All entries for October 2020
October 29, 2020
Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/issue/view/30
October 08, 2020
Today we rolled out the annual Exchanges session for the IAS’ Accolade programme, although with being online this year it was slightly different. Last year we had a fantastic  gamified workshop on publishing traumas, and the year before that more of a chalk and talk session. This time, well, the opportunity to host a Reddit style AMA (ask me anything) session seemed ideal. It was discursive, well suited to the online format, allowed for written or spoken questions and best of all, I didn’t need to do too much preparation.
Well, that is aside from ensuring I’d pre-written answers for the three outline questions I’d posed in the event blurb, to ensure we had something with which to kick off discussions. My thanks to my esteemed colleague Dr Sarah Penny for hosting and acting as session chair. Also, my thanks to those research fellows who listened and questioned me for what became a surprisingly fun 30 minutes of chat about the journal and publishing in general . I hope you all got something useful, interesting or at least vaguely entertaining out of the session!
So, reader of the editorial blog, you’re probably wondering what was asked. Well, and I’m slightly paraphrasing, here are the topics we touched upon today.
- ‘Are articles rejected by journal editors when reviewers actually suggested major corrections?’
- ‘Are you approaching people to take part in the podcast or are people approaching you?’
- ‘Do you have any advice for starting out reviewing in journals? [Especially] do you have any tips for overcoming imposter syndrome?’
- ‘Do you prefer outlines [abstracts] before the completed paper [is submitted]’
- ‘I’m interested in if [Exchanges] is interested in new methods to integrate data (rather than findings from research studies’
- ‘I’ve never published before, and it’s nerve wracking’. Can you offer any support to someone like me?’
- ‘What are the three best ways to really annoy an editor?’
- ‘What’s a/your journal impact factor?’
- ‘What’s the deadline for the upcoming issue?’
- ‘Why should I publish in Exchanges?’
As for the answers…ah, you really needed to be there. However, I might pick up on one or more of these themes in future posts and podcast episodes, so maybe I won’t leave you all entirely hanging. Safe to say one or two of the questions above could probably have filled the entire 30 minutes had I given them the full answer.
Will we run this session again? I’d be keen to, and I’m sure we might find time down the line for a later Accolade repeat. Or of course, a royal command performance elsewhere. As readers, and those who know me, are aware, I will talk about Exchanges and scholarly publishing until the cows come home, so I look forward to the next session – whenever or wherever it might be!
 Well, I loved it and really want to run that session again, albeit, slightly reconfigured.
 Not to forget the hirsute Dr Marcos Estrada, one of my two longest serving and most prolific members of the editorial board for his input today too.
October 06, 2020
As I’ve written and talked about previously, one of the least pleasurable tasks within the editor-in-chief’s bailiwick is that of declining author submissions at any point in the editorial cycle. This is foremost within my mind this morning as writing to inform an author their work was not being progressed for publication consideration was essentially the first task I deal with today. One thing I find invaluable to keep at the forefront of my mind when dealing with this unpleasant, but essential, editorial task is the ‘human factor’. That is to say, on the end of my dreaded missive lies another genuine human being, resplendent in all the highs and lows of professional and personal life which creates the lived human experience.
Consequently, what I always find myself thinking as I write to them is that no matter how polite my phrasing and encouraging my words of explanation, there will always be a sting of rejection for someone elsewhere on the planet. No one likes to feel they’ve not made the grade whether it be after an unsuccessful job interview, disastrous date or hearing from a ‘heartless’ academic editor that your work’s not going to appear in their journal. Learning how to cope and handle with being rebuffed in academia is a skill we all have to develop, and from which we can learn, adapt and grow in our professional practice. Believe me when I say I’m speaking from personal experience here!
When considering the person I’m writing to, it’s worth remember while we continue to have many submissions from my own host university , a rapidly increasing proportion of the work Exchanges considers is by individuals I may never meet. This means I’m likely unaware of their individual circumstances and can never be entirely sure if our decline will be a crushing blow or merely just another Tuesday in their academic trajectory. Perhaps editors with more years more experience than myself have learned to harden themselves to a greater degree when scripting these terminatory communications. I’m not sure, and I’m equally hesitant to will myself towards achieving such a lapidarian exterior.
Incidentally, writing to an author I know personally strangely makes the task simultaneously harder and easier at the same time. Harder, because I know exactly who I’ll be disappointed and likely have a clearer idea of the personal circumstances and challenges they’re embroiled within. Easier, because I can write more as a critical friend than a dispassionate if concerned editorial worker.
Part of the reason why I agonise somewhat over the impact of the ‘declined’ email is due to the nature of Exchanges. We are a journal which champions and encourages contributions from first time authors. This means we have authors who might not themselves be used to on the receiving end of a rejection before, and I strongly believe it is our role as a journal to cushion the blow to a moderate degree. I would rather we were perceived as a title which encourages new authors, than dismays them with an offhand or discourteous dismissal.
Additionally, working with first time authors also means at times the submissions we receive may lack sophistication of voice, style and structure. Naturally, not all first-time authors submit weaker work, far from it, as we have been privileged to consider, accept and publish many well-written articles by new academic authors. However, we do continue to have a steady stream of submitted manuscripts where the author has demonstrably yet to make the transition from a ‘student essay’ to ‘scholarly academic’ voice. For some authors, we can explore ways to achieve this transformation during the review and revision cycle. For others though, the weaknesses are sadly so endemic that it is kinder and perhaps more expedient for all concerned to remove them from publication consideration.
In these latter cases, and indeed whenever we decline work, I take it upon myself to not only inform the author of our decision, but to explore with them the steps they could take towards authorial redemption. In this respect I have been delighted over the last couple of years that a handful of authors have taken onboard our comments and feedback, overcome the sting of rejection, and later resubmitted a reworked manuscript. Not all of these resubmissions have been successful in achieving publication, such is the nature of our quality assurance regime.
Nevertheless, that some authors try, reinforces my belief in the importance of how and what we say to authors at the point of decline matters beyond any emotional considerations. It hopefully contributes as well in some small way to enhancing their reflective professional practice and self-critique as they progress towards become accomplished, and hopefully successful, publishing authors.
 Thank you to each and every one of you who has submitted to us, it’s great to keep that ‘Warwick Wow Factor’ appearing in our pages.