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January 24, 2023

Publishing for Arts & Humanities Post–Graduates: CADRE Workshop January 2023

Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/cadre/current_students/phdlife/cadreworkshops/

Following a session for arts and humanities students, the EIC reflects back on the discussions, content and advice offered in a workshop for PGRs.

Today I had the pleasure of attending and helping to facilitate the CADRE Publishing for Arts Postgraduates workshop and seminar on campus, thanks to old friend of the journal Dr Pierre Botcherby. As my first of a number of workshops and events I’m contributing to this year, I was very much looking forward to the discussions. I was also looking forward to helping to host the event in person, as the side conversations you have with delegates seldom seem to occur in the online only format.

Led by Prof David Lambert and cofacilitated by myself and Pierre, the session was an opportunity for the research students to explore, discuss and broaden their knowledge of academic publishing. With a practical edge, the general focus was, largely, on academic journal articles. Although we also dipped into the realm of collected editions, social media and book proposals too. Naturally, because I was in the room, we also got into the complexities of open access and author rights, but perhaps thankfully I didn’t find myself on too much of a soapbox about the commodification of the publishing sector. Well, not too much of a soapbox anyway.[1]

Why Publish?

The opening question put to the delegates was ‘why should you publish’ – for the following areas emerged.

  • Feedback: To gain useful feedback and enrich thesis writing. Appreciating publication is a process [a continuum even? – Ed] too, of which thesis writing is part.
  • Discourse: To contribute to the scholarly discourse and in having something interesting and original to say within it.
  • Enrich: To bring other researchers or fields of study which may have been previously neglected, and in this way enriching the field and reputations of other scholars was a related point.
  • Career: Pragmatically it was pointed out that publishing was essential for building your academic CV, profile, reputation and potential job prospects.
  • Confidence: Interestingly one delegate suggested that publishing helped to build personal confidence in their research endeavors, and also to stake a degree of ‘primacy’ over their field of work or focus.
  • Visibility: Finally, it was agreed that creating a publication track record leads to creating a discussion or focus on your research in the wider academic environment – again a valuable career boosting element.

When to Publish?

Delegates were next challenged to consider when the time was ripe to publish – and an interesting spectrum of times emerged from different parts of the room. These perceptions included:

  • Before: Potentially given prior experience ahead of starting the PhD, drawing on past studies like a Master’s dissertation or professional knowledge.
  • Third Year: During your final year, once the research is done and findings are starting to emerge.
  • Opportunity: As opportunities and circumstances allow – you might not be planning to publish but then a call appears which so closely matches your chapter or thesis theme that not trying to publish would seem self-defeatist.

These were all certainly valid perceptions, and very much reflecting that there is no ‘ideal’ moment, but a myriad of possibilities of opportunities.

Where to Publish?

Next came the knotty problem of selecting a publication destination, something I actually came back to in my own later talk How to Publish. Here discussions were largely around the routes to identifying the right candidate journal – through metrics or considering to whom a journal’s content is normally directed.[2] We didn’t get too deeply into the metrics, perhaps a bless’d relief, although it might be that a 20 minute follow up session these and the JCRs might have benefited the delegates somewhat – not matter my own skepticisms of the preeminence of these schema.

Points were also raised concerning about choosing to write for a niche, disciplinary title against the benefits (and challenges) of seeking to appear in a broader and more cross/interdisciplinary title too. I was gratified to hear some discussion from delegates concerning balancing knockbacks (rejections/declines) from more ‘senior’ titles against targeting ‘lower ranked’ titles. The perception was these more modest titles were normally more likely to be configured in a more welcoming, and accommodating manner whilst retaining quality regimes. I would certainly hope Exchanges itself falls into this latter category!

What to Publish?

Next, we enjoyed some more debate over what exactly to publish, although journal articles and book reviews were both seen as good starting points. Book chapters, especially as a result of conference participation and later collected editions were also agreed as strong and sometime serendipitous publication opportunities to be very much encouraged. Books, especially the research monograph, were noted as especially valuable for career capital but in terms of time commitment items with their much longer lead time to publication something which might be a greater challenge in terms of relating to a imminent job opportunity. However, it was highlighted that having any publication ‘accepted’ allowed it to be listed as ‘forthcoming’ within a CV, publication list or profile, which was seen as still offering considerable benefit.

At this point one of the experienced delegates stressed how important they had found it to be responsive and friendly in all their communications with publishers, and how it had opened potential additional avenues to follow up later too. I would concur with this point, and not just because I’m generally on the other side of the editorial communication equation!

How to Publish

Following on was section comprising a twenty minute talk from myself – and rather than blow my own trumpet here’s a link to the slides:

Gareth Johnson Slides Page One - CADRE Workshop

But for the record I covered a little on creating effective titles and abstracts, methods for evaluating candidate journals and publishers, the dangers of ‘trash’ publishers, coping with peer-review feedback and clearing third party rights. I also dipped into the importance of considering how a journal or publisher deals with author rights – in terms of requiring a transfer of economic rights, vs journals like Exchanges which allow authors to retain them. It seemed to go down well enough – although I might have frightened one delegate with my warnings about publishing in trash journals and career impact.

Oops.

Wrap Up

After some discussions over lunch we moved into the wrap up for the session, touching briefly again on open access and edited collections [3]. We also had a bit of chat about the artificialities of page and content lengths in a digital publishing age, although as demonstrated – some (many?) journals still have hardcopy editions which impacts on their minimum and maximum sizes for volumes and contents. Finally, there were discussions around blogging and social media as a route to ‘publishing’ and raising personal visibility. As a long-time blogger [4] I’m not sure how much blogs work that well in that respect today, but I’d agree they are a great environment within which to start a conversation alongside practicing your writing habits. As I commented though, some publisher’s definition of ‘prior publishing’ can be tricksy – in that they claim only ‘they’ perform ‘true’ publication…and yet ‘blogging’ by prospective authors might somehow be considered prior work and risk clash with a submission based on the blog.

ARGH!

I, and by extension Exchanges, very much disagree with this perception, which is mired more in considerations of profitability and market return than supporting scholarly discourse. Nevertheless, it was something worth flagging up so the delegates might be aware it could prove a future problematic for them to overcome.

Hence, as you can see a packed couple of hours, with plenty of good content and discussions. My thanks again to the hosts and delegates for all their contributions too.

---

Endnotes

[1] Delegates were probably lucky I wasn’t running the session alone as I would have loved to get into these areas in more detail. But, when you’re sharing the stage it doesn’t do to hog the limelight too much!

[2] As I commented on twitter, I am usure how strong an argument ‘audience’ is these days, with much research indicating readers come in primarily at the article rather than journal level. Certainly for my own praxis, I rarely if ever read a specific ‘journal’ these days – I search for article on topics of research interest instead. Frankly being ‘open’ is more important to me than ‘prestigious’!

[3] I wasn’t aware that Warwick had a series for these, so this was an especially useful bit for me.

[4] I think this current blog is my fourth or fifth regular professional blog platform, so yes a long time and reasonably prolific.


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


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