All entries for June 2022

June 30, 2022

Reviewer Roundup 2022 – Getting a better dataset

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/FAQ#reviewers

The editor talks about one of those tasks that invariably ends up being tackled during the summer – data clean up!

Some time ago, I went through the database of all our registered reviewers for Exchanges. You see, one key bit of information we ask of each reviewer is to provide is a few keywords covering their areas of expertise as part of their profile creation. In Open Journal System (OJS) parlance this is known as their reviewing interests. Reviewers can update, revise and amend these at any time by logging on to their profile, although I suspect in practice few actively do this unless promoted [1]. When my editors and myself come to look for suitable reviewers to examine a newly submitted manuscript, one of the first things we do is consult this reviewer database. In this way we hope to find someone with matching or closely related reviewing interests; although given the variety and variance in topics we tackle on the journal more often than not we have to do

Sadly, due to the way OJS operates it is entirely possible to create a new reviewer profile without this information being completed. It’s a technical oversight I’ve long hoped might be fixed, but for now it means over time as our database of reviewers swells, some will be running with incomplete profiles. Technically functional, but lacking that crucial interest information we need! Even more frustratingly as editor, there’s no easy way for me to press a couple of buttons and locate all the reviewing accounts which lack this information [2]. Which is why once again I’m deeply grateful to resident ITS OJS Guru Rob T for managing to capture it for me.

As last time there were quite a lot of accounts lacking this information, albeit not quite so many. I’m hoping that represents the improvement in the dataset from when I last ran this exercise. So, as of a few minutes ago I’ve written to all of these reviewers asking if they could take a couple of minutes to provide this missing, vital information. It’ll not only make our lives easier, but will also help ensure we’re more likely to ask reviewers to consider papers which correspond closely to their research and professional expertise.

There’s also been a couple of knock-on benefits from this process, alongside hopefully a better reviewer dataset [3]. Firstly, in offering instructions on how to update this information in the mailshot, I noticed the guide we provide on our FAQ was slightly outdated by the most recent system update. So, that’s now be rectified and clarified. Secondly, ever since I ran the mail merge to send out the messages my laptop has kept pinging every 30 seconds for quite a while. This is mostly bounce back messages from dead, defunct and otherwise formerly functional email accounts. Which means one of my follow up tasks will be to go through these ‘dead’ accounts and inactivate them as reviewers, so we don’t keep fruitlessly messaging them [4].

The end result though – hopefully – a tranche of improved reviewer data, some elderly accounts pruned and a better working experience for everyone involved! I can see I might try and make this an annual event at the start of each summer! Check back in June/July 2023 to see if I do…

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[1] I could be wildly wrong of course; this is only an assumption. But I know personally how rarely I update profile information about myself on any system unless something or someone prompts me to do so.

[2] The management information on OJS HAS improved in leaps and bounds, but it is still years behind where it should be. This isn’t a problem for us to resolve easily, as it relies on the open-source developer community to recognise that editors using OJS, NEED a whole lot more, better and more intuitive ways to query the data held by the system.

[3] I suspect I’ll also be dealing with a smattering of emails from academics asking me to delete/deactivate their accounts (it happened last time) too. Not sure this classes as a benefit though.

[4] An additional frustration with OJS is it doesn’t inform me when I send system emails which accounts are bouncing. I believe the WUP chief and tech sees these messages, but I’ve never been able to. Hence, this is one of the few times when I can really discover which OJS profiles on Exchanges are now effectively defunct.



June 22, 2022

Podcast: Chatting with https://open.spotify.com/episode/6HHuETdXCalvt1yz0zOMA2?si=Ik5OAv–nTQ–jmy8VDd

Writing about web page https://anchor.fm/exchangesias/episodes/In-Conversation-with-Francesca-Brunetti-e1k9v63

And we’re back with the second of our two recently recorded episodes of the Exchanges Discourse podcast. This time I’m in conversation with Francesca Brunetti, currently based at the ISI Florence, Italy but shortly moving to an exciting new post. Listen to the episode here:

> In Conversation with Francesca Brunetti

This episode we talk to scholar, artist and past-Exchanges author, Francesca Brunetti (ISI Florence, Italy), about her paper Delicious Bodies, Beautiful Food, Powerful Pleasure, which appeared in the most recent issue of the Exchanges journal (V9.2). Along the way we touch on desire and pleasure, food and sex, and cultural perceptions of the southern Italian women. We also talk about some of Francesca’s work in progress, alongside her advice for new authors too.

The Exchanges Discoursepodcast is available on Anchor.fm, Spotifyand most major podcast platforms.

My thanks to Francesca for coming on and talking with us. Obviously, if you’d like to be featured in a future episode, well the best way to do that is to be a featured author in Exchanges. Find out here how to submit your paper to us!


June 16, 2022

Developing a Monograph Proposal: Early Career Insights

Follow-up to Developing a Monograph Proposal from Exchanges - Editorial Reflections from Warwick's Interdisciplinary Journal


Following the panel discussions around creating a monograph proposal for early career academics, we share some insights which emerged from the speakers.

Last week I ran a session with three very generous panellists [1] talking about their experiences publishing a monograph from an early career perspective. My thanks naturally to all three of them for generously giving up their time to share their thoughts with our Accolade audience. I was very interested to hear what they had to say, since, personally, my first monograph has remained an idea on the back of a piece for far too long! As with previous panel sessions in Accolade, the idea was that questions were driven mainly from the floor – although I had a number of topics which I was keen to explore myself for when the audience prompts slowed down too!

I thought following this event it would be useful to blog a little of the wisdom which emerged. Although, as a mild caveat for what follows, be aware given the contrasts in the scholastic trajectories of the panellist there may be a few contrasting opinions within. And doubtless if we spoke to three more academics, we may find some more.

Getting Started

Give yourself space and time to both develop the proposal and refocus on what it is you really want to say. Don’t leap straight into it right after your viva, but let the ideas percolate for some time. Although one speaker advocated writing a book alongside your PhD (if you’re a glutton for punishment and increased work levels!) as a way to get a first monograph out far faster.

Finding the space and time to develop the proposal and write the book is almost certainly going to be a challenge. Especially if you move into a frantic post-doctoral position, or are on one of various short-term contracts. Ideally, try to identify or carve out a good chunk of time when you can devote to focussing on your proposal and book development. How you do this will depend on your lifestyle and authorial habits though – you might want to timetable yourself once a week, or a few minutes every day. You might want to take a short sabbatical to ‘break the back’ of the work, or participate in a writing retreat instead.

The first steps in getting a proposal up and running are often having informal conversations with a few potential publishers. Some may follow up quickly with a more formal application process, while others will be more laid back and see the conversations as a chance to participate in shaping and developing your proposal to best suit their audiences and business needs. Conferences with publisher stands can be a good way to have a number of these informal conversations quickly. However, don’t be surprised if some publishers ‘ghost’ you eventually, even if early conversations were positive – move on to another, more receptive one instead.

Where Do I Go?

Identifying where to submit is important. Not only are some publishers valued more than others by some institutions, selection panels and accreditation processes, but it also matters in terms of reaching the right audiences. Which is why approaching a publisher who publishes a series of monographs which closely match your field and disciplinary peers can be a good approach to take.

That said, aim to work with a publisher where you can see yourself having a good relationship over a period of time. This is crucial because a monograph IS a long term and very personal project, and you will be dealing with these people and their organisation for an extended period of time. Hence, you might want to ask among your peer networks for advice and experience from those who have already published a book about those publishers and their editorial staff with which they have had more positive working experiences. Although hearing some of the horror stories can also be quite beneficial.

Only submit a formal proposal to one publisher at a time. You can have informal talks, as above, with as many as you like, but once it comes to a proposal you need to be engaging and submitting to one organisation alone. In terms of good and ethical academic practices, this is equivalent to the way in which authors should only submit a particular manuscript to a single journal title at any time. Breaking with these conventions is not advised, as along with tarnishing your professional reputation, you may find yourself souring any future relationships with a publishing house.

One good starting point is to always read the guidance on a prospective publisher’s site about how to go about submitting a proposal with some considerable care. Some publishers may be looking for sample chapters, others might prefer a proposal or outline instead, or indeed anything in between. If you are ready to make that formal approach – give the publisher what they stipulate, otherwise they are unlikely to respond favourably.

Legally speaking, the contracts you will be offered will vary considerably in content and clauses, and even at which point in the process they are signed. Some publishers will want to commit you to working with them sooner, while others may prefer to wait until the book is essentially finished. Do read any contract carefully and be ready to discuss any element of it which is unclear, ambiguous or about which you are less than happy with your potential publisher – BEFORE you sign it. However, remember once you have signed on the line, you will have entered into a legal arrangement. So always take time and care before you take this step to make sure you are entirely happy to what you are committing yourself.

Pitching Proposals & Drafting Chapters

In terms of how you make an attractive proposal, aside from selecting a publisher or series which resonates with your own field of interest, for commercial publishers a lot of it comes down to profit, marketability and sales [2]. They will be looking at your book proposal to see if the finished product has a sufficient marketable value and potential audience who will be interested in buying it. Which means your original pitch or idea might not be the final one which is commissioned, so be prepared to redevelop it.

Like any academic writing, getting samples of other people’s work can help shape yours and fit them to a ‘successful’ formula - although be aware there’s no ‘exact’ perfect proposal. Hence, if you can, do try and get hold of other people’s successful book proposals. There will probably be a lot to learn about how they phrased and shaped their pitch to engage a publisher’s attention and interest. If you can apply some of these lessons in your own proposal, it will likely be easier then to attract interest in your own work.

Conversely, strive to make your voice authentic and representative within your proposal and monograph. Having that ‘authorial voice’ is crucial, not least in demonstrating that you’ve got something interesting and original to say. Always write the proposal and the monograph itself like the book you would want to read yourself. This will help make it more marketable, but also ensures it will more readily find an audience. It also makes it easier to make the pitch about why your work is an essential addition to the published discourse. At the same time, do write with a view towards meeting research assessment goals (e.g. the REF), if you want to be career minded and gain the maximum personal advantage from your work.

Practical Considerations

For those looking to publish beyond the UK, it is important to note that one country’s publishing cultural norms, practices or approaches are not the same as another. Hence, if you are pitching books to publishers outside the UK, or even in non-Anglophone languages, expect the process to vary considerably. For example, despite their geographic closeness even the UK and France’s monograph publication approaches vary to a noticeable degree! Be guided by others who have published internationally, and the advice offered on each publisher’s site.

Monograph endorsements, that is comments or quotes from academics, reviewers or other notable public intellectuals, can be an important thing to have when the book comes towards publication. If you know a significant academic in your field, it may be worth asking them if they’d be prepared to provide some positive text. It will depend on the publisher if they expect authors to find these quotes, or it may be a service they offer. As with all thing, find out when you make your proposal, as you may need to start approaching people long ahead of time – and to make sure they’ve had a chance to read your draft text!

Images are often reproduced in black and white, as it’ll be cheaper for a publisher in terms of producing the physical book. Notably, the quality of the reproduction can be lamentable, even for major publisher, so always check out similar books from them to get an idea for how any images will appear. If high-quality reprographic reproduction of images are especially important for your text, you may need to be more careful in the selection of your publisher, or even consider an online only publisher where colour and reproduction of graphics are less of a cost concern.

Getting permissions for third-party material (images, illustrations, extensive text extracts etc.,) included in your book is important, although some publishers will seek to obtain these permissions for you. However, you may need to be aware there will likely be fees for including some materials, as rights and commercial exploitation of them (which is what a book sold for profit is) means individuals and organisations expect to be compensated in turn. If you, your institution, funder or publisher are unwilling or unable to cover these copyright fees, then you need to be prepared to publish your book without them.

Open Access Books

Finally, and interestingly not something our panellists had much experience in, open access books are becoming increasingly important to scholars. Especially in terms of future research assessment regulations and funder mandates, publishing in open access will increasingly become the norm. The drawback is, for many of the commercial publishers, while they offer open publishing options, they come with ‘book processing charges’ costs to the author/institution in the thousands.[3]

Wow – so much to cover in only an hour. As always if you’ve any thoughts, comments or suggestions relating to this topic, I’d love to hear more from you in the comments below – or drop me a line.

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Endnotes

[1] My thanks to Esther Wright, Aidan Norrie and Clare Siviter!

[2] Coughs loudly and looks at his own work on Autonomous-Marxism and commodification of scholarly discourse. As long-term readers (or anyone who’s spoken to me) will know, I have strong opinions regarding the commercialised distortion of the academic public discourse. I’ll spare you all from re-iterating them but will direct your attention to the following note [3] for publishers who may be more willing to consider a text more on its scholarly merits than what it may do for their balance sheet's bottom line.

[3] Although there are many smaller presses who operate different models – e.g. freemium, patron etc. Hence, publishing open access is possible, without huge fees, but you may need to shop around. Find out more about this on sites like DOAB - https://doabooks.org/ , or have a chat with myself for some recommendations.


June 15, 2022

Team Pluralities Sits Down For a Chat

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/special-issues

A few thoughts stemming from today’s small editorial meeting

Today I hosted my first on campus meeting in well over two years. It’s great to be back on campus for once and to see actual real people in the flesh too [1]. Of course, as all my editors are scattered around the country [2] technically I could have hosted this meeting from my home office, as no one other than myself was here in person. Nevertheless, I will admit, it was a real treat to sit down at my office meeting table for once and conduct a meeting like the pre-COVID days. My home office is nice enough, but it certainly doesn’t have the same ambiance as my campus dwelling.

Today’s meeting was a chance for the associate editors working on the gestating pluralities of translation special issue to catch up along with exchanging advice and offering insight into the progression of their respective manuscripts. Thanks to special issue lead Melissa Pawelski, we were treated to a detailed exploration of reviewer feedback formatting. Given the linguistic scholarship in the meeting (not so much me) we also had a chat about the importance of shaping the affect of feedback through subtle changes in phraseology.

Initial reviewer feedback to authors from Exchanges has always been lightly mediated. This helps ensure clarity and priority of focus and task for authors is paramount. Additionally, through this operational approach we can help ensure any, inadvertently, abrasive statements from reviewers can be modestly ameliorated. ‘Reviewer 2’, we are looking at you here.[3]

It was certainly good to hear that usual issues with locating and recruiting reviewers aside [4], things seem to be progressing well on each of the manuscripts for the issue. We are perhaps still a way from being able to name a publication date - all the papers are currently going through the review phase – but I’m hopeful as we move towards the back end of 2022 a destination date might well come into view.

It was also good to have a chance to interact with some of my editors – it always is frankly – and connect a little more with them as people. Hopefully all the associate editors benefitted from the discussions, and for my own part I certainly came away feeling I’d learned one or two new things about my team too.

My thanks as always to all our reviewing community for their valued contributions to the journal!

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Endnotes

[1] With apologies to my family who are also real, but I have rather seen a lot of them.

[2] And indeed the world, if we consider all of them

[3] There have likely been reviews I’ve written that I suspect I was clearly ‘reviewer 2’ for some authors – sorry!

[4] Pretty much Exchanges SOP for editors.


June 14, 2022

Podcast: Talking with Jon Braddy

Writing about web page https://anchor.fm/exchangesias/episodes/In-Conversation-with-Jon-Braddy-e1jstis

Yes, we're back with an all-new episode of the Exchanges Discourse podcast. It's been a bust few months thanks to bank holidays, the launch of the new issue and working on various special issue projects. Which has meant the podcast took a slightly back-seat for a couple of months. But the good news is, we're back and with a couple of author interviews to start us off again. Hopefully, there's a few more interesting episodes to follow - especially once we launch our next special issue of the journal. More on that in the coming month.

In the meantime, please enjoy my conversation with Jon about everything from the weather, through developing your writing with passion and the idea that publishing CAN and should be fun without diminishing the scholarship.

In Conversation with Jon Braddy (S03E06)

We talk with Jon Braddy, Florida Gulf Coast University, about his paper Utilizing the Octothorpe (#): Schizoanalytic cartographies recognized in War Games, which appeared in the most recent issue of the Exchanges journal (V9.2). Along the way, aside from contrasting the trans-Atlantic weather differences, we look at passion how it can serve to evolve your own academic voice within your writing. We also discuss some areas of mutual challenges for authors and editors of scholarly journals, and reflect on the value and process of peer-review.

The Exchanges Discourse podcast is available on Anchor.fm, Spotify and most major podcast platforms.

Our next episode was recorded this morning, so listen out for it next week.



June 13, 2022

Reviewer Roundup ‘22

Follow-up to Refreshing Exchanges' Reviewer Database from Exchanges - Editorial Reflections from Warwick's Interdisciplinary Journal

Reviewers are a vital part of the Exchanges team - and making sure our records for each of them are up-to-date is just as vital.

Today I’m working on one of those tasks that’s been sitting in my to-do list for sometime: going through all the registered reviewer records to see which ones haven’t added any reviewer interests. Long-time readers will recall I did a similar task a few years ago, and the result was a wave of researchers upgrading their records, albeit alongside some who decided to request we remove their contact details – as is their right.

You would think tools which permit functionality like ‘display all reviewer users’ where ‘researcher interest is a null field’ would be the sort of thing baked into a journal management system like OJS. But, as with so much of the platform’s management information systems it’s not really been as well developed as say the core editorial workflow controls. The most recent update we applied to the platform did – I am pleased to report – provide some much-improved managerial tools that I’ve been pleased to make use of on more than one occasion. It is now possible for example to output a .CSV file containing the names of all users within a certain group. So, I guess from where I’m sitting, we’re halfway there[1].

However, in this file the reviewer interests information is not among the information which can be outputted. This is a shame as a simple Excel function would have enabled me to filter all 700+ registered reviewers down to just those lacking any listed research interests. Which means I had to go to speak to my technical guru in IT Services and crave a boon from them! Thankfully, this the lovely OJS Technical Lead was able to deploy a little back-office Python scripting to quickly draw out exactly the data I needed. Kudos, as on so many occasions, to them. It’s no reflection on them that this obvious functionality is lacking from a editorial user perspective. Maybe I can wish for it to appear in a future update…[2]

Following a little data clean-up - names with non-British characters seem to have been rendered oddly in the output file for one – all that remains now is to prepare my mailshot text and send it out (BCC of course) to all our reviewers via a mail merge. Based on the experience last time, I suspect we’ll have one of three reactions from those were contact:

(1) Email bounceback, indicated a defunct account

(2) A request for us to remove the account

(3) An update to the record made by the user[3]

Option 3 is my desired outcome of course, but I suspect I’ll be dealing with a fair bit of (1) and (2). Users can inactivate, or remove their reviewer registration themselves, but if they ask, I’ll happily adjust their account as requested. For those dead accounts though, I’ll need to go through and check they weren’t actively involved in any recent reviews before, with regrets, removing them from our reviewer’s list.

Hence, if you are one of our reviewers, and you get a message from me this week to update your account details – don’t feel singled out – you’re just one among many we’re asking to help us to help you – and direct the right kind of reviews in your direction!

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Endnotes

[1] Livin’ on a prayer or not

[2] I shall not hold my breath on this one.

[3] If you want to jump the gun and update your details - you'll find instructions here: https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/FAQ#reviewers


June 09, 2022

PlumX, Exchanges and You

Writing about web page https://plumanalytics.com/

Since the start of 2022 the Plum Analytics module (AKA PlumX) has been installed on Exchanges. You might have noticed on each of the articles’ landing pages, below the native download statistics, a new little graphic. If you haven’t noticed – don’t worry, you’re not alone! I only discovered this week that a plug-in to my Chrome browser meant I’d not been seeing these metrics myself – luckily a bit of testing means I now know PlumX is actually working well.

PlumX Example

If you’ve not come across the concept of altmetrics before, they’re loosly classed as alternatives to the traditional bibliometrics (e.g. impact factor and h-index) that many scholars are more familiar instead. They’re intended as, in part, an alternative perspective to these or perhaps compliment to these ‘hard’ metrics, and provide an insight into how and where people are talking about or interacting with publications. As PlumAnalytics, the creator of the app describe it ‘research output[s]…leave “footprints” to show the way back to who is interested in the research and why’.

Hence, for example you’ll find an altmetric app like PlumX tracks things such as social media interactions, online news media or online reference managers which relate to how an article is being used, discussed or referenced in a much more holistic sense than traditional bibliometric factors.

PlumX is one such altmetric system then, which offers authors new ways to see how people are engaging with their research. The widget we have is enabled across the Warwick University Press family of journals, so you should see it on our companion titles too. The PlumX tool draws on dozens of metrics mined from the open Web.

Hence, now you can learn a lot more about how a paper is interesting to other scholars than a simple download metric alone!


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