All entries for June 2018

June 28, 2018

Radicalising OA: Initial Post–Conference Thoughts

Writing about web page

Theatre signThis week I attend the 2nd Radical Open Access (OA) Conference: The Ethics of Care (#radicalOA2), hosted by The Post Office (no, not that one) at Coventry University [1]. I was a little surprised to discover this was only the second radical OA conference, as I had attended the previous one a few years earlier during my PhD journey. I had rather assumed I’d missed a few in-between events during, but turns out I hadn’t, which was to my considerable delight. I was attending in part to support my ongoing research interests in the open academic publishing field; alongside seeking inspiration, insight and stimulation as an editor. In both these respects the conference delivered.

As with all good conferences, I made and renewed acquaintances with valuable peers, alongside being able to remind myself I’m not the only one railing at inequities within legacy and open access publishing environs [2]. It was also refreshing to be reminded how much I still don’t know about this evolving field and how much there is to understand, alongside uncovering some great practice and theory around OA along the way. I have the slight advantage that I came to OA as a practitioner first and a researcher second, and continue to have a foot in both camps. It certainly helps to have my more pragmatic, workaday instincts talking to me, alongside my idealist and ideological ones, when decoding and reflecting on what was discussed.

That said, I’m still in a process of post-conference reflection. There was so much good stuff packed into the two days, I suspect it will be a while before I fully process this into an enriched understanding of the discussions. One advantage which will help with these intellectual processes, alongside my own copious notes and extensive tweeting via personal and professional avatars, were the session pamphlets published alongside the conference. These were available for purchase during the event, but naturally are also freely available on the web. I’ll be going back over these pamphlets with some not inconsiderable interest over the next few days, along with following up on more than one of the articles and texts speakers recommended.

Key takeaways were many, but the few which really resonate in my memory are:

  • The terminology ‘predatory publishing’ is increasingly considered either weasel words, pejorative or quite simply loaded with culturally intolerable semantics. The impact of some ‘predatory OA’ tools in diminishing non-global north or non-Anglophone OA publishing and research discourse, is a lamentable outcome. Terming them trash or fake journals seemed more acceptable labelling.
  • The intertwined abuse of ‘authoritative’ metrics and trash titles, was an utter eye opener. I’ve never been a fan of metrics [3], but the conference has introduced me to a greater conceptual lexicon and rationale for their inadequacy as proxy measures.
  • Exciting, non-linear, multi-media and iteratively quality assured publications are a possibility (although there’s considerable work ‘under the hood’ required to make a ‘definitive’ output, where one is desired).
  • Skype presentations can broaden your speaker geographic reach while making limited demands on travel budgets and individual time. However, as an approach it diminishes the opportunity to engage with the speakers informally for delegates. And the less said about the technical risks of degraded audio-visual playback the better.
  • I still am no clearer what the term ‘poethics’ actually means after 90 minutes of discussions! [4]

    Once I’ve been back over my notes, I’ll attempt to draw together some deeper conclusions on how all of this ‘radical’ discourse might have some direct and concrete implications on how/why/where we take Exchanges over the coming years. As always, watch this space as I continue to explore our own corner of the scholar-led OA publishing field.


    [1] In what was the hottest location I’ve been to in this country for some time. 27C outside, was a refreshing change from the interior temperature. However, the food was excellent and the conference content well worth enduring the slight discomfort.

    [2] I talked a bit about the ‘subversion of OA by the neoliberalised university’ in my thesis.

    [3] To the degree that I once talked myself out of a promising post during the interview when asked my opinion on the measurement of academic esteem.

    [4] File this alongside my derth of comprehension on hermeneutics, structuralism and phenomenology

    June 21, 2018

    Developing Audiences

    PGR ShowcaseI spent most of yesterday attending the Post-Graduate Researcher Showcase event, not particularly to view posters or hear about research, but rather to try and raise Exchanges profile as a publication destination. I had a few interesting conversations, but I remain in two minds about whether the event provided an appropriate ROI from my attendance. Doubtless, time will tell if we have any submissions from attendees, although given the increasing decoupling of Exchanges from the ‘Warwick’ brand, appealing for local author submissions represents an arguable retrograde step for engaging with our audiences. The free lunch was very nice though, and I was quite flattered to be invited in the first place.

    That said, time away from my computer with only a pen and paper to hand, gave me an opportunity to do some reflecting about Exchanges’ audience [1]. I’ve been thinking our audience and readership pretty much from before I started working on the journal, and I’ll confess some recent conversations I’ve had, have very much brought this into focus. Partly, my current thinking stems from a very interesting conversation I had on Monday night with my former PhD Director of Studies [2], but discussions with some of the PGR showcase delegates have also contributed. Guess it was worth me being there!

    During my talk with my ex-Director, I explained about Exchanges, what the journal has been, how it came about, the behind the scenes operations, along with the kinds of articles we publish, topped off with a broad brush overview of our mission and intent. His first reaction, after one of his characteristically long, inscrutable silences, was to ask:

    But who would read a journal like that?

    I think it is a fair point, well made. Many scholars have an observable tendency to read the same journals on a regular basis, often those which they themselves and their recognised peers publish in. True, they will go off-piste as the result of, say, a literature search, automated alert or following a conference interaction, but their intellectual grazing habitus [3] tends to be conservative in construction. Certainly, in my own earlier research, this conservatism was a recognisable trait, with respect to adoption of open-access praxis and journal interaction [4]. Indeed, likely where scholars do seek out other papers, chances are they go directly to their item of interest (article level access) and are less likely to consume or even be aware of the rest of that issue’s articles (journal level access) [5]. Moreover, given Exchanges is an explicitly interdisciplinary title, and scholars arguably less concerned with reading papers outside their field, a consideration emerges that in terms of developing a greater audience for the title, Exchanges faces an uphill battle.

    All of which brings my back to my colleague’s question, which I’d expand from considerations of only ‘readers’ to include ‘contributors’ as authors or reviewers alike. Yes, Exchanges has survived for 5 commendable years within a publication field which continues to proliferate new journals, and markedly many similarly scholar-led titles. I’m intellectually opposed to considering publishing as a ‘marketplace’ construct, as this represents a concept too besmirched by the ideological baggage of capitalism. That aside, objective pragmatism still suggests the title operates within a non-fiscally constructed competitive environment. Within such an environment, and when accounting for our growth aspirations, our accrued intellectual esteem capital and ECR targeted USP may not be sufficiently attractive to continue operating in our traditional mode.

    Simply put, we have no extant privilege or authority to expect contributors and readers to come to us. And a journal with no audience, no readers or contributors, quite simply represents an untenable scholarly endeavour.

    You can, perhaps, begin to see now why the question of audience is one which concerns me as Exchanges’ Editor-in-Chief. I believe there is work to be done, both from exploring what the literature can tell us about developing a journal’s niche, but also in understanding who our audiences might be. I suspect the audience, such as it is for Exchanges today, is not the sole community whom we’d ideally embrace moving into the future.

    Thus, in answering these conundrums, there are questions which our prior audiences can help answer, alongside explorations of potential or aspirational future scholarly reader and contributor communities too. I strongly suspect there are also linked topics to examine concerning the knotty questions of metrics and impact, which clearly resonate with questions around readership and contributor audiences. I would hope there are some exciting revelations which may emerge from this effort, and hence it’s a task I’ll be working on for the coming few months alongside the production of the future issues.


    [1] It also provided some time to work on some data protection planning as well, but I’m not sure the readers of this blog would be that thrilled by that segment of thought.

    [2] We were supposedly planning our next paper and also a conference presentation for later this year.

    [3] Bourdieu, P., 1993. The Field of Cultural Production. Cambridge: Polity Press

    [4] See Chapter 7: Johnson, G.J., 2017. Through struggle and indifference: the UK academy's engagement with the open intellectual commons. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

    [5] Anecdotal, perhaps, but I’m making this assumption, based on two decades of observations from working with scholars and research students within academic support roles, and my own research interactions.

    June 19, 2018

    Call for Papers: Spring 2019

    Writing about web page

    Following the latest issue’s recent launch, the Editorial Board for Exchanges is delighted to introduce our next call for papers. For the spring 2019 issue we’re looking for submissions from across the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities which address the intertwined topics of division and unification. You can read all about what we’re looking for in the official call notification.

    I suspect there’s a lot of healthy debate and discourse around one or both of these twin topics within every discipline, and I really look forward to reading the submissions from authors choosing to tackle them.

    Naturally, alongside these we warmly welcome non-themed submissions as well - so if you were looking to address a completely unrelated area of research, then do please consider us as a potential destination for your papers.

    June 14, 2018

    Exchanges: The Motion Picture

    A few weeks ago, I was approached by a fellow scholar over in Warwick’s School of Law, who was running a conference on Plant Variety Protection. Now, while I have considerable knowledge in the field of IP, I confess the biological side of things is not one of my strengths. Thankfully what they were enquiring about, was whether I’d like to come along to the conference and speak for a few minutes to the delegates about Exchanges and what we do as a research publication. Naturally, because I will always jump at the chance to speak to people about scholar-led publishing, this was a fabulous opportunity which I was very keen to attend. That is, until I checked my calendar and found I had an unskippable day-long conference planning meeting in Birmingham wearing my Mercian Collaboration hat the very same day.

    Having sent my regretful apologies and an offer of some printed literature, it was at that point my delightful colleague suggested if I couldn’t be present, would I perhaps like to send a video along about Exchanges for their delegates. Notably, there had been a video about Exchanges produced in the very early days, which had remained on the front of the IAS’s Exchanges page since then. To be fair, while clearly well intended at the time, today it was pretty outdated content, and certainly not something I wanted to reuse in 2018. I’ll confess one of the first things I did when I took over the running of the title was to take the video link down, as part of my initial re-write of the pages.

    Hence, this approach proved to be the spur to action I needed! Having more than a decade long heritage of producing videos, podcasts and audio-plays in my professional and personal life, audio-visual media isn’t a medium I’m unfamiliar with producing. Moreover, I’ve also been having some initial discussions within the IAS (Institute for Advanced Study) about how we could incorporate, explore or exploit visual media in some way under the Exchanges banner. Very early days at the moment on this initiate, so I can’t as of yet go into more details, but as and when, I’ll talk about it more here. Consequently, producing a brief video about Exchanges would provide a handy proof of concept for our plans, along with providing a useful additional promotional tool.

    With any luck the video will have had its world-premiere today to a (hopefully) engaged audience, and I’ll be adding it to the IAS Exchanges pages next week. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give my loyal blog reading audience a sneaky preview. So, here it is, the snappily titled Exchanges Promotional Video Summer 2018. As always, I’d be interested in your thoughts about this, and how video can be used within a quality assured research dissemination environment.

    June 08, 2018

    Exchanges Vol 5(2) is here!

    Writing about web page

    I’m delighted to announce the (slightly delayed) launch of the newest issue of the Exchanges journal. The cause of delay has been (mostly) down to your friendly neighbourhood Senior Editor getting to grips with the systems, workflows and people who contribute to making Exchanges into a reality. That, and of course getting our authors, editors and reviewers all to the right point in our production and quality assurance processes, where I felt confident enough there was sufficient quality material to publish. The learning curve at times has been somewhat steeper than I expected, but yes, there is a sense of minor personal satisfaction rolling the issue out. Now comes the promotional side of things, as I work towards raising awareness of the new issue across our readership old and new.

    Exchanges Vol5-2 cover

    As getting this issue live has filled the majority of my work-time thoughts for the past couple of months, it’s a refreshing point to have reached, as for the first time since I started working on the title, I feel I can sit back for a few moments and reflect. Naturally, next comes the pre-production on the next issue, although it is fair to say in many cases this is already more advanced than the material was when I came on board in mid-April. There’s also now the big advantage of having personally gone through the publication and production process once, and consequently amassing a much deeper understanding of how we ‘make’ Exchanges on a practical level.

    Not that myself and the Editorial Board are about to rest on our laurels. Far from it! Now I’ve put the issue to bed, alongside tackling the revision of our authorial guidance and support, I’m rather hoping to be able to dedicate some more time and thought to thinking. Thinking, that is, about some of the more experimental and evolutionary elements of what we could do with Exchanges: both as a journal title and an intellectual brand. As always, I’ll be discussing elements of these thoughts in these very blog pages.

    June 2018

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