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May 23, 2023
Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/global/europe/eutopia
Reflections from last week’s EUTOPIA-SIF panel on a couple of fascinating academic pubolication topics.
Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a panel discussion session as part of Warwick’s contribution to the EUTOPIA-SIF programme of events. To this end, I was joined by delegates from across Europe, as well as from here at Warwick to discuss a couple of topics close to my own professional interests: publication strategies and metrics. For once though, and thankfully given the challenge of the session’s theme, I wasn’t on the spot to talk about my own views but rather to enable the discourse between four wonderful panel members and the attendees. I can report from comments in the session and subsequently, that this was clearly a much-appreciated discussion opportunity.
For those of you who weren’t in the room here’s the session overview:
A major part of developing an academic track career is taking a strategic approach towards one’s publishing outputs. This helps in ensuring visibility among key audience demographics, alongside achieving credible impact and public recognition alongside generating markers of personal and professional esteem. Hence, understanding and engaging with the various publication measures of esteems – be they journal, article or personal – intrinsically resonates with any such strategic approach.
Illuminating these discussions through personal and professional insights will be a diverse group of scholars, sharing their experiences and perceptions around these crucial topics. Adopting a panel discussion format, the session will be largely contextualised and driven by attendees’ interests, questions and comments. In this way, the panel’s debates will organically evolve and resonate with the interests and concerns of the attending audience members.
In tackling these topics I was joined by a collection of academic panellists, drawn from contributors to Exchanges as authors and editors alike. These were:
- Dr Alena Cicholewski (Institute for English and American Studies, University of Oldenburg, Germany)
- Dr Huayi Huang (Usher Institute of Health and Wellbeing, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)
- Dr Ignaas Jimidar (CHIS (Chemical Engineering), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)
- Dr Sharon Coleclough (Department of Media, Performance and Communication, School of Digital, Technologies and Arts, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK)
Ahead of the session I’d made a call for questions, as well as developing a few provocations of my own to get the ball rolling. While I’d shared these with the panel beforehand as the session was also designed to be largely driven by the delegates’ thoughts, experiences and insights of the delegates a most dynamic session ensured. Hence, after an opening question to prime the pump asking generally about publication strategic approaches, we shifted very much to an dialogic and interactive approach for the rest of the 90 minutes or so.
While I am not going to attempt to share the full session discourse – when you’re chairing there’s only so many notes you have time to take – to offer a flavour, in terms of overall strategies some of the suggested approaches included:
- Bespoke: Remember there is no single strategic approach that works for all. Be adaptable with your publication approaches and ask yourself what you want to achieve - e.g., recognition, dissemination, career esteem or opportunities.
- Interdisciplinarity: Balance the need for advancing complex and insightful niche work, with that which straddles interdisciplinary boundaries – in terms of readers or subject matters – for maximum impact.
- Networking: View publishing as networking – consider who you are writing for and where, and use it to engender a discourse or dialogue between yourself and other key researchers. Can be the basis for an ongoing series of publications as a result.
- Potential: Publication isn’t everything – it is possible to advance to a new role without an overtly strong portfolio of past works, but having the potential to achieve more in the future is always worth stressing.
- Situtation: Understand where you are in the field, especially in terms of where you want to go and how you want to be perceived.
Following on there was also a fair amount of discussion contrasting the differences in perceptions of most esteem capital worthy works in different disciplines and fields. Certainly, comments around the (arguably unhealthy) predominance of STEM publication habits as ‘normative’ were richly represented here. These considerations were married with examinations of questions relating to single and joint lead-authors and the different advantages this might confer, alongside the challenges of breaking into an Anglophone  dominated publication field in some domains.
There were considerable discussions around metrics – their use and misuse in cases, and the importance of balancing your own career and output and trying not to be entirely dominated with chasing the illusive highest impact simply to amplify a quantitative score . Of course, as any academic knows no matter how much we might try to resist such objectified metrification the reality is research assessment exercises such as the REF loom large in any scholar’s life. However, balancing the need to ‘feed the beast’ while still achieving the ongoing publication and research discourse you actually want to produce remains a nuanced topic.
During the panel discussions the topic of AI, as one might have expected, came under the spotlight. There was a smattering of debate considering how the panel and delegates saw it as part tool, but also something which might distort or disrupt academic scholarly communicative practices into unknown configurations in the coming years. As an ancillary to these discussions, the panel were challenged to explore those other publication technologies or developments which might be worth examining in greater detail. Suggestions included podcasts and non-textural publication routes able to reach and engage new and different audiences, alongside developments in normative peer-reviewing practices too. Certainly though, retaining a watchful eye on opportunities beyond the traditional journal and monograph vectors which might prove valuable routes to communicate research activities were agreed as an essential strategic awareness.
The session closed by the panel offering their final thoughts on, given a limited time resource, where they would recommend focussing professional attention to yield maximum result. Suggestions included seeking to be a solo or lead author wherever possible, considering how your publications promote your public, professional identity and create the backbone of your interpersonal networks. Alongside this the importance of always remembering where you were in your career journey and meeting both opportunities and need within your strategic publication aims was stressed. Certainly, the panel agreed opportunities abound in terms of being able to contribute and be recognised far beyond simply operating as an author of texts within the publication sphere.
As always, my especial thanks to my panel quartet for their contributions and generous donation of their time and insights. From the reactions in the room, I can see that the delegates certainly were engaged by the discussions, and I hope we left them all with plenty to think over. As chair I certainly enjoyed the discussions and am still chewing over some of the comments and how they might relate to my own praxis and work on Exchanges. Naturally, I would like to extend my thanks to all the delegates too and especially to those posing questions or contributing to what was a very active chat-channel.
 An Anglophone and high income economy perhaps?
 Alternatively, to amplify just a single quantitative score perhaps?