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May 23, 2023

Reflections on the Publication Strategies & Metrics Panel

Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/global/europe/eutopia

Reflections from last week’s EUTOPIA-SIF panel on a couple of fascinating academic pubolication topics.

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a panel discussion session as part of Warwick’s contribution to the EUTOPIA-SIF programme of events. To this end, I was joined by delegates from across Europe, as well as from here at Warwick to discuss a couple of topics close to my own professional interests: publication strategies and metrics. For once though, and thankfully given the challenge of the session’s theme, I wasn’t on the spot to talk about my own views but rather to enable the discourse between four wonderful panel members and the attendees. I can report from comments in the session and subsequently, that this was clearly a much-appreciated discussion opportunity.

For those of you who weren’t in the room here’s the session overview:

A major part of developing an academic track career is taking a strategic approach towards one’s publishing outputs. This helps in ensuring visibility among key audience demographics, alongside achieving credible impact and public recognition alongside generating markers of personal and professional esteem. Hence, understanding and engaging with the various publication measures of esteems – be they journal, article or personal – intrinsically resonates with any such strategic approach.

Illuminating these discussions through personal and professional insights will be a diverse group of scholars, sharing their experiences and perceptions around these crucial topics. Adopting a panel discussion format, the session will be largely contextualised and driven by attendees’ interests, questions and comments. In this way, the panel’s debates will organically evolve and resonate with the interests and concerns of the attending audience members.

In tackling these topics I was joined by a collection of academic panellists, drawn from contributors to Exchanges as authors and editors alike. These were:

  • Dr Alena Cicholewski (Institute for English and American Studies, University of Oldenburg, Germany)
  • Dr Huayi Huang (Usher Institute of Health and Wellbeing, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)
  • Dr Ignaas Jimidar (CHIS (Chemical Engineering), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)
  • Dr Sharon Coleclough (Department of Media, Performance and Communication, School of Digital, Technologies and Arts, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK)

Ahead of the session I’d made a call for questions, as well as developing a few provocations of my own to get the ball rolling. While I’d shared these with the panel beforehand as the session was also designed to be largely driven by the delegates’ thoughts, experiences and insights of the delegates a most dynamic session ensured. Hence, after an opening question to prime the pump asking generally about publication strategic approaches, we shifted very much to an dialogic and interactive approach for the rest of the 90 minutes or so.

Strategies

While I am not going to attempt to share the full session discourse – when you’re chairing there’s only so many notes you have time to take – to offer a flavour, in terms of overall strategies some of the suggested approaches included:

  • Bespoke: Remember there is no single strategic approach that works for all. Be adaptable with your publication approaches and ask yourself what you want to achieve - e.g., recognition, dissemination, career esteem or opportunities.
  • Interdisciplinarity: Balance the need for advancing complex and insightful niche work, with that which straddles interdisciplinary boundaries – in terms of readers or subject matters – for maximum impact.
  • Networking: View publishing as networking – consider who you are writing for and where, and use it to engender a discourse or dialogue between yourself and other key researchers. Can be the basis for an ongoing series of publications as a result.
  • Potential: Publication isn’t everything – it is possible to advance to a new role without an overtly strong portfolio of past works, but having the potential to achieve more in the future is always worth stressing.
  • Situtation: Understand where you are in the field, especially in terms of where you want to go and how you want to be perceived.

Following on there was also a fair amount of discussion contrasting the differences in perceptions of most esteem capital worthy works in different disciplines and fields. Certainly, comments around the (arguably unhealthy) predominance of STEM publication habits as ‘normative’ were richly represented here. These considerations were married with examinations of questions relating to single and joint lead-authors and the different advantages this might confer, alongside the challenges of breaking into an Anglophone [1] dominated publication field in some domains.

There were considerable discussions around metrics – their use and misuse in cases, and the importance of balancing your own career and output and trying not to be entirely dominated with chasing the illusive highest impact simply to amplify a quantitative score [2]. Of course, as any academic knows no matter how much we might try to resist such objectified metrification the reality is research assessment exercises such as the REF loom large in any scholar’s life. However, balancing the need to ‘feed the beast’ while still achieving the ongoing publication and research discourse you actually want to produce remains a nuanced topic.

Future Disrupters

During the panel discussions the topic of AI, as one might have expected, came under the spotlight. There was a smattering of debate considering how the panel and delegates saw it as part tool, but also something which might distort or disrupt academic scholarly communicative practices into unknown configurations in the coming years. As an ancillary to these discussions, the panel were challenged to explore those other publication technologies or developments which might be worth examining in greater detail. Suggestions included podcasts and non-textural publication routes able to reach and engage new and different audiences, alongside developments in normative peer-reviewing practices too. Certainly though, retaining a watchful eye on opportunities beyond the traditional journal and monograph vectors which might prove valuable routes to communicate research activities were agreed as an essential strategic awareness.

The session closed by the panel offering their final thoughts on, given a limited time resource, where they would recommend focussing professional attention to yield maximum result. Suggestions included seeking to be a solo or lead author wherever possible, considering how your publications promote your public, professional identity and create the backbone of your interpersonal networks. Alongside this the importance of always remembering where you were in your career journey and meeting both opportunities and need within your strategic publication aims was stressed. Certainly, the panel agreed opportunities abound in terms of being able to contribute and be recognised far beyond simply operating as an author of texts within the publication sphere.

Thanks

As always, my especial thanks to my panel quartet for their contributions and generous donation of their time and insights. From the reactions in the room, I can see that the delegates certainly were engaged by the discussions, and I hope we left them all with plenty to think over. As chair I certainly enjoyed the discussions and am still chewing over some of the comments and how they might relate to my own praxis and work on Exchanges. Naturally, I would like to extend my thanks to all the delegates too and especially to those posing questions or contributing to what was a very active chat-channel.

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Endnotes

[1] An Anglophone and high income economy perhaps?

[2] Alternatively, to amplify just a single quantitative score perhaps?


May 09, 2022

Panel: Developing your Publication Strategy '22

Last week I hosted a couple of workshops for the IAS. The first (3rd May) was the return of my popular Exchanges Ask me Anything session, wherein our early career fellows get to ask me, well, anything about the journal – and often the world of academic publishing at large too. They also get to watch me sip a cup of tea as I offer them time and space to think of their questions without me talking too. Seemed to go well, so far as one can tell in an online teaching environment. We’ll be running this again in the autumn I suspect for the next batch of ECFs we induct.

Thursday (5th May) though was the more significant of the workshop sessions. This was my second iteration of the Developing your Publication Strategy, which regular readers will recall I originally hosted back in March 2021. As this had been such a successful session, I was asked last month if I’d be willing to offer it again: a request to which I quickly agreed.

I decided this time fantastic though the panel members were last year, that for this new panel I’d try and recruit some different voices. Different academics would bring with them fresh and unexpected perspectives, and I hoped would contribute to an engaging session for the delegates. As before, I reached out to a goodly number of contacts, many of whom were unavailable (if otherwise willing) to participate. I did though, thankfully, strike gold with three past Exchanges authors and I will confess, past podcast guests too: Dr Catherine Price (Nottingham), Dr Mark Readman (Bournemouth) and Prof Monica Mastrantonio (York). Thanks to the efforts of the EUTOPIA Consortium, I was also able to recruit Prof Marcus Pivato (Cergy Paris) to add into the mix as well.

I was delighted to say we had a packed 75 minutes during which my four panellists handled all manner of questions from the audience. From complex ruminations on creating an interdisciplinary portfolio, through to their thoughts on the current scholarly communications field and advice on how delegates might refine their own practices. While I had a battery of questions to hand to keep the conversation flowing, should the audience be a little restrained in offering their own, I had little need to return to these during the session. It certainly was a lively debate, and feedback from speakers and delegates alike on the day seemed most positive.

I am naturally deeply indebted to all of the speakers for their participation and gracious gift of time, as each of them really helped the session come alive in different ways. As panel chair it was interesting to observe how we touched on similar topics to the 2021 session, albeit debating them within a slightly different framing. Such is the joy of running a panel session – you never know quite what you’re going to learn.

I am also grateful to the audience, who played their part well. Not only were they thought provoking in their questioning, but they also contributed to a wonderful continuing thread of debate within the text chat. Certainly, one advantage of hybrid/online sessions over a f2f one is that you get this wonderful additional thread of debate available for all, rather than just the people you’re whispering sitting next to you. Prominent among the topics tackled here were perceptions of peer-review and anonymization, which exposed some very big divides and surprising disciplinary assumptions among panellists and audience alike.

The text chat also captured a range of resources and links, that I promised to collate for further interest [1]:

I very much enjoyed running this panel, which was illuminating for myself as well. Hopefully, we’ll see this panel session revisited in some format during 2023 once more – with yet another set of fine panellists!

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[1] Beall’s ‘predatory’ trash journals list came up too, but given the considerable issues over this in recent years I’m not including it here.


April 28, 2022

Two Forthcoming Exchanges/Publishing Workshops

Follow-up to Publishing Strategy Accolade Session from Exchanges Reflections: Interdisciplinary Editor Insights

As part of our Accolade and EUTOPIA-SIF training programmes, I’m hosting a pair of workshop sessions next week.

The first on Tue 3rd May, is the return of the ever popular – Exchanges: Ask Me Anything session. As in previous iterations this is a freeform session, wherein I invite the audience to ask me pretty much anything about the Exchanges journal and related areas. Experience has shown half the questions tend to veer off into general topics of academic publication, but that’s fine as I’ll always be interested in a hearty discussion about that broader domain. Additionally, it’s a safe bet I will likely get up on my soapbox about the importance of early career scholars, open access and scholar-led, non-commercial journals disrupting the hegemonic commodified academic communications field.

Ahem. Or maybe this time will be a first and I won’t!

The second session, Thu 5th May, is the return of the Developing your Publication Strategy panel event. We ran this last in March 2021 and it was a very lively discussion. This time I’m joined by four panellists to answer questions, discuss comments and explore all aspects of their personal publication strategies, processes and experiences. The last running of this workshop was an excellent packed hour of discussions, and I’ve every hope this time will be much the same – even though it’s an all new panel!

Now, cynics among you might notice that both these events require fairly light preparation on my part. That’s deliberate, as running the journal – especially around an issue launch – takes up a lot of my time. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t be bringing my customary showmanship and polished hosting skills to the fore on the day! I very much expect our audiences will have a highly informative and energised time.

After those sessions, in this role at least[1] I can then switch to preparing for the end of the month, when I’m running an undergraduate workshop on academic publishing and writing skills. Now that one, I DO need to prepare some materials for, but thankfully there’s a few weeks between then and now for me to fit that in. So more on this later session towards the end of the month.

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[1] In my other job I’m running two workshops in May on preparing and delivering an effective conference paper. No pressure there then.


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