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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!

April 12, 2022

4 Years Not Out (yet)

48 months in, the Editor-in-Chief pauses to celebrate his progress and progression

It was my Warwickversity yesterday, commemorating that day back in 2018 when I first took on the mantle of senior editor for Exchanges. A lot has changed, not least my official job title and that of the journal itself, since then. There’s also been a lot more home-office working than I anticipated, and while I miss seeing a lot of the Warwick campus crew in the flesh right now, I’ve not missed the countless miles of the commute down the M69.

There weren’t any celebrations – hopefully if I make it to year 5 that would seem a suitable moment to make a mark – other than a quiet reflection on job (mostly) done well. It is great to acknowledge that having come into the post as what was a fixed term 2.5 year role, that I’m still here and loving the job more than ever today. Probably in part because what the journal is and does has evolved, but mainly because of the editors, authors and other contributors or supporters I’ve met along the way. Not to mention the IAS’ unflinching backing of the title and myself through good times and adverse too.

Right, enough omphaloskepsis – time to get back to work for the next 12 months of effort – starting with the call for papers coming out in this month’s new issue of the Exchanges journal!


April 11, 2019

One Year Later

CakeToday marks the one-year anniversary since I took over running the Exchanges journal as its Managing Editor-in-Chief. Hence, I thought it’d be appropriate to take a look back at what’s occurred during in that time, along with casting my gaze upon the road ahead.

The past year has seen two issues of Exchanges published, as might be expected. Perhaps more excitingly, it saw shift in the journal’s title as part of a ‘conscious-uncoupling’ from the Warwick brand. As our statistics show, the vast majority of articles published in Exchanges have historically originated from Warwick based or associated scholars. That’s nothing of which to be ashamed though. In fact, I continue to be delighted by the number of local scholars who’ve chosen to publish with us, and I hope to welcome many more contributions from them in the months ahead Nevertheless, going forward, our Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Research Journal brand makes plain our global ambition for readers and contributors far more than the title’s original name. Revising Exchange’s full title name was one of the earliest changes I introduced, and I’m happy to say one which I remain deeply satisfied I made.

Meanwhile, in the wider world we’ve had the rise of the Plan S [1] initiative from research funders, representing the strongest effort yet to force compliance with an open access publication norm. There are many issues or concerns over the impact of the plan, and almost as many detractors, naysayers and counters often located in the commercial publishing sector. Nevertheless, Plan S is undoubtably one of the biggest potential game changers within the academic publishing sector, certainly in the UK since 2012’s Finch Report [2]. That said there remains much which remains uncertain or unknown, a theme Prof Martin Eve highlighted at this week’s UKSG conference in Telford [3]. As the publishing lead of a scholar-led open access journal, Plan S is naturally a development I’m keeping a close eye on. Even if largely Exchanges already meets with the requirements…or at least as they’re currently understood.

I guess as a journal hosted at a UK university, I can’t avoid mentioning the B word. Brexit is something we British-based scholars can’t help but fret over, with its potential impacts on funding, partnerships, student intake and opportunities. I am pleased to say, in line with the IAS’ global ethos, over the past year the journal has continued to make links with scholars across Europe and further afield. Whatever Brexit’s outcome, this increasing international engagement is without a doubt something that’ll be continuing as long as I’m running the journal!

In a somewhat related development, the past year has also seen changes in and an increased internationalisation of Exchanges Editorial Board. There’s been the departure to pastures new of a half-dozen of valued past editorial team members, but our ranks have swollen with nine new members of the Board. Not to mention only yesterday the introduction of our first three assistant editors too, as I broaden the idea and reenvisage practically what it means to be a member of the Exchanges team.

Behind the scenes there’s also been a shift in how the board works with myself as Editor-in-chief, largely down to my more consultative managerial demeanour. I’ve also created a series of evolving supporting materials for the Editorial Board, demarcating their roles and responsibilities more clearly, alongside providing more accurate guidance in how to perform their editorial duties. Anecdotally, the editorial team members seem to have relished these progressive moves, which has pleased me considerably. I’ve undoubtably learned and benefitted even more so from the professional relationships I’ve forged through working with them. I hope they’ve also benefitted from my increased professionalisation of journal operations, procedures and policies – things I strongly believe are vital to Exchanges’ long-term sustainability.

One of the reasons why I’ve believed it’s important to provide greater support for my editors’ practice, is because behind the scenes we’ve had various improvements to the OJS (open journal system) platform that Exchanges runs on. Generally, I suspect these enhancements won’t have been visible to readers and authors, but for those of us working on the journal, they’ve helped introduce some much-needed new functionality alongside streamlining other elements. It’s (sad to say) not a perfect system, and my technical wish list continues to be a living document that’ll I’ll be using to try and instigate further developments in the system over the next year. Chief among these, I don’t mind mentioning, are better author metrics and better integrated multi-media. Keep your eye on this blog for news about this!

More visibly long-time readers will probably have spotted that one of my early endeavours was to overhaul, review and revise every single piece of information on Exchanges’ websites. It was clear to me from day one that this was long overdue, and served to remove numerous errors, oversights and in some cases directly contradictory material. I’m (slightly) hampered by the OJS system in terms of how much additionally functionality I can add to the journal’s website, but hopefully it’s a much richer resource especially for prospective authors and peer-reviewers.

Continuing the more tangible developments of the past year have been the numerous occasions when I’ve stepped out from behind my desk to engage with the early career researcher community at workshops, conferences and events. Personally, I have a deep love of teaching and public speaking, and so I have been utterly delighted to participate in these occasions. My mantra of ‘any time, anywhere’ when it comes to speaking about academic publishing, exchanges or scholarly communication remains at the heart of my personal professional practice. Hence, I can only encourage further invites globally to speak on behalf of the IAS and the journal.

Perhaps principally among these was my work with Warwick’s PAIS (Politics and International Studies) department in co-facilitating their academic writing and peer review summer school. Not only was this a fantastic opportunity to promote the journal, and discuss potential article submissions with emerging scholars, but it served as an impetus for revisions and improvements to Exchanges peer-review guidance and policy. I’m happy to say, that these are now more robust than ever, and importantly, more closely aligned with best academic praxis. I’m also proud that this event led to the publication of an extensive work on peer review by myself [4], which I hope early career scholars will find invaluable in supporting their own efforts.

Finally, there’s also been a rash of other efforts on the marketing and awareness front. The launch of our various associated social media channels (including this blog, twitter and Linked.in) have given our contributors and readers new ways to hear about developments with the journal, alongside highlighting individual publications. Our ever-popular Exchanges black pencils (have you got one?) too have been distributed far and wide, turning up on at least four different continents thanks to the efforts of the Editorial Board. And of course, that’s not including the various videos, posters and flyers which have served to raise the journal’s presence within the early career researcher community.

As you can see, it’s been a busy and eventual year for Exchanges and myself as it’s Editor-in-Chief. Looking ahead, we’ve a new issue coming up in a few weeks (my third!), and another regular one scheduled for late autumn too. Moreover, we’ve also got the preparations for the oft-mentioned special issues, which looking at the abstract proposals from the prospective authors for the first, looks likely to be exhilaratingly insightful contributions to the interdisciplinary discourse. I’m also booked to speak about academic publishing in the summer at one international conference already. So, here’s to a prosperous, scholarly and eventful Year Two for me and Exchanges!

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[1] Fun fact, the S stands for shock

[2] Finch, J., 2012. Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings – the Finch Group. London: BIS/Research Information Network.

[3] Eve, M.P., 2019. Plan S: Origins, Developments, Speed. In: UKSG 42nd Annual Conference and Exhibition, 8 April - 10 Apr 2019, Telford, England. (Unpublished).

[4] Johnson, G.J., Tzanakou, C., & Ionescu, I., 2019. An Introduction to Peer Review. Coventry: PAIS, Warwick. http://www.plotina.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Introduction-to-Peer-Review-Guide.pdf


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