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January 14, 2021

Getting Published: PG Tips Workshop

I had the pleasure this week (Tue 12th) to participate in my first teaching/seminar of the year. I had been invited, alongside my wonderful library colleague Julie Robinson, to participate in a 45 minute panel discussion for Warwick post-graduate students on the topic of ‘getting published’. Seasoned academic authors will likely realise 45 minutes is way too short a time to cover a great deal on this topic, but in the end, it seemed like we managed to pack a lot of content in what was a highly interactive and engaging session. So engaging, in fact, that we ran on for an extra 15 minutes or so due to popular demand.

Now, that’s the kind of session I like to deliver!

Thanks to David Richardson who hosted, we captured audience questions during the session. As a result, I thought it might be worth highlighting a few of the most salient ones and my responses as they refer to particularly apply to Exchanges.

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Q: If I wanted to submit an article to Exchanges, would it be better to submit an abstract or the full paper already?

A: Very much the author’s personal choice. As a journal we don’t expect, unless part of a specific call requirement, authors to send us pre-submission abstracts or draft versions of their papers. Some choose to do so, and I’m always happy to provide some feedback and guidance at this stage, although I’ll hold off any fulsome critique until the final manuscript is submitted. Likewise, I’m always happy to schedule a video-call to talk through an author’s ideas for their paper, if they might find that helpful. On the whole though, the bulk of our submissions are the full paper manuscript, received without any prior conversation or engagement with the author: which is perfectly fine too.

Q: What are the most important elements that should be in abstract if the journal you are targeting is only allowing you to submit an abstract rather than the whole paper?

A: There’s a lot written online and by other authors on this subject, I personally like Rowena Murray or Helen Sword’s writing on this topic and would advocate seeking out their work. However, in brief, the abstract should be the article in miniature, containing the key ideas or arguments, along with a taste of the most significant finding or conclusion. What it should do is whet the appetite of the reader, from your prospective editor to the wider academic community, and draw them in to want to read (or accept for consideration) your paper. The abstract should also closely resonate with your paper’s text, with each abstract line approximating an introductory sentence within the article itself. This provides essential structure and signposting to guide the reader through your writing, methodology, methods, arguments, findings and conclusions in a structured and more readily comprehensible manner.

Q: Do you have any advice about how to choose the journal to publish in?

A: Aside from suggesting you consider a wonderful, friendly and highly early-career author focussed title like Exchanges I would suggest thinking about:
(1) Who are your audience and what titles are they reading?
(2) Where are your peers/supervisor publishing?
(3) Consider, but don’t be a slave to, journal metrics/impact factors etc – although be wary as ‘significant journals’ are more likely to reject your submission.
(4) Do you know or have contacts with any editors? Knowing someone will be receptive to discussing your submission can be a big help in choosing your destination.
(5) Especially for a first paper, consider seeking out early-career specialising journals. They may be more forgiving of initial errors, formatting oversights or typographical errors than some of the more core/mainstream titles.

Q: How different should a journal [article] drawn from thesis or dissertation work be?

A: This is a common and understandable issue for first time authors. An article manuscript needs to be its own discrete and contextual entity, with a slightly different authorial voice than you would likely use within your thesis/dissertation. Especially too, where you’re adapting a chapter, you need to ensure the piece can stand entirely on its own legs, supported naturally by appropriate citation. You might even need to consider simplifying the work, because there may be too many contrasting central ideas or themes in your original text to coherently present in your article. You should also consider adopting the style/voice of other pieces which appear in your chosen target journal or field, to enhance your chance of acceptance.

Q: How does one go about proposing a special issue to Exchanges or working with/for this journal as an editor?

A: As to the first part, I’d recommend listening to our recent podcast on exactly this topic. Then coming and having a chat with myself as editor-in-chief about the idea. One thing to bear in mind, we have a lead time of at least 12 months from initiation of special issue to publication, so this isn’t going to be something we can achieve overnight. There’ll also be some expectation of work from the proposer to bring the issue to publication too, part of which may well be involvement as an associate editor. We do issue periodic calls for associate editors, usually via our twitter account (@ExchangesIAS) and the journal's announcement pages - so you should follow and visit these periodically.

Q: What are the main outcomes after articles are peer-reviewed? Are articles rejected by journal editors when reviewers actually suggested major corrections?

A: At Exchanges we have four major post-review outcome: acceptance (rare!), revisions requested and then acceptance (most), additional reviews (occasional) or decline (aka reject). Hence, usually after peer-review there will be a period of revision and rewriting by the author, and in the case of where there are major (extensive) revisions requested by the editor, the piece may need to undergo a further round of peer-review, and minor corrections ahead of acceptance for publication. Different journals will handle these post-review steps slightly differently, indeed some take ‘major revisions’ to equate to reject and request the author work on them for a future resubmission. Read their author guidance to find out how it works for each specific journal/publisher.

Q: Is it better for your cv and career to publish with your supervisor or independently?

A: This varies enormously and is often affected by discipline. STEM authors are often members of team projects, and frequently only publish as one of a number of authors, with sole-authored works rare. Conversely, AHSS scholars often are lone or at most pairs of authors. That said, if you have a good working relationship with your supervisor, it can be a really great learning experience to co-author a paper with them. Just remember, just because they’re your supervisor, if you’re doing most of the writing, be prepared to insist on being the first named author on the work! You may find though, that co-authoring a paper with an established author like your supervisor might make it easier to publish in a ‘higher’ ranked journal…but there are not guarantees, and I’ve heard of many supervisors who are busy/get distracted and don’t come through on their contribution to an article: so approach, with caution!

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These are only a handful of the topics we touched on in the session, hence if you have questions of your own about publishing, and especially in Exchanges, then please leave a comment or get in touch with me. I look forward to talking more about this fascinating, and essential, area of academic development.


February 26, 2019

Raising Local Visibility

In the past few weeks I’ve been engaged in a bit more of marketing push for Exchanges, largely because I continue to be acutely aware that our visibility across even Warwick leaves something to be desired. I confess, I’ve held back a little bit on promoting Exchanges within Warwick, due to our desire to increasingly ‘consciously uncouple’ the journal from the original ‘local brand’, and to try and attract more manuscripts from external scholars. This has worked to a degree, and I continue to be delighted each time I receive a new submission from a scholar globally. That said, one of our core strengths has always been some truly excellent, reflexive and critical papers from our ‘local’ scholars here in Coventry. Hence, to try and refresh this awareness locally I’ve recently sent out mailshots to key people across campus, in an effort to get some of our promotional literature and call for papers in front of post-graduate and early career researchers alike. If you’re the recipient of one of our promotional packs, including free gift, do let me know if you’d like to know more.

Part of this marketing too has been engendered through meeting significant campus figures. I met last week with Sandy Sparks, a key figure in Warwick’s researcher professional development programme. Sandy’s been a supporter of Exchanges right from the very start, and I was delighted to finally get the chance in her busy schedule to talk about the current direction of the journal. I know too that Sandy’s got the ear of many senior researchers across campus, so I couldn’t wish for a better informed or gracious advocate for the title.

Further afield too, I had the chance a couple of weeks ago to meet with visiting Monash University’s International Partnerships Manager Allan Mahler. Principally we were talking about ways in which their university can help, support and recognise the contribution made by my excellent Monash editors, but the conversation diverged to ways in which Monash can do more to raise the visibility of Exchanges among their research communities. I know from personal experience in recent weeks that raising awareness even for a part-time member of staff can take a lot of time out of the available work time. For my editors, who are contributing to the journal alongside their regular studies and employment, I can only imagine how challenging it can be! That many of them still make herculean efforts to raise awareness of the title for potential authors, readers and reviewers makes me so damned proud I could glow!

We’re fortunate that Monash and Warwick, though their University Alliance, have such strong links, and I’m hopeful my discussions with Allan will bear tangible fruit as this year goes on. If nothing else, I’ve increased the awareness of the Alliance of this locus of ongoing, scholarly and impactful collaboration between our two universities. In time, I hope I’ll be able to repeat this conversation with partnership managers from our other global research partner institutions.

The question remains, will all this effort actually increase the readership, author submissions and regular reviewers? I can’t say for sure yet. I’ll certainly continue to take every opportunity I can to promote Exchanges and our vital mission to champion publication and facilitate contributions to scholarly discourse from early career and post-graduate researchers!


October 16, 2018

The Challenges of Enhancing Scholar–Led Journal Visibility to Disparate Audiences

While we move towards the publication of the next issue of Exchanges, today I’ve been doing some background work with my Editorial Board looking towards the future. At its core is something dear to my heart as the Senior (EIC) Editor, which is considering ways to better market and promote the journal. I know for some the idea that we have to market academic scholarship leaves a rather nasty ideological taste in the learned mouth; it does in mine certainly. Nevertheless, academic publishing, even scholarly-led initiatives, operates in a domain of realpolitik; although you’ll excuse me if I’ll continue to cleave to my zeal and vision for a greater agency over publishing for the academy as a result.

The issue we face though for a currently, small and not especially well-known title like Exchanges, is we need to raise the visibility of the title, its mission and the scholarship it publishes. This is not an uncommon challenge for scholar-led titles and is exacerbated by the protectionist policies of the commercially owned key research publication indexes. I’m grateful at the very least that we appear in the DOAJ. Addressing this visibility challenge, means we need to work out ways of reaching out to hitherto unaware members of our various target audiences. In this respect, prospective authors without a doubt are a key demographic, but so too are potential members of our peer reviewer and reader communities. Alongside these there are certainly other audiences we could and should be also marketing to, although currently I’m most concerned with engaging these three most pressingly. Why? Well, without authors we have no content, without reviewers we have no quality assurance and without readers…well, there’s the existential threat writ large. Hence, this is why these are the groups I’m most concerned about making more aware of us.

So, one thing I’ve been doing recently is working out where Exchanges stands in terms of outreach: a term I’m perhaps more ideologically comfortable with than ‘marketing’, as it smacks more of activism than it does or corporatism. What I’ve isolated in my exercise is there’s a surprising range of things which myself, and members of the Editorial Board, have been doing over the past six months [1] to raise the journal’s visibility. Personal appearances at conferences and training events, developing a social media presence [2], redeveloping the website materials, considering approaches to developing ancillary and complementary media content, alongside producing the more traditional posters and flyers. Interestingly, I think my audit of marketing efforts has also revealed a tendency in the tenancy of prior Senior Editors towards unstructured, serendipitous and arguably ad-hoc promotional approaches. I may be incorrect in the assumption, but I’ve not uncovered evidence since the early years of any sustained coordinated activity. Former Senior Editors feel free to enlighten me here!

Yet, while what we have in development is all well and good it suggests two problematics need addressing with respect to audience outreach. Firstly, within the marketing mix we’ve adopted, are there other lucrative activities, opportunities or avenues which have yet to be explored? Secondly there is the question of how effective any of this marketing has been? The former question is one I’ve put to my Editorial Board, but naturally it's also something I’d more than welcome comments on here too.

In terms of the latter issue, this is something I’ve been working on establishing pretty much since I came on board, and certainly I’ve managed to make a handful of personal appearances at events and conferences to talk about the title. However, while these have been quite engaging and effective, they have been a touch Warwick centric. Given our global agenda for Exchanges, short of embarking on a 'Grand World Tour' to promote the title, they’re perhaps not the most cost or time effective promotional approach [3].

Hence, I’m hopeful that through myself and the Board adopting a more systematic approach through reviewing what we’re doing to promote Exchanges, that we’ll be able to answer these two questions more clearly. Naturally, with the added advantage of increasing the title’s visibility among our core audiences further, to everyone’s benefit! Watch this blog for more news as we move into the next phase of bringing the world to Exchange’s door.

[1] And doubtlessly before, but my journey with Exchanges started back in April, so please excuse the slight temporal myopia.

[2] Yes, of which this blog is a facet. So too is our twitter account (@ExchangesIAS), which you really should be following.

[3] Although I stand by my maxims of ‘ABM’ (always be marketing) and ‘Anywhere, any place, any time’, if people do want to hear about Exchanges from me in person. I'll keep the IAS VOTL on standby.


June 14, 2018

Exchanges: The Motion Picture

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a fellow scholar over in Warwick’s School of Law, who was running a conference on Plant Variety Protection. Now, while I have considerable knowledge in the field of IP, I confess the biological side of things is not one of my strengths. Thankfully what they were enquiring about, was whether I’d like to come along to the conference and speak for a few minutes to the delegates about Exchanges and what we do as a research publication. Naturally, because I will always jump at the chance to speak to people about scholar-led publishing, this was a fabulous opportunity which I was very keen to attend. That is, until I checked my calendar and found I had an unskippable day-long conference planning meeting in Birmingham wearing my Mercian Collaboration hat the very same day.

Having sent my regretful apologies and an offer of some printed literature, it was at that point my delightful colleague suggested if I couldn’t be present, would I perhaps like to send a video along about Exchanges for their delegates. Notably, there had been a video about Exchanges produced in the very early days, which had remained on the front of the IAS’s Exchanges page since then. To be fair, while clearly well intended at the time, today it was pretty outdated content, and certainly not something I wanted to reuse in 2018. I’ll confess one of the first things I did when I took over the running of the title was to take the video link down, as part of my initial re-write of the pages.

Hence, this approach proved to be the spur to action I needed! Having more than a decade long heritage of producing videos, podcasts and audio-plays in my professional and personal life, audio-visual media isn’t a medium I’m unfamiliar with producing. Moreover, I’ve also been having some initial discussions within the IAS (Institute for Advanced Study) about how we could incorporate, explore or exploit visual media in some way under the Exchanges banner. Very early days at the moment on this initiate, so I can’t as of yet go into more details, but as and when, I’ll talk about it more here. Consequently, producing a brief video about Exchanges would provide a handy proof of concept for our plans, along with providing a useful additional promotional tool.

With any luck the video will have had its world-premiere today to a (hopefully) engaged audience, and I’ll be adding it to the IAS Exchanges pages next week. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give my loyal blog reading audience a sneaky preview. So, here it is, the snappily titled Exchanges Promotional Video Summer 2018. As always, I’d be interested in your thoughts about this, and how video can be used within a quality assured research dissemination environment.



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