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October 06, 2020

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Declining Manuscripts

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 [1], 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.

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[1] 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.


August 06, 2020

Forthcoming Attractions in 2020/21

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

I thought it would be worth discussing, publicly, where we are with Exchanges, in terms of future journal issues. Those of you who read my editorial in the most recent, and slightly delayed, issue will be aware the pandemic has had some unavoidable impacts on our planned timescales. Hence, I thought rather than leaving this information on a spreadsheet on my machine, it’d be a healthy and productive to share with the wider community.

Oct/Nov 2020 (Issue 8.1): The next issue of Exchanges would normally be published in October. I would dearly like us to continue this tradition, especially following the delayed spring 2020 volume. Naturally, a lot depends on how many articles we have ready by this date. I am hopeful that as scholars have become more acclimatised globally to working under these current difficult conditions, our contributors and editors alike will be more able to deliver in a timely manner. It is notable we’ve already one article ready for publication, and I believe a second one will be ready in the next week or so. This is a significant improvement on where we were at a similar stage for the Spring 2020 issue and suggests we may be able to hit the deadline this time. Naturally, things may yet slow down again with the summer ‘break’ and new academic year affecting academic available writing time, alongside the ongoing pandemic conditions. Nevertheless, I would hope we would see a new issue produced by the end of November at the very latest with how things are progressing currently.

Jan 2021 (Special Issue 8.2: Climate Fiction): If there was one future issue whose production has the been most impacted by lockdown: it is our forthcoming CliFi issue. My associate and full editors have been working diligently behind the scenes, but we’ve hit a number of reviewer and author snags due to the global situation. We had initially targeted September 2020 for this volume to see publication, While there are a handful of papers ready, or close to it, there is as of yet an insufficient corpus of them to call an issue or indeed to make a 100% confident prediction on that issue’s publication date. I have to admit we have lost a couple of manuscripts under consideration for this issue, due to the authors’ personal circumstances requiring them to withdraw their participation. I cannot begin to describe how sympathetic we are to these authors, and wish them every future success, and perhaps a resubmission with us down the line. Nevertheless, for the editorial team members who’ve laboured over these papers, this has been a somewhat disheartening experience. Consequently, after talking it over with the special issue lead, we’ve agreed, with considerable regret, to push this issue’s anticipated publication date back to a likely January 2021 date. Hopefully, this means we will be able to bring together a great issue in the vein [1] of the cannibalism issue at that point.

April 2021 (Issue 8.3): Assuming we keep getting manuscript submissions arriving and passing through review at close to the same rate as normal [2], I would anticipate a regular issue of Exchanges should appear around this time. Naturally, with the pandemic and its devastating disruptive impacts, nothing is certain. All the same, this is the goal line towards which the whole editorial team is working towards.

May 2021 (Special Issue 8.4: Then & Now): This is point at which my prognosticative powers begin to fail. We have commissioned a special issue, in collaboration with Warwick’s Faculty of Art to appear in the first half of 2021 we hope. If the Fates smile upon ourselves and the contributing authors, this might even be an issue which appear sooner than expected. That is, if all the papers are submitted in the timely fashion myself and the special issue leads are hoping. Additionally, given our assumption many of the papers for this issue will need to undergo editorial rather than peer review, this could speed publication processes up considerably. At this stage though, we are still at the stage where we’re talking with potential authors about their submissions, and while I’ve seen a few outlines, I’ve yet to see a single paper even close to a first draft yet. Hence, I can’t make too many exact predictions for now. I am however, acutely aware that I personally need around a month between each new issue coming out to ensure I have sufficient time to deliver on my own editorial due diligence on each new volume’s content. Hence, there may need to be some gentle massaging of the timeline to ensure this and the proceeding expected volume don’t collide.

June/July 2021 (Special Issue 8.5: Lonely Nerds): Like the Then & Now volume, this is at a very early stage, although unlike that volume we went with an open call for abstract contributions. After this closed, the special issue leads selected the best submissions, and hence we’ve commissioned the authors who will be writing for this issue already. Excitingly we had TOO MANY potential submissions to include in this volume, which is a unique position for Exchanges. Unlike the preceding volume, the articles for this issue are largely expected to all be peer reviewed pieces, which means there’s going to be a longer editorial process before they’re publication ready. Although, hopes are high after examining the quality of the submitted abstracts, that we’ll be overseeing the editing of some very exciting, well written and impactful contributions to this special issue. Naturally, once I have the actual draft submitted manuscripts to hand towards the end of 2020, I’ll be ready with a keener idea on the likely issue publication date.

October 2021 (Issue 9.1): Right now, next October might only be 14 months away(!), but it feels like the far, far future, after everything 2020’s thrown at everyone [3]. Hopefully, we will all still be here to welcome in the 9th volume of Exchanges with this regularly scheduled issue. Currently, there aren’t any special issues planned beyond this point, so things might get a little quieter for a while as we return to our ‘regular’ schedule. But after two years of special issues…I’m not quite sure what that’ll look like.

There you have it - a potted guide to the next year and a half of planned publication for Exchanges, as things stand here from the ramparts of mid-summer 2020. Given the speed with which society has changed this year, and the uncertain impacts from that and other events on the higher education sector [4], nothing here is written in stone. Now though, at least you might be able to appreciate where our publication ambitions are leaning towards in the medium term.

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[1] No pun intended. #SorryNotSorry.

[2] An assumption which might be foolish to make under the current circumstances but then there’s no other data I have to draw on. August is normally the quietest month for us in terms of new papers, as people take well-deserved summer breaks, so I’ll have a clearer idea in about 8 weeks on this.

[3] So far. There are still 5 months to go of this year, and so many known (and likely many unknown) global and national events which could throw a digital-sabot in the electronic printing press.

[4] Student numbers, ‘the B word’ and university finances alone being a major bump in the road ahead.


June 09, 2020

June 2020 Editorial Board Meeting

Today I hosted the first Exchanges Editorial Board video conference, and it was a success, a slightly qualified one perhaps, but a success nevertheless. Sure, it would have been nice if more of the Board had been free to join, although with the current global disruption I quite understand when many could not. Nevertheless, it was a really helpful exchange (no pun intended) for those who were there, and I certainly found it very useful, especially as I’d not spoken face-to-face with today’s participants before. Such is the nature of having as international an Editorial Board membership as us.

In terms of content, the meeting began with a discussion on current issues for editors, along with clarifications with assigned manuscripts, as well as examining some of the foibles experienced with using OJS (Open Journal Systems). I frequently deal with these kinds of concerns via email with individual editors, but it was far more engaging to be able to talk them through in a small group. It was helpful for me too in terms of exploring our policy approaches and response to various circumstances with reviewers, authors and manuscripts collectively. Hopefully, everyone who participated is a little clearer now on how and why we run things.

We moved on to the second part of the meeting, wherein I outlined some of the current activities with the journal, including our various special issues already in production or scheduled for launch over the next 18 months. I was able to highlight the news that we should have a new issue of the journal out in the next few weeks, something I was very pleased to be able to share, especially as each issue is the result of so much hard work from my editorial team. I also talked a bit about the podcast launch and my plans for future episodes, along with inviting suggestions for themes or topics for future issues.

Finally, we wrapped up the meeting by discussing the next themed call for papers. The Board agreed that a theme was desirable, alongside our open call. From our discussions there was an excellent suggestion, which I’ll augment over the next few days. More about this, once I’ve launched the next issue of Exchanges.

So, an excellent meeting, although I did realise after we closed that I’d failed to do some quick introductions. Learning from the experience it’ll be something I’ll make sure to schedule time for at the next meeting. And yes, there will be a next meeting, booked in for Tue 30th July. Fingers crossed more of the editors will be free to join us then.


August 19, 2019

Call for Editors: Monash University (Sept 2019)

Once again, Exchanges is delighted to announce that we’re seeking a new member for our Editorial Board, due the departure of some team members. This call is specifically for early career and post-graduate researchers registered with Monash University, Australia [1]. Thanks in part to the ongoing Monash-Warwick Alliance, Exchanges has long enjoyed a wonderful collaboration with members of the Melbourne based university, and it’s something I’m keen to continue.

You can download and read the formal call here [PDF], or alternatively chat to some of the current Monash based Exchanges editors for more details. Naturally, you can always drop myself as Editor-in-Chief a line directly (exchangesjournal@warwick.ac.uk), with any questions you might have.

The short version of the call is:

  • Open to early career or current post-graduate researchers based at Monash University
  • A 1 to 2 year commitment of time, working remotely
  • Role supports the editorial review and copyediting stages of publication
  • Editors also have a crucial role in promoting, commissioning and encouraging new article submissions to the journal
  • No experience in publishing required, but an enthusiasm for scholar-led publication is essential

Editors have the opportunity to be part of an international editorial board, forge extensive interdisciplinary networks and gain first-hand experience of editorial and publication production workflows. Further details of the role’s responsibilities and expectations are available on request.

If this sounds like you, then read the call and then get your application in quickly, because it closes Friday 20th September; although we may close if sooner if a suitable candidate is found sooner. I look forward to hearing from you!

[1] A call for editors from Warwick, is likely to appear later this year.


October 03, 2018

Expanding Internationalism & Representation

In recent months there have been a fair few changes with Exchanges’ Editorial Board membership, with some of my seasoned editors departing for pastures new. This has been largely due to exciting new developments arising within their professional careers reducing the time they had available to work with us. While I’m always sad to part with a member of my team, I can’t help but applaud as they move forward to new, exciting and intriguing roles. I can but hope they carry the positive experiences of involvement with our scholarly-led publishing endeavour with them.

Consequently, I’ve been working in the background to recruit and expand on our team of editors. Welcome aboard everyone, I’m looking forward to a long and productive working relationship with you all! Interestingly, my Editorial Board doesn’t just conduct editorial, review and copy editing work. They have an integral role promoting Exchanges as a resource for readers, reviewers and, crucially, potential authors. It’s this latter role which saw me meeting with the delightful Mike Haymes of Warwick’s European Engagement team this morning.

One of Exchanges underlying aims since I took over as Senior Editor, has been to expand our Board to include more members from Warwick’s international partners. For myself and Mike then, this was the crux of our discussions: how we could practically work towards expanding the Board in this manner. The timing of our conversation couldn’t have been more apposite, as Mike’s about to head overseas for various conversations with our partner organisations. Hence, I’m really hopeful that part of these discussions will help open up some dialogues at some of the institutions that don’t yet have representation on our Board between key institutional influencers and myself.

For the journal, this will potentially benefit us in terms of new authors and reviewers, but it will also help us promote the journal to readers who might not as of yet been aware of us. For the new editors, there’s a plethora of benefits, not least of which being the advantage of having an editorial board involvement appearing on their professional CV. This is alongside the experience gained through editing a scholar-led title and the opportunity to expand their professional networks, working alongside the editorial team. On top of this for our partners and Warwick, there’s benefits from establishing further networks of communication, collaboration and collegiality. Who knows what spin-offs, projects or endeavours might emerge from these? I’d argue it’s a win-win-win scenario for everyone!

I look forward to talking more about our expanding Board then, in the coming weeks. Once again, it seems exciting times lie ahead for Exchanges, and the IAS’ scholar-led publication activities.


April 24, 2018

Welcome to the Exchanges Blog

As the title says, welcome to the Exchanges: The Warwick Research Journal blog. My name's Gaz J Johnson, and I'm the fairly freshly appointed Senior Editor of this interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, open access journal, based in the Institute of Advanced Study.

Exchanges has been around for over 5 years now, and has developed into a valued publishing location for early career researchers (ECR) across the university and affiliated institutions, who are looking for to publish interdisciplinary scholarly material. Over the coming months and years, part of my Senior Editor remit is to expand the journal’s focus beyond Warwick, especially with those international organisations with whom we have exciting scholarly links. Hence, I’ll be using talking about developments around the title over the coming months.

As my own background as a researcher is as a political-economist and social theorist in the field of emerging publishing modes, especially open access, I’ll also be using this blog to muse about developments here as well. Hopefully, this might even engender a bit of conversation and insight from other scholars in this field too.

Alongside this, I’ll be highlighting and exploring selected authors and articles from past and future issues. I’m aiming to include a few post-publication interviews with authors as well, exploring how their work’s advanced since publication and what additional resonances, insights or impacts it’s created.

I’ll also be using the blog to highlight various announcements, for example calls for papers and (very shortly) calls for applications to join the Editorial Team. Exchanges has a team of Editors drawn from the ECR community, whose work comprises an essential and much valued contribution to the title. Quite literally, without them, the journal wouldn’t exist. We all work in collaboration with the University Library too, who provide insight and technical infrastructure for the title. As a former academic librarian myself, I’m especially excited to be working with the library’s scholarly publications team in this endeavour.

Finally, for this post at least, I’ll highlight where you can find out more about Exchanges.



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