All entries for May 2018

May 30, 2018

Becoming a Peer Reviewer with Exchanges

I contributed to a very enjoyable seminar and workshop yesterday focussing on becoming a peer reviewer, targeted mainly at Warwick's STEM post-graduate researchers (PGRs). As I've been recently updating and re-formatting the guidance Exchanges gives to our peer reviewer community, it was a rather timely opportunity to talk with some emerging scholars about their own reviewing experiences. Alongside this, it was also a great opportunity to hear from some of my Warwick colleagues who are also involved in other journals’ editorial processes and research funding panel review boards. I’ll blog about my reflections from this part of the event, in a subsequent post.

One thing which came out of the event was a reminder that it’s not always obvious how to register with Exchanges as a potential member of our peer review community. Becoming one of our peer reviewers, is a role where we’re keen to recruit any qualified member of the global Academy willing to participate: from professors down to PGRs, all are welcome. At Exchanges, we often tend to use quite experienced reviewers alongside less experienced ones, which in some respects provides the same nurturing development we offer to emerging and new authors who publish with us. I certainly believe early career researchers (ECRs) and PGRs can often be most discerning and insightful reviewers. Their hunger for knowledge and relative freshness of exposure to aspects of the literature, often give them a keen eye for detail along with an excellent breadth of view. Having been peer reviewed by just such a community of newer scholars myself in recent years, I can certainly report the experience was a positive one; even if they didn’t always see eye-to-eye with me on aspects of my particular paper.

All of which leads me to the question: how does one register as a potential peer reviewer on Exchanges? Well, it’s a simple online process [1], as detailed below.

  1. Firstly, go to: https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/user/register.
  2. Next, fill in your details and click on the Yes, request the Reviewer role option [2].
  3. Then fill in the box which appears with key words of your area of scholarly interest. How you define this interest might be as broad as engineering, biology or cultural studies. Alternatively, you might want to enter a range of (comma-separated) keywords such as nano-scale processes, electrical engineering, materials science.
  4. Then finish off the required information on the form and finally click Register.

Congratulations! You’ve just joined the Exchanges peer reviewer community[3]. When we get papers which are in your potential area, myself or one of my Editorial Board will then get in touch to discuss a potential reviewing assignment. And believe me when I say, we’ll be very grateful for your contribution to maintaining Exchanges’ quality assurance and academic standards.

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[1] You might want to speak to one of my Editorial Board or myself, initially, to get some more background on what the role entails.

[2] Privacy notice: The Editorial Board will only use these personal details to contact you about new publications which you may wish to review for us, or to notify you of journal publication related announcements. We certainly treat any information you provide in confidence and do not share it with other organisations.

[3] Before we use peer reviewers the first time, the Editorial Board will review applicants, to confirm they are scholars. Hence, don’t be surprised if we follow up with you ahead of any reviewing assignments to ask for some verification of your status.


May 21, 2018

Contributor Communications

Communication is at the heart of what Exchanges does, and for the Editors the core tool we use to manage this process effectively and systematically is the Open Journal System (OJS) platform. Now, within this platform there are many automated email templates, which are normally activated, for example, when an article shifts to review or copyediting, or when an editorial decision is made during a submission’s editorial journey. From a Senior Editor’s point of view, there’s a marked advantage in using the platform’s email system too. Every message or reply is associated with its respective submission, creating an audit trail, which allows me to judge how well the editorial process for article is progressing.

One of the things which my Editorial Board made me aware about when I came on-board last month, was how some of the language templates were…well let’s say ‘less than ideal’. I understand more than one of our reader, reviewer and author community have been reportedly been a little taken aback as a result. While it is possible for Editors to adapt and edit the text to create a bespoke message, repeatedly altering templates emails isn’t the most efficient use of their, or my own, time.

I’m unsure how much prior Senior Editors tinkered with these templates, or if many have remained configured as the OJS standard boilerplate outlines which come with the system. Nevertheless, once I started looking more closely at these messages, it didn’t take long for my eyebrows to nearly pop off at times! The language, while arguably perfectly accurate, clearly lacked a sufficient degree of humanity in places. Others could be read as being rather too brusque, for example addressing authors as simply ‘Name’ rather than opening with the politer ‘Dear Name,’.

Details such as these might seem like simple points to agonise over, but a journal runs on the generosity of its authors and reviewers, informed by the effectiveness of our communication and enabled through an unspoken contract mutual professional respect. Hence, at the very least, my Editorial Board and I should ensure our default communication instruments address our contributors appropriately.

Hence, last week I started working through a process of reviewing and revising all of the 59 template emails our OJS system utilises. I’m, perhaps understandably, firstly concentrating on revising those we send out the most often, so my apologies to our reader community if you keep receiving some less than perfect mailshots from the system for the time being. I am working on it, and always welcome any feedback or suggestions as to where they might be made even better. Hopefully, the end point will be mildly enhanced set of communications, and a more satisfied reader community.

New Name

Incidentally, following on from my last entry, it’s been agreed by my Editorial Board to make the change to the journal’s name. Henceforth, from Vol5(2), we’ll officially be shifting the full title to Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Research Journal. I’m in the process of updating the various online mentions of the title, so you might see a mix for a few weeks until I’ve tracked them down. I hope you like our new name, and agree with me that it far better reflects the titles’ scholastic mission.


May 09, 2018

Rebranding Exchanges for a New Era

Names are always important. They clarify purpose, demonstrate intent and provide almost imperceptible social cues for readers. Two names in particular are occupying my thoughts today. The first applies to my dedicated assistant editors, who labour behind the scenes on Exchanges managing the quality assurance and copyediting processes. A fine body of scholars, who I’ve noticed are variously referred to as Exchanges ‘Editorial Team’ or ‘Editorial Board’. The former implies a more operational function. The latter meanwhile, confers a greater professional gravitas while reflecting the value their input and insight provides to Exchanges’ development as a serious, international, interdisciplinary journal of ECR research. This means, I’m schooling myself to use the latter as the default option, which means I’ll be updating all our supporting information in the coming weeks to reflect this shift.

Secondly there’s the name of the journal itself, or more acutely its subtitle. ‘The Warwick Research Journal’. If Exchanges only published research from IAS Fellows, and other Warwick researchers, then perhaps this name might still be suitable. Certainly, when Exchanges launched in 2013, this provided an encapsulation of how the journal operated and sourced its articles. However, today we’re increasingly publishing articles from researchers from a broader geographic region, within the UK but also internationally. This increased internationalisation and diversity of our authors can only be a good thing in terms of building up Exchanges prestige, and in turn, the value of publishing in Exchanges for authors. Consequently, this should also help enhance the diversity, scope and quality of articles submitted to us in the future.

This internationalisation agenda is operating behind the scenes too, as myself and the IAS Director, are looking to recruit more editors from Warwick’s global partner institutions. We already have two excellent Editorial Board members working with us from Monash University, Australia. They’ve made some great contributions to operations, along with encouraging colleagues to consider submitting to or participating in peer review processes for Exchanges. As with all my editors, the journal is enriched by their contributions.

All of which considerations lead me to the conclusion that the ‘Warwick’ part of the journal’s name increasingly doesn’t reflect the title’s full scope and direction, as much as it did in its early days. Hence, to reflect this growth and evolution of the journal, what I’m considering at the moment is shifting its name to something along the lines of “Exchanges: Journal of Interdisciplinary Research” (possibly with or without ‘the’ in front of ‘journal’). As a title I believe it projects a better statement of what the journal is about, and the kinds of articles we’d hope to host and hence our perception by potential authors and readers. It also doesn’t alter the strong brand associated with the core name, ‘Exchanges’.

While for now nothing is set in stone, Exchanges continues to grow and develop. Thus, I’d argue its name needs to do the same, as it moves forward into its next five years of exploration, revelation and discovery.


May 02, 2018

Future Formats, Distillation or Dilation?


An interesting conversation this morning with one of my IAS colleagues about the future of academic publishing. As an ethnographer of scholarly communications, it is always most enlightening to hear about the ontological drivers underlying a fellow researcher’s publication praxis. It was particularly edifying to witness, again, a dedication to the pursuit of human knowledge for the betterment of society. Certainly a driver such as this, in an age of neoliberal marketization and corporatisation of the Academy, might be constructed as diminishing within the research community. Yet, I say again, because during my own research, this remains an oft expressed motivational imperative behind many academics’ endeavours.

That aside, one topic we chatted about for a while, concerned the future formats of research publication. Running Exchanges, as I do, we’ve followed to date very much a traditional, if entirely diamond (or radical, if you prefer) open access publication model. We have word limits, we rely largely on the printed word and we’ve not routinely incorporated research artefacts or data within our outputs. Nevertheless, for many researchers, especially in the arts and humanities, such prosaic distillations of their work and discoveries might at best be considered considerably reductionist, or at worst represent a barrier between communicating their meaning to society-at-large.

Is there an alternative? Are there forms of research outputs which could be captured, exposed to appropriate quality assurance and review processes, and thence shared with the world? Almost certainly, although technically and indeed procedural, how a title such as ours might go about achieving represents a considerable challenge I’ll be grappling with and exploring over the coming months in this post. Certainly, while Exchanges does contain some wonderfully written articles across a spectrum of inter-disciplinarily, my hope for the future is that it can achieve some measure of evolutionary, and even experimental, work in sharing new forms of media and research outputs.

For now, these are thoughts in my head and many discussions lie ahead of me with other scholars and practitioners within the scholarly publication field. Yet, I remain heartened in my efforts that despite intrinsically capital-enmeshed metric drivers of publishing praxis, like REF2021, scholars continue to embrace an ideological embrace of the societal value of their research. One more reason, I would argue, for the continued reclamation of publishing agency by scholar-led entities such as Exchanges.


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