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March 07, 2023

A Positive Experience with a Highly Regarded Journal: Author Feedback Review

It’s important to listen to contributors, and in this piece, the EIC reviews the formal author feedback from the past three years.

  • [I approached the journal because] A colleague spoke highly of the process and the journal's reputation. (author #1, feedback)

For many years now, we’ve asked every author who’s published in Exchanges to tell us about how they found the experience. Not all of them take up the offer, but many do, and I’m deeply grateful to each one for the thoughts they have shared. In fact, over the past three years[1] fully 53% of all authors have taken the time to reflect on publishing with us via our online survey form. As a result, it has been possible to create a snapshot of the journal’s perceptions within its core contributing community, along with a evaluative account of their experiences within the editorial journey. I recently collated and analysed the feedback for 2020-2022, and I have to say the result was wonderful! I certainly was not expecting the comments to be quite as positive as they were.

  • I was rejected by three discipline-specific journals, but realise actually that the interdisciplinary nature of my article made Exchanges perfect, and I was reassured by the positive, constructive and professional response to my informal query and the emphasis on ECRs (author #2, feedback)

What these results principally demonstrate is how Exchanges, its EIC and editorial team, along with its present operational ethos are all strongly valued by our contributing authors. Interestingly, the journal’s operational transparency, interdisciplinary remit and editorial regime were all stressed as particular highlights by authors. This is fantastic, as I would personally point to all three of these as specific strengths or perhaps unique selling points Exchanges offers to its current and potential authorial community. Even more gratifying, in response to questions about how we could improve, almost 70% of all those responding either said ‘nothing’ or took the opportunity to offer further praise for the journal and team. While I am proud of the journal and all my editorial colleagues, I was really not expecting to come in for such (all-but) universal praise in this part of the survey. Tea and medals all-around, I think!

  • I have no inhibitions in saying that out of the 6 peer-reviewed publications, and the 9 rejections (including an initial editorial rejection) I have had, Exchanges has been the most author-friendly experience by quite a margin. (author #3, feedback)

Seriously though, there were a few minor areas of unsatisfied technical or procedural development identified. I am not surprised, as the chief editor I am more than aware of many aspects of the journal, our hosting platform or even our operational protocols which could benefit from a re-examination. Certainly, for example, some authors felt the duration of review or time taken to obtain feedback could have been better. I would agree, my desire is always for speedy, but quality assured, reviewing. However, I must counter how from an editorial and reviewer standpoint, onboarding reviewers who are knowledgeable and willing to contribute their insights is never an easy task for my editors. Indeed, I’ve heard from other, larger and (dare I say it) more major journal editors how they face exactly the same problem.[2] So, while I appreciate this point, I fear it is more of a universal issue with reviewing than simply our title’s approach.

  • The journal seemed very welcoming to early-career researchers and researchers who were looking to publish their first article. The interdisciplinary nature also aligned with my research and the article’s content. (author #4, feedback)

Beyond their concerns, we also asked what journal authors would like to see developed by Exchanges in terms of services, options or features. More themed special issues or calls for papers were the aspects with most uniform degree of high interest, which is gratifying. I really relish working with colleagues on special issues – as editorial leads and associate editors alike, it really helps us deliver on our title’s missions. Altmetrics and the ability for readers to comment on articles followed in importance, which considering we introduced the former last year is gratifying. I remain conflicted as to the latter – personally I delight in the discourse on and around publications, but I am concerned how much monitoring or even active policing this might be on the platform.[3] Certainly, it is an interesting option but I’m not seeing a groundswell of demand for it yet. Conversely, where there was more limited interest was in terms of hard copies of the journal – which is a relief, as arranging print production is not that straightforward an endeavour. Very limited interest in multimedia abstracts appeared too, so I won’t be focussing on these any time soon either.

  • I've had a positive experience and fair and strict treatment here before, so I enjoy submitting here now. (author #5, feedback)

So, going on what does the outcome of this feedback review mean for the journal? Well, in part it will drive an update and refresh of the survey instrument to reflect the last three years of development for the title. It also underscores the importance for increasing the visibility and breadth within our potential contributing community. I strongly suspect there are many, many authors who would greatly value discovering Exchanges, but how and where we reach them has always been a challenge. I’m happy to report I’m talking actively with the IAS itself and fellow journal editors at Warwick about just how we raise our collective heads further above the parapet. The message here is clear: publishing with Exchanges is an excellent authorial experience…but you just need to know we exist first!

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My thanks to all the editors, associate editors, reviewers and authors[4] who have worked so hard to make the journal the successful experience it has been, and I would hope continues to be.

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Endnotes

  • [1] That would be for all issues published 2020-2022, or 7 journals in total.
  • [2] I suspect the recent UCU industrial action will not have helped matters – and that’s before you factor in the challenging work regime faced by so many of our colleagues.
  • [3] Let alone running through any legal liability this might open the journal to.
  • [4] Especially those who took the time to complete the feedback!

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