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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?
May 09, 2022
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 :
- Tool for choosing potential journals: https://jane.biosemantics.org/
- Biology Open-Access Repository: https://www.biorxiv.org
- MDPI’s Remarkable Growth: https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2020/08/10/guest-post-mdpis-remarkable-growth/
- Publoins & Peer-reviewers: https://authorservices.wiley.com/Reviewers/journal-reviewers/recognition-for-reviewers/publons.html
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!
 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.
March 10, 2022
With a little more time on his hands at last, the editor takes a wander through his technical and platform wish-list to assess how things have changed over the past few years.
Today I’ve been taking the time to review, reformat and refresh my technical wish-list for Exchanges. It’s been a veritable stroll down memory lane as this was originally one of the earliest documents I drew up when I first came into post. My intentions at the time were to clarify, in my own head at least, those aspects of the title where I thought it was lacking and could benefit from some upgrading. Some of the early comments to myself are perhaps a little naive, a few apposite and even fewer maybe even a smidge visionary .
Today, I will confess this is not a document I’ve had too much time to much work on over the past couple of years. Certainly, since early 2020 keeping all of the routine journal plates/wheels/cogs  etc., spinning has taken a goodly chunk of my time. Glancing at my document control notes, it seems the last time I did any updating was way back in the early summer of 2021. Now I’m blessed (huzzah – thank you lovely IAS!) with a little more time to devote to the journal, it seems only right and fitting that I return to a guiding document too long neglected.
Reading through it, through and completely, for the first time in years, numerous elements of I was once keen to implement on the journal have changed in status when viewed through the lens of today. In fact, I can reclassify them in one of three different ways. Firstly, for a lucky few they’ve actually been implemented, sometimes as the result of a platform update or a policy change, and occasionally through direct action by myself or the lovely technical team. These are easily most gratifying to spot, as it demonstrates how Exchanges today, is no longer the Exchanges I took on back in 2018.
Secondly there are those, after taking account of the journals evolving policy and practice direction, or indeed developments in the wider scholarly publishing world, are no longer relevant. Indeed, it is possible to observe a divergence from what I thought would be crucial back then, to today when they are no longer of great import or relevance. In some cases, it isn’t that they’re no longer of any value, but in contrast to other, more salient and pressing priorities, they simply aren’t worth devoting any time towards. After all, all those various spinning objects haven’t entirely retreated into the distance thanks to my longer hours! And so, with no guilt, they can be moved to the deprioritised pile.
The third category though, these are those developmental and aspirational goals I had for the journal which still continue to burn brightly in my mind. True, a fair number of these pending developments will be subject to a long conversation with our platform hosts at Warwick in order to achieve. Certainly, with the way our host and platform are configured there aren’t simple things which I could move forward on alone. For example they may have implications for the other titles hosted on Warwick University Press Journals, so can’t be adopted in isolation, no matter how much Exchanges might desire them . A few more though, these are wish-list items which require action beyond the confines of Warwick alone.
These are those aspects which require pressure being brought to bear on external actors. Again, we are but one small open-access journal in a sea of hundreds of thousands, which means it would be unlikely I’d be able to make much headway on achieving these goals alone. I had hoped the local journals family would be a good source of collective agency, but in the last year with various staffing moves and changes the coherency of this group has rather evaporated. Just as it was finally getting up steam too - if mixing steam with evaporation isn’t too strained a metaphor to adopt here!
Then we come to the last few items, and this is where I can feel myself getting a little more excited. Why? Well, because these are things I can, resplendent in my additional weekly hours, begin to make some degree of ingress on. Tease that I am , I’m won’t share details of these our potentially achievable aspirations, but I can reveal one of them concerns our journal audience’s interests. For now, I’ll say no more, but would strongly suggest you keep an eye on the editorial coming out in the next issue of Exchanges for a few minor revelations in this respect.
I am pleased, in closing though, to note that while there is but a single, minor, niggle unresolved but scheduled for swift action over the coming weeks by our tech team. The rest of the platform issues we’ve experienced over the years – all thankfully relegated to the ‘completed’ column. That, in the very least, is bringing me some measure of satisfaction in reading through my wish list today. Not to mention, reminding me of how grateful I am to our tech team for their ongoing work behind the scenes.
 Scarily so – I would have to do a lot of policy and process work to make them work, even if the platform supported them!
 Insert your preferred circular linguistic contrivance here
 Mutter, mutter, commericial indexes, mutter
 You’d probably be horrified by how ungrammatical some of these notes were if I did.
March 03, 2021
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!).