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June 16, 2022

Developing a Monograph Proposal: Early Career Insights

Follow-up to Developing a Monograph Proposal from Exchanges - Editorial Reflections from Warwick's Interdisciplinary Journal


Following the panel discussions around creating a monograph proposal for early career academics, we share some insights which emerged from the speakers.

Last week I ran a session with three very generous panellists [1] talking about their experiences publishing a monograph from an early career perspective. My thanks naturally to all three of them for generously giving up their time to share their thoughts with our Accolade audience. I was very interested to hear what they had to say, since, personally, my first monograph has remained an idea on the back of a piece for far too long! As with previous panel sessions in Accolade, the idea was that questions were driven mainly from the floor – although I had a number of topics which I was keen to explore myself for when the audience prompts slowed down too!

I thought following this event it would be useful to blog a little of the wisdom which emerged. Although, as a mild caveat for what follows, be aware given the contrasts in the scholastic trajectories of the panellist there may be a few contrasting opinions within. And doubtless if we spoke to three more academics, we may find some more.

Getting Started

Give yourself space and time to both develop the proposal and refocus on what it is you really want to say. Don’t leap straight into it right after your viva, but let the ideas percolate for some time. Although one speaker advocated writing a book alongside your PhD (if you’re a glutton for punishment and increased work levels!) as a way to get a first monograph out far faster.

Finding the space and time to develop the proposal and write the book is almost certainly going to be a challenge. Especially if you move into a frantic post-doctoral position, or are on one of various short-term contracts. Ideally, try to identify or carve out a good chunk of time when you can devote to focussing on your proposal and book development. How you do this will depend on your lifestyle and authorial habits though – you might want to timetable yourself once a week, or a few minutes every day. You might want to take a short sabbatical to ‘break the back’ of the work, or participate in a writing retreat instead.

The first steps in getting a proposal up and running are often having informal conversations with a few potential publishers. Some may follow up quickly with a more formal application process, while others will be more laid back and see the conversations as a chance to participate in shaping and developing your proposal to best suit their audiences and business needs. Conferences with publisher stands can be a good way to have a number of these informal conversations quickly. However, don’t be surprised if some publishers ‘ghost’ you eventually, even if early conversations were positive – move on to another, more receptive one instead.

Where Do I Go?

Identifying where to submit is important. Not only are some publishers valued more than others by some institutions, selection panels and accreditation processes, but it also matters in terms of reaching the right audiences. Which is why approaching a publisher who publishes a series of monographs which closely match your field and disciplinary peers can be a good approach to take.

That said, aim to work with a publisher where you can see yourself having a good relationship over a period of time. This is crucial because a monograph IS a long term and very personal project, and you will be dealing with these people and their organisation for an extended period of time. Hence, you might want to ask among your peer networks for advice and experience from those who have already published a book about those publishers and their editorial staff with which they have had more positive working experiences. Although hearing some of the horror stories can also be quite beneficial.

Only submit a formal proposal to one publisher at a time. You can have informal talks, as above, with as many as you like, but once it comes to a proposal you need to be engaging and submitting to one organisation alone. In terms of good and ethical academic practices, this is equivalent to the way in which authors should only submit a particular manuscript to a single journal title at any time. Breaking with these conventions is not advised, as along with tarnishing your professional reputation, you may find yourself souring any future relationships with a publishing house.

One good starting point is to always read the guidance on a prospective publisher’s site about how to go about submitting a proposal with some considerable care. Some publishers may be looking for sample chapters, others might prefer a proposal or outline instead, or indeed anything in between. If you are ready to make that formal approach – give the publisher what they stipulate, otherwise they are unlikely to respond favourably.

Legally speaking, the contracts you will be offered will vary considerably in content and clauses, and even at which point in the process they are signed. Some publishers will want to commit you to working with them sooner, while others may prefer to wait until the book is essentially finished. Do read any contract carefully and be ready to discuss any element of it which is unclear, ambiguous or about which you are less than happy with your potential publisher – BEFORE you sign it. However, remember once you have signed on the line, you will have entered into a legal arrangement. So always take time and care before you take this step to make sure you are entirely happy to what you are committing yourself.

Pitching Proposals & Drafting Chapters

In terms of how you make an attractive proposal, aside from selecting a publisher or series which resonates with your own field of interest, for commercial publishers a lot of it comes down to profit, marketability and sales [2]. They will be looking at your book proposal to see if the finished product has a sufficient marketable value and potential audience who will be interested in buying it. Which means your original pitch or idea might not be the final one which is commissioned, so be prepared to redevelop it.

Like any academic writing, getting samples of other people’s work can help shape yours and fit them to a ‘successful’ formula - although be aware there’s no ‘exact’ perfect proposal. Hence, if you can, do try and get hold of other people’s successful book proposals. There will probably be a lot to learn about how they phrased and shaped their pitch to engage a publisher’s attention and interest. If you can apply some of these lessons in your own proposal, it will likely be easier then to attract interest in your own work.

Conversely, strive to make your voice authentic and representative within your proposal and monograph. Having that ‘authorial voice’ is crucial, not least in demonstrating that you’ve got something interesting and original to say. Always write the proposal and the monograph itself like the book you would want to read yourself. This will help make it more marketable, but also ensures it will more readily find an audience. It also makes it easier to make the pitch about why your work is an essential addition to the published discourse. At the same time, do write with a view towards meeting research assessment goals (e.g. the REF), if you want to be career minded and gain the maximum personal advantage from your work.

Practical Considerations

For those looking to publish beyond the UK, it is important to note that one country’s publishing cultural norms, practices or approaches are not the same as another. Hence, if you are pitching books to publishers outside the UK, or even in non-Anglophone languages, expect the process to vary considerably. For example, despite their geographic closeness even the UK and France’s monograph publication approaches vary to a noticeable degree! Be guided by others who have published internationally, and the advice offered on each publisher’s site.

Monograph endorsements, that is comments or quotes from academics, reviewers or other notable public intellectuals, can be an important thing to have when the book comes towards publication. If you know a significant academic in your field, it may be worth asking them if they’d be prepared to provide some positive text. It will depend on the publisher if they expect authors to find these quotes, or it may be a service they offer. As with all thing, find out when you make your proposal, as you may need to start approaching people long ahead of time – and to make sure they’ve had a chance to read your draft text!

Images are often reproduced in black and white, as it’ll be cheaper for a publisher in terms of producing the physical book. Notably, the quality of the reproduction can be lamentable, even for major publisher, so always check out similar books from them to get an idea for how any images will appear. If high-quality reprographic reproduction of images are especially important for your text, you may need to be more careful in the selection of your publisher, or even consider an online only publisher where colour and reproduction of graphics are less of a cost concern.

Getting permissions for third-party material (images, illustrations, extensive text extracts etc.,) included in your book is important, although some publishers will seek to obtain these permissions for you. However, you may need to be aware there will likely be fees for including some materials, as rights and commercial exploitation of them (which is what a book sold for profit is) means individuals and organisations expect to be compensated in turn. If you, your institution, funder or publisher are unwilling or unable to cover these copyright fees, then you need to be prepared to publish your book without them.

Open Access Books

Finally, and interestingly not something our panellists had much experience in, open access books are becoming increasingly important to scholars. Especially in terms of future research assessment regulations and funder mandates, publishing in open access will increasingly become the norm. The drawback is, for many of the commercial publishers, while they offer open publishing options, they come with ‘book processing charges’ costs to the author/institution in the thousands.[3]

Wow – so much to cover in only an hour. As always if you’ve any thoughts, comments or suggestions relating to this topic, I’d love to hear more from you in the comments below – or drop me a line.

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Endnotes

[1] My thanks to Esther Wright, Aidan Norrie and Clare Siviter!

[2] Coughs loudly and looks at his own work on Autonomous-Marxism and commodification of scholarly discourse. As long-term readers (or anyone who’s spoken to me) will know, I have strong opinions regarding the commercialised distortion of the academic public discourse. I’ll spare you all from re-iterating them but will direct your attention to the following note [3] for publishers who may be more willing to consider a text more on its scholarly merits than what it may do for their balance sheet's bottom line.

[3] Although there are many smaller presses who operate different models – e.g. freemium, patron etc. Hence, publishing open access is possible, without huge fees, but you may need to shop around. Find out more about this on sites like DOAB - https://doabooks.org/ , or have a chat with myself for some recommendations.


May 26, 2022

Developing a Monograph Proposal

Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/ias/calendar/?calendarItem=8a1785d8804667f701808a917361052e

Don’t worry. Exchanges isn’t about to make a major pivot and set up shop as a full-blown academic publisher. No, the title in questions refers to a forthcoming panel discussion I’ve been asked to chair as part of the IAS’ Accolade programme (Thu 9th June). In a similar vein to the one I chaired a few weeks ago on strategic article publishing, this session sees a small collection of scholars coming along and talking about their experiences – this time focussed on monograph publishing. Specifically, the session’s title alludes to developing a monograph proposal, but I suspect conversations will drift wider than this to encompass the whole publishing journey.

Hence, my hope is that the panel will be able to expose the high and low spots of their publication journeys. I think crucially this will be complemented by an exploration of the initial steps – answering the key question of ‘How do I start?’ for the audience. Naturally, as a journal publisher myself, I’m going to be especially interested in hearing about their interactions with editorial and production staff alike. These might not be the focus of discussions -more’s the pity – but I suspect there will be a few insights or even revelations along the way!

Of course, like the previous panel my hopes are for the majority of questions for the panel to be raised directly by the attendees. I am understandably though also in the process of developing a battery of discussion points to prompt some initial debate. It’s always been my experience in running panels like this that you normally need a couple of ice breaker questions, and perhaps a closing one, to shape the session. Beyond these, I find the audiences are usually willing to drive the direction of conversations themselves. That said, as an experienced panel facilitator, I’m also prepared for a lengthy stony silence from the audience too which is why I like to have around a dozen back-up questions to hand.

Suggestions for any potential questions or topics to put to the panel ahead of the event, are of course always welcomed via all our regular communications channels. Personally, I’m very much looking forward to participating in these discussions, so here’s to a vibrant exchange of insight!


May 25, 2022

Academic journals and you

Writing about web page https://www.researchgate.net/publication/360842687_Articles_Academic_Publishing_You

Today I did a repeat performance of last year's seminar for the undergraduates on the theme of academic journal publishing. As always I had the horrible feeling I was somehow pitching it simultaneously too high and too low for the audience, but as it turned out it seemed to go okay. A discrete audience mind you, which made the interactive portions a bit more challenging - but I guess we're near the year of the academic term for so many students I can hardly blame them for not wanting to turn up!

An excellent question on converting a dissertation into an article – which I think I’ll adapt for inclusion should I be asked to re-run this session next year. Maybe less on the journal world and more on the writing aspect I think might have been a good idea, so we’ll see if I can conflate a couple of slides and add in a new one on this topic instead.

Also a first for me - being asked a question on video by an attendee travelling at high speed train across Europe. Truly, we are living in the future! Should anyone be interested - I've made the slides available on my Research-Gate account.

Slides - Academic Journals and You


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 - Editorial Reflections from Warwick's Interdisciplinary Journal

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.


February 22, 2022

What Do I Get Out of Publishing With Exchanges? Some thoughts and ideas

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

With so many journals published today – what makes choosing to publish with Exchanges a worthwhile experience for potential authors?

It’s a good question!

Certainly, this is an existential topic I believe every editor-in-chief will probably have considered explicitly or implicitly at some point in their tenures atop the editorial tree. It’s certainly a regular point of debate I hear when talking with early career scholars or running my various academic writing workshops. It is undoubtedly a very valid question and hence well worth giving more than a few moments’ reflection in answering.

I might reconfigure it slightly to reframe the root of the enquiry as: Given there are so many (many!) journals out there for potential authors: what makes our title different, valuable and worthy of the labour in becoming one of our contributors. In essence, what makes it worth potential authors taking their hard-won, hand-crafted manuscripts and offering them up to be considered for publication in our pages than somewhere, anywhere else?

Firstly, in my perception, I should say there is no singular answer to this question which will satisfy every scholarly author. If there were, well, let’s say my job promoting the journal as a destination for quality research writings for an interdisciplinary audience would be a lot easier. However, like Soylant cola[1], the answer which satisfies differs from person to person. It is more of a matrix containing various elements which will appeal to greater or lesser degrees to different authors. I can’t claim this is a complete list either! But from my various conversations with past authors, including those on the Exchanges Discourse, along with casual and formal feedback these are the aspects which I best answer the question: what do you get out of publishing with Exchanges?

Early Career Focus: Exchanges has always aimed to not only appeal to early career authors, but also to take account of the additional support and understanding they sometimes need early in their publication career. This means not only are we willing to consider every submission we receive as a potential publication, but that our editorial team readily aim to provide support and guidance to newer authors. Alongside this, we’re more forgiving than the average journal where authors haven’t quite got our format and styles down correctly at the outset. Heck, we might event overlook a few typographical and spelling errors that can sink a paper at the first hurdle elsewhere. Why? Well, it’s because we know we’ll work on these together as the piece progresses towards, hopefully, publication.

Personal Mediation: This leads neatly to my second point, which is we are very much a journal with a human heart. What I mean here is every submission will be read, considered and progress based on a decision made by one, or more, living entities. Living entities which are willing to enter into a dialogue over your work, rather than making decisions based on metrics, or similar, numerical ‘fit’. With many top-flight titles deploying algorithm-derived selection methodologies, potentially good papers can fall because of a machine-driven evaluation. Okay, this might mean we take a *little* longer to respond, but be assured every submission will be personally considered and appraised, by the Editor-in-Chief at the very least.

Open Access: Articles need readers. It’s as true now as it has ever been, and as a diamond open access title, from our birth, that’s something we’ve always made as easy as possible. For Exchanges, there have never been any author fees to pay and all of our publications are provided without financial barrier to the readers of the world. Propagating good scholarship should not be restricted only to those with deep pockets or the ability to pay to publish. Additionally, as repeated studies have shown publishing in an open access title increases the reach, impact and citation of published work too.

Copyright Retention: Authors licence their work to be published in Exchanges as a condition of submission. But, and it’s a big but, we don’t make any claim over the exclusivity of the work once it’s published. Authors retain their moral and economic rights over their writing. Hence, you will be free to make derivative works from it, exploit it commercially or even republish it in some other organ.[2] That’s right – you get to KEEP the fruits of your own intellectual labour – do the top journals in your field let you do that?

Counter-Commercial Ideology: I won’t prolong discussions on the commercial hegemonic dominance of scholarly publishing [3], but if you, like myself, want to take a stand against this – publishing in our scholar-led, institutionally funded, diamond-OA title is an obvious route to a win. By ourselves we might not be able to ‘disrupt’ the capitalised control and commodification of the scholarly publishing sphere. Nevertheless, each article we publish is one which the commercial titles are denied! Strike a (small) blow for academic publishing freedom – publish in Exchanges!

Stable Identifiers: Okay, slight nerd alert – but every single one of Exchanges’ articles is ascribed a stable unique resource identifier – a DOI. This means you can put a link to it in your CV, on your website, on other papers and be assured access will be maintained. Even if the journal was to be (gulp) discontinued, we’ve made archival arrangements to ensure as so long as there’s an Internet, access to your paper is stable and assured. It also helps in your paper being found via search engines and other indexes too, all of which enhances its discoverability.

Funder Compliance: Exchanges is compliant with most, indeed virtual all, funder requirements for open access work – including those proposed by cOAlition S. We adhere to the international standards for openness and copyright, alongside our efforts to produce a quality-assured publication destination. This means in terms of research assessment exercises, work published in Exchanges is perfectly viable for consideration. Incidentally, if you are aware of any major funder whose mandates for open publication we don’t meet – I would be very interested in hearing about it!

Interdisciplinary Audience: Let’s talk enhanced visibility! Writing for Exchanges means your work is going to be seen and read by scholars around the globe, and not only within your own discipline. While a reader might land on one article, many like to browse the rest of the issue too. This means they can and often do serendipitously discover work they wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Given all of our readers, authors and reviewers receive a publication notification each time the journal comes out there’s a chance for hundreds, even thousands, of new scholars around the world discovering your work. All of which raises awareness of both it and yourself, and we would hope an increased chance of being cited elsewhere.

Personal Promotion: A poorly kept secret about Exchanges is how every successfully published author is invited to come on our podcast to talk about their article, research and adventures in publication. Without wanting to head off into a secondary article about the benefits of podcasting – appearing on the podcast is a great way to raise professional visibility – both for yourself as a scholar and for your published work. Alongside this, we encourage all of our authors to provide a personal mini-biography and picture alongside their article, helping readers discover more about the people behind the names. We include these specifically to enhance your personal and professional recognition among peers and potential collaborators.

Partnership: Did you know we publish special issues? Did you know each special issue came out of a collaboration between people who had published, reviewed or otherwise previously contributed to Exchanges? As a past journal contributor, you are perfectly positioned to propose some form of collaboration with the journal. Be it a special issue, conference, seminar or research project. Exchanges likes to go beyond being a destination – we’re interested in becoming your scholarly partner! Plus, if there's a need for some academic writing teaching, the Editor-in-Chief loves to talk about this subject with interested audiences too!

Scholar Led: Finally, we are robustly and defiantly scholar-led, from the top down. This means we editors are a community of scholars, many drawn from the early career ranks, who understand the trials and tribulations of academia.[4] We also appreciate the personal importance of the work each author has entrusted with us for consideration. In our own professional research capacity, we also publish and review,[5] so we know what it is like to be on the other side of the author equation. We sincerely desire to offer then an authorial publishing experience configured to operate as the kind of journal we ourselves would wish to publish in. We sincerely hope that’s the experience of our authors too, and always welcome comments on what we’ve done well, and how we could improve.

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Okay, that’s the areas which I think from a few minutes reflection make our journal one to consider. There probably are many more, and I welcome any suggestions in the comments below for other positive and attractive aspects we offer. Likewise, if there are areas we should aspire towards adopting, I am always interested in hearing about those from potential authors.

No matter what though, one thing I always remember as Exchanges’ Chief Editor is how every author has made a positive choice to try to appear in our pages. This conscious act is something we welcome, celebrate and applaud each time. Not primarily for any vainglorious reasoning because it inflates our own self-importance [6], although there is a measure of satisfaction in knowing our efforts continue to draw in new authors and their scholarship. No, it is mainly because the choice of an author to publish with us means Exchanges’ value, reputation and audience continue respected and appreciated by members of our potential author community old and new.

We were created to offer a route to propagate new and emerging scholars’ voices within an ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue. That people continue to choose to contribute to this – means we must be doing something right.

Although, there are always new things we can learn to make things better!

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[1] See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0zwOf4JAmk

[2] Subject of course to whomever is publishing this second time’s own rules on prior publication and originality. Read the author guidance for the title or publisher, or ask their editor for more details. You will need to give us a link-back though to the Exchanges article 😊

[3] Read my thesis and published works for more on my distaste for this aspect of the field.

[4] And real-life travails and challenges too. See the note on our shared ‘human’ approach above.

[5] Some of us more than others. I know I’m long overdue a few articles or a book or two elsewhere…

[6] We are after all, a small fish in a very, very large pond. But there is a marked satisfaction I cannot deny.


November 15, 2021

New Journal Launches – PGR Pedagogic Practice

Writing about web page https://t.co/PJm1ssqckY

Cover of the Journal of Pedagogic PracticeIt is not every day I get to trumpet the arrival of a new journal, but today is very much an exception. Last week saw the launch of the Journal of PGR Pedagogic Practiceon the Warwick Press journals platform. I can't claim Exchanges or myself played an especially large contributing role, and any praise for its content and operations deserves to go entirely to the editors and Board of the new title.

That said, at least one of the lead editors for the journal is a graduate of Exchanges’ associate editors programme. As a consequence, I spent a very enjoyable hour with earlier this year reflecting on my experiences and talking through the practicalities of running a journal title with him. I believe I've also agreed to act as an advisor to the journal team in the future at the point they need some more input. Not that they needed to have asked, as I’m always happy to help support the Warwick Press family of journals in whatever capacity I can. Nevertheless, I think we can claim a slender slice of the kudos pie for ourselves this time.

Of course, now their first issue is out, the greatest hill to climb lies ahead: getting the second issue together! Certainly, so many newly launched scholar-led journal initiatives flounder at this stage once the initial enthusiasm wears thin. And beyond that too lay a series of foothills which will continue to rise from the mists as each subsequent issue approaches. Or maybe that's just my experience running Exchanges - especially this year which has felt like a sprinting marathon at times rather than the light jog running the title usually represents.

Nevertheless, a huge congratulations to our 'sister' J.PGR.PedPract! Long may you attract interesting and insightful articles, thought and comment!



March 03, 2021

Publishing Strategy Accolade Session

This week, Exchanges is hosting a session on the IAS’ Accolade researcher development programme loosely titled ‘developing your publication strategy’ (Thu 4th March). I’m delighted that for once I’m only hosting the panel rather than being the main speaker. Instead, we’ll be joined by a range of other academics from both the institution and beyond to share their insights, thoughts and advice on the publication experience. I’m hopeful we’ll have a lively debate.

As part of this session, we’re also inviting questions to be put to the panel ahead of time via email or on Teams. Naturally, people are more than welcome to suggest questions ‘from the floor’ on the day in person or via chat too. Hence, if you’ve got a burning query all ready to go – don’t keep it to yourself, but get in touch.

I’ll try and capture some of the essence of the session for a later blog post – or at least as much as one can when one’s the session chair (never easy to take notes then!).


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.


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


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