll be seeing something fresh and exciting from us in the very near future.


April 28, 2020

New Fellows, New Reviewers

Last week we welcomed the latest group of early career fellows (ECFs) to the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), the fifth cohort to arrive since I joined the IAS myself. Naturally, with the current lock-down when I say ‘welcomed’ and ‘meet’, I am referring to a more virtualised engagement than we would normally enjoy, which limited the usual chance for informal discussions. As always, our ECFs seem an interesting and varied group, and I hope they get a lot of benefit from their time engaging with the IAS and their interactions with each other. I hope they also enjoyed the video presentation I prepared, explaining more about the Exchanges journal.

One of the things I usually stress to our new fellows in person when they come on board, is how they can contribute to Exchanges. While occasionally we have vacancies on the Editorial Board, principally we always encourage them to write for the journal: be it a peer-reviewed piece, an interview or a critical review; all contributions are warmly welcomed. Although, like every other contribution they will undergo significant scrutinization before we consider accepting them for publication - we do have a quality bar which has to be met, after all.

Unsurprisingly, given the track record of previous ECFs to progress their careers rapidly, many of them find contributing an article to our journal isn’t something for which they can always find sufficient time. However, many of them do take the opportunity to register as a potential reviewer with Exchanges. This pleases me immesely, because as an interdisciplinary journal we receive such a broad range of potential papers we need to ensure our reviewers’ database contains a similar varied range of scholars. I’ve discussed previously about how much we value our reviewers’ contributions, and that’s something which hasn’t changed. It’s also a great contribution from our fellows, as Exchanges was created as an offshoot of our ECF programme, and I’m keen to keep the links between the two healthy and active.

Who can review?

In terms of whom makes a suitable reviewer, we normally welcome early career and established researchers and scholars to register as reviewers. You don’t need to be from Warwick, and in fact, our reviewer community today is more globalised than ever, a diversity of voice which I’m keen to continue expanding upon. Certainly, we would especially welcome scholars from South America and Africa as new reviewers, as they are currently underrepresented in our database.

Registering as a reviewer

Hence, if you would like to become part of our community and potentially contribute to our journal in a small but vital way, then register today. Practically speaking, registering as a reviewer only takes a few moments

>Go to https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/user/register and complete the online form, noting on the second screen your wish to be added to our reviewers' register.

>Make sure you include your reviewing Interests as keywords and phrases, and ideally provide a short biography; as this helps our editors spot the right people to call on.

>Plus, if you're already registered (as a reader or author) with Exchanges, you can register as a potential reviewer by loging in and edting your profile.

Registered reviewers can update, edit or remove your reviewing account at any time online, or via contacting the Editor-in-Chief. If your main email changes especially, say due to a new job, this is important as we like to keep in touch with people for years to come as they develop their careers. I should add, reviewer profile information is never displayed publicly, and we use it solely to identify suitable people as peer-reviewers and to communicate with them about this.


April 07, 2020

Turnitin and the Delights of Locating Student Papers

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/about/journal-policies

Let’s talk about one of the earliest steps in the editorial journal of a submitted manuscript to our journal. One of the very first things we do for manuscripts submitted to Exchanges is to run them through Turnitin. This tool primarily provides us with an outline check to see if the script has been published elsewhere previously, which alongside breaching the Inglefinger originality rule [1], would also likely contravene another publisher’s legal rights and is to be avoiding. Moreover, it also lets us spot where an author might be running the risk of breaching good scholarly guidelines on the reproduction of someone else’s work as their own. The more closely the text matches with previously disseminated work, the higher the percentage score Turnitin ascribes. It’s not a perfect system, and you cannot rely on the score alone, but it is a very valuable tool for the scholarly editor [2].

Most papers pass through with a fairly low score, although commonly used references within a field can sometimes boost a perfectly legitimate paper’s percentage score by a few points. A handful of submissions though score big, and it’s at this point that I have to do some more investigation. Thankfully, to date under my editorship we’ve not (yet) had any manuscripts which have been clear plagiaristic efforts. Nevertheless, it remains something myself, my editors and reviewers do have to keep a constant, watchful eye out for as part of our quality scrutineering activities.

Some submitted works score highly because they’re making use of attributed quotes, which because they’re taken from or have appeared in prior works are flagged up for attention. A lot of my own published scholarship falls into this category, and I’m acutely aware this means my work would be highlighted in this way. Naturally, provided authors have clearly cited the original work, blocking it out from the main text for long quotes as appropriate, after I’ve read through the Turnitin detailed report, there’s usually little to prevent us from progressing the material towards peer review.

Well, that is, of course if it passes through editorial scrutiny in terms of essential quality. Sending very poor-quality materials to peer reviewers tends to irritate scholars; much as I’d prefer to send everything to review.

However, some submissions don’t use quotations and still shine brightly with very high Turnitin percentages, with the highest I’ve seen scoring 99%! Thankfully, in my experience these high scoring submissions (the 99%er included) tend to be work based on non-formally published student work. For example, essays, thesis or dissertation chapters and even conference talks can commonly cause Turnitin to sound the alert. Like most journals, our policy is ‘Accepted manuscripts will be published on the understanding that they are an original and previously unpublished piece of work’ [3], which we take to mean ‘has not appeared in another published journal or collection’. Where items might have had an earlier digital public existence, like a blog post for example, we expect authors to notify us on submission and we do include a caveat if published to direct readers to the earlier work.

Unlike published papers or blogs though, Turnitin doesn’t have permission to share the text of any identified student papers with us, which creates a state of initial uncertainty as to the author of the prior work. Naturally, if the author is repurposing their own earlier institutionally submitted coursework, this is usually not going to be a problem. We don’t consider student essays for example to be ‘prior publications’ However, we do need to check in case a different person is seeking to pass off someone else’s work as their own.

This is where the ability to request permission to view the matching student work via Turnitin is a valuable additional tool. It helps in identifying if the submitting author, and the student paper author, are one and the same. I only need to use it a few times each year, but it is so helpful when fellow scholars reply and share a requested paper. What has been a relief, is to date, every time I have received access to the student paper, the authors have been perfectly aligned. Great to see people taking good quality work they’ve developed for assessment and converting it into a paper, although by the time it’s passed through review and revision the finally disseminated work will likely be a fair bit more developed.

So, a tip of my hat to all those scholars around the world who’ve responded to my requests, you make my life as an editor and the progress towards publication of your former students an easier one.

---

References

[1] Relman, A.S., 1981. The Inglefinger Rule. N Engl J Med, 305, pp. 824-826. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM198110013051408

[2] Turnitin, 2013, 15 Misconceptions About Turnitin. 23 May. https://www.turnitin.com/blog/top-15-misconceptions-about-turnitin

[3] Exchanges, 2020. Journal Policies. https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/about/journal-policies


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