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July 11, 2019

Scholar–Led Utopian Publishing: The Utopia, Dystopia & Climate Change Conference

Last week I flew out to a scorchingly hot Italy to the Utopia, Dystopia and Climate Change conference, being held at Monash University’s Prato Centre. I was in attendance as an invited speaker wearing my editorial hat, making this the second successive conference I’ve attended both in Italy and around climate change as a theme. You might suggest there’s something in the air, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

This time, rather than the STEM focus of ESA Living Planet 2019, I was at a primarily arts and humanities event, hosted by the Utopian Studies Society, Europe. Thankfully, this was a slightly smaller conclave than the previous Brobdingnagian scale Milan event, although there were certainly dozens of eager utopian scholars attending. As I previously commented, there’s real eye-opening value in attending events which lie outside one’s own discipline, and this one certainly was fascinating. Due to time constraints, and perhaps a subconscious desire to escape the heat [1], I was only present for the conference’s opening day, but I found it a very valuable experience all the same.

Once again, I received a very warm welcome from the other delegates and enjoyed a range of stimulating conversations about their research, along with insights into their career journeys. In a couple of cases I had some very in-depth discussions concerning the job market beyond academia contrasted with the ‘publish or perish’ marketised HE environment. A topic, for another post, or if you buy me a drink sometime at a conference, a lengthy diatribe.

Primarily I was attending at the invite of the organisers to deliver a session targeted at doctoral candidates and early career researchers on ‘journal publication’. A very broad remit undoubtedly, and one which I fear I could speak for far longer than my allocated 30 minutes. So I took as the central theme for my paper the experiences of publishing a scholar-led journal led by and for early career researchers. Monash’s Prato Centre is a delightful building from both the interior and exterior, and a very grand environment to talk to fellow scholars. That said, to my slight trepidation I discovered I was delivering my session on a panel with the Society’s chair as the other speaker, so a modicum of extra pressure there.

My talk, the slides from which I’ve linked to below, was very well received by the standing room only audience. I’m happy to take their rapt attention and response to my talk as a signifier of the delegates’ general strong publication participation interests, rather than a desire to hear myself particularly. However, I’m delighted to report I’ve had a number of subsequent conversations both at and after the conference about publishing with Exchanges, so I deeply believe the trip was a valuable one for the journal.

Of course, I was also there to reveal the early details of our forthcoming themed special cli-fi issue call for publications [2], largely targeting delegates at the conference, but also potentially embracing other scholars with a strong interest in the field. Given the range of papers and discourse at the conference, I’m reassured this will be a fascinating issue.

No more conferences for a couple of months now, so I can focus on developing the journal, and doing a little bit of publishing of my own, over the summer. But regular readers can rest assured, I’ll be keeping you updated on the developments within Exchanges over the coming weeks and months.

prato-02.jpgMonash Centre, PratoEIC in full flow, Prato, July 2019Prato Conference Slides

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[1] Although I’d planned my visit duration months ago

[2] Probably coming out sometime in August 2019, keep an eye out for it


June 12, 2019

Early Career Editors Learning Experience from Scholar–Led Publishing Involvement

It won’t have escaped most readers’ attention that Exchanges is an early career focussed, scholar-led journal. Given I write about this on a regular schedule in this blog, you’d be a rare visitor had you missed this aspect. As its Editor-in-chief, I passionately believe academics need to take a greater ownership for their publication processes if we are ever to ween ourselves away from the commercialised commodification of the publishing sector. This shift is far from the only consideration if the academy is to acquire a greater agency over publication, but I believe it’s an important one.

However, what might be less apparent, unless you’ve attended one of my lectures or thoroughly read our online guidance material, is how Exchanges serves an educational and professional development role alongside its publishing mission. The developmental role for those people working on the journal has been an intrinsic part since Exchanges founding in 2013 as output from the IAS’ early-career fellows programme. Since day one all members of the editorial board, and associate editors too, are drawn from the early career researcher community here at Warwick and further afield. This means all of us are still learning and growing as scholars in the post-PhD environment.

A key developmental need of course is to enhance our career prospects, which is where Exchanges provides the opportunity to deepen a practical appreciation of the processes, policies and ideologies which operate within the publishing field. Incidentally, serving on Exchanges’ boards delivers this sort of experience in spades, given members of our Board performs a greater ‘hands-on’ role than the more advisory structure of other journals’ boards.

This developmental mission for Exchanges, is a characteristic of the journal to which I’m devoting some considerable thought at the moment, as I’ve two forthcoming public engagements where I’ll be talking about the benefits to scholars from a closer scholarly publishing involvement. One is the session I’ve previously mentioned at the Utopian Studies conference in Prato at the end of June, while the other is a workshop I’m contributing to at the Vitae Conference in London this Autumn. Naturally, I’ll be sharing my slides and experiences from these events here afterwards.

I find though, as I sit down to write the outline for these talks, I’m left wondering to a degree about what exactly people such as my editors gain practically from their contribution of time and labour.

From a personal perspective, I feel I’ve learned more about the importance of patience and persistence with authors and reviewers alike, alongside deepening my practical knowledge of coordinating a publishing ‘empire’. I’ve also been polishing my relationship management skills, which are an essential adjunct to any manging editors’ toolkit. Alongside this, I’ve found it’s been illuminating to witness the authorial styles and voices deployed in our developing manuscript, especially as many diverge considerably from my own academic prose style.

That’s my perspective, and I must acknowledge it’s been understandably coloured by my managerial and editor-in-chief role. Hence, I’ve been talking to Editorial Board members past and present about what they’ve gained from their experience. Unsurprisingly, beyond developing the practical skills, the benefits from broadening their network of professional contacts are aspects which seem so far to be especially valued. However, it is early days and I’m still looking forward to more of my Board sharing their thoughts, and I expect I may well be surprised by some of the comments.

One thing has become clear from this simple critical reflection which is newly minted scholars do perceive benefits exist from taking up the reins to steer academic publishing endeavours. This must in part help explain why Exchanges has always had a steady stream of willing Board and associate editors. And I, for one, am delighted for their every contribution as well.


May 29, 2019

Mentioned in Dispatches: Exchanges at Monash

Raqib & RoyGreat to hear last week about a workshop co-facilitated this month by one of my editorial board 'down under', Roy Rozario. The event aimed at early-career and postgraduate researchers centred around successful academic publishing in books and journals, with a keynote from Dr Raqib Chowdhury. With over 150 delegates signed up, everything I've heard makes it sound like exactly the sort of event which I'd have loved to have been in the audience for myself; with the exception that I'm not due to make any appearance in Australia anytime soon [1]. More’s the pity.

I'm especially delighted to hear the event went so well, as the event was co-organised and facilitated by the industrious Roy himself. He used the opportunity to give the journal a first-rate platform to speak to an audience of engaged scholars about the benefits of publishing through Exchanges. Personally, I’ve found there’s no more productive or effective route to promote the journal to early-career researchers than speaking directly to groups of them! All in all it was a really stellar effort from Raqib and Roy, and my hat is well and truly off to them both. I've already had one or two conversations from scholars in the audience about prospective publications with Exchanges, which is a really positive outcome. Hopefully there'll be even more once people have had a chance to let the discussions sink in further.

Naturally, as I'm a month away from speaking on academic publishing to a similar crowd of early career researchers in (hopefully) sunny Prato, Italy, this session very much resonates with my own interests right now. Hence, I'm really looking forward to some interesting, insightful and perhaps challenging discussions with the delegates at the Utopian Studies conference workshop. I suspect the audience size won’t quite align with the Monash event though, although I’ll be happy to be proved wrong. Now I only need to work out how I can run a session like this here at Warwick... [2]

Crowded and buzzing seminar at Monash May 2019[1] Well, unless someone invites me out there to speak myself. Have laptop, will travel!

[2] Although, truth be told, it's a lot more fun to go and speak to audiences beyond the confines of the Coventry ring-road!


January 15, 2019

New Year, New Content

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas/winter [1] break. This is my fifth day back in the Exchanges saddle, although only my second one in the office due to conference attendance [2] and a spot of working from home. Always nice to be back at the IAS here in (currently not very) sunny Coventry though, as I find it’s a powerful and inspirational location at which to work.

My first day back on site last week was one filled with meetings, not least of which was our semi-regular departmental team meeting [3]. So packed with meetings in fact, that I actually forgot to take a lunch break – whoops! Two meetings that day standout in particular. The first was a long and perhaps rather rhizomal conversation with one of my editorial board (hello Marcos). It’s always a real pleasure to spend some time with my editors in person, and their generosity in talking about their own research, teaching, careers and lives represents a particular honour. Part of what Marcos and I were talking about though, were some ideas we’d sketched out before Christmas around some invited bilingual submissions for a future issue of Exchanges. I can say, it is (fairly) early days with regards to this, but I think it looks like there’s some genuine interest in this from our contacts, so it’s quite exciting.

Later in the day I also had the chance to chat at length with a visiting lecturer in critical safety systems (and oddly expert in Viking culture, literature and life), from the University of York. She’s an old friend of mine, and she’d taken the time between lectures to pop in for tea and a chat. Once again the topic of contributions to the journal came up, and quickly it emerged there was a sense her own students (home and abroad) could benefit from a guest appearance from yours truly to talk about the wonders of publishing with Exchanges. And maybe even contributing to the journal, as I’m sure they’d have some wonderful contributions to make. Fingers crossed something comes of this, as there’s nothing I like more than talking with post-graduate and early career researchers about publishing opportunities.

That was enough for one day, but I’ve been delighted since then again, as on Monday this week I received a further approach from some literature scholars wanting to explore publishing a special issue through Exchanges. I’m very much looking forward to some longer conversations about this next week, but if this and the bilingual issue come off, there’s a very exciting 2020 in terms of new content, original thought and valuable additions to the research discourse ahead of us.

All in all, I’m sure you’ll agree a great start to the new year. Don’t forget I’m always happy to talk to potential authors (or groups of authors) about future submissions, special issues or where academic publishing is going these days. Just drop me a line. In the meantime, I’m going back now to continue writing some new marketing material for Exchanges, and planning my communications for scholars workshop for next month.

[1] Or summer, if you’re part of my southern hemisphere readership/editorial team!

[2] Understanding the Social in a Digital Age, UEA, Norwich. Delightfully for once I wasn't speaking!

[3] Probably less of interest to readers, but all the same a very handy way to keep up with what’s going on here in the IAS


July 02, 2018

Workshopping Exchanges

In recent days I’ve been asked to run two different workshops this coming autumn. Firstly, I’ll be likely contributing to a summer school on peer review and effective academic writing. This is quite exciting as it’s a development of the brief session I ran a month or so back for STEM post-graduate researchers at Warwick. Naturally, I haven’t even begun to start pulling the material together for this, but it will make for a great opportunity to firstly promote the journal to some future potential authors and reviewers. Secondly, it will once again provide me with a strong motivation to go back over my own peer-reviewing knowledge and the journal’s protocols with a fine-toothed comb. Benefits all round there.

The other workshop is a new development in the Institute’s Accolade programme for our research fellows. The brief is to run a workshop for a couple of hours around Exchanges and scholarly publishing. Obviously as Senior Editor (and a researcher into publishing practices) I could easily fall into a long discourse about publishing developments, but I think it would be more beneficial for the participants if I mostly hold off on that and develop some more kinaesthetic learning experiences. I’ve sketched out a session thumbnail for now, but I’ll come back to this in a few months as the ideas start to crystallise in my head a bit more.

Whatever happens, it is great to be contributing to training and teaching once more, whilst also spreading the good word about Exchanges.


August 2019

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