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June 19, 2024

Open Call for Papers: Updated Guidance for Authors

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/announcement/view/62

Updated open call for papers page offers authors a fresh perspective on submitting their manuscripts for consideration to Exchanges.

I thought it was high time I did a refresh of the guidance for authors looking to submit a paper to us. As long time readers know, Exchanges has an open call for papers whereby we’re interested in considering work throughout the year. Yes, we do have those various special issue calls as well, and the occasional themed section call too, but the heart of many issues of Exchanges has been created by authors answering our open call. As I last updated the open call information, significantly, back in 2022, the time was ripe for a refresh.

You can read it here:

https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/announcement/view/62

In creating this new version I’ve been asking various questions about the sort of information authors want to see – and having a splendid conversation with an academic colleague about what they’d like us to include. This has really helped me shape the new version of the call. While it replicates information you’ll find all over the Exchanges site, bringing it together in a single page I think is especially helpful for those authors who stumble across our site in their hunt for a suitable journal to publish within. Sadly, I don’t have any stats to give me an idea of how many people have read the old version of the open call, but I do know from talking to successful authors that more than one of them first found us through a web search and reading the open call information. So, there’s clearly a value to the journal in terms of keeping a flow of potential manuscripts in maintaining this particular announcement well.

Does it contain everything you’d like to know as an author? Probably not, but if you think there’s anything we’ve missed – leave me a comment or get in touch to let us know. Who knows, that might be the start of your own publishing journey too!


May 29, 2024

By General Acknowledgement

What do authors write in their article acknowledgements? The answer may surprise you!

I found myself having a discussion with a colleague yesterday, one who hails from the STEM fields, about the role which acknowledgements play in academic papers. I had been commenting how intrigued I’d been by the extensive, structured and sub-sectioned series of acknowledgments I’d witnessed in a paper I was reading earlier that day. Now my colleague works in a medical-adjacent field these days and they were less surprised. They pointed out to me ‘Well, there is a standard form you’re expected to contribute – don’t the UKRI have rules about this?’

All that aside, this conversation got me thinking. While some journals or fields will have a particular tradition or requirement in terms of what must be stated in your paper’s acknowledgments we have no such requirement for acknowledgement in an Exchanges article. I do however encourage editors as they pass manuscripts through the final stages of copyediting, pre-publication, to remind and encourage authors to add them if wished. I have no figures, but if if I were to hazard an educated guess, I’d say less than half of our final papers have acknowledgements in them. This lack of directed imperative though might be emblematic of the Exchanges’ heritage. Some of our authors thank their reviewers and editors, some their non-directly-contributing colleagues, supervisors or general collaborators. A few do, it is true, directly thank their funders. A very few gracious souls even thank me [1]. Where funders are thanked, I’ve made it a policy to include this statement on the landing page of the article, so that hopefully search engines can easily find it, along with any casual readers. Afterall, very little research [2] is conducted without an injection of capital from some organisation or the other.

Now, Exchanges as a journal was founded by a multitude of interdisciplinary scholars. However, over the years for whatever reason, our editorial base has a pronounced tendency to skew more to the arts, humanities and social sciences. This said, when last I recruited actively for our Board, I made sure to add in more from the scientific disciplines to try and redress that balance a little more. Nevertheless, I suspect my colleague’s comments about acknowledgement practices were accurate more for the STEM disciplines than those with which I am personally more familiar would be no great surprise [3]. Science papers more commonly than those in the humanities for example have multiple authors, who likely contribute to different sections (results, analysis, methods etc.,). Where we do have multiple authors from the arts and humanities, my impression is such contributions are more evenly distributed throughout a manuscript. I could of course, be mistaken!

Nevertheless, the question remains what guidance, advice or requirements does the UKRI [4] set in place then? Hidden in their catchily titled UK Research and Innovation FEC grants: standard terms and conditions of grant document (item RCG 12.4) it reads:

Publications and other forms of media communication, including media appearances, press releases and conferences, must acknowledge the support received from Us [UKRI], quoting the Grant reference number if appropriate.

There’s also a link to a page which outlines guidance in terms of the specific phrasing too.[5] However, nothing there about declaring who wrote what, and how many people you should thank. I suspect in general practice this comes down to individual journals to make such stipulations or requirements. I would be loathed to do this for Exchanges, not for the extra workload in terms of defining the policy [6] – but rather because making additional requirements feels like adding yet another hurdle for authors. The more streamlined and effective we can make their publishing experience, the better, I would argue. Should we introduce more formal acknowledgement requirements for contributors though? I’d be interested in readers thoughts in the comments below – or drop me a line.

So, for now, who, what and how you acknowledge in your paper for Exchanges is very much in the author’s court. Keeping those who helped and supported you out on side is always a good plan, because who doesn’t like to see their own name in print? It’s also a handy guide, retrospectively as you pass through your career, to look back at earlier articles and spot names who once played a closer role in your research. [7] Although, as detailed above, you’d do well to double check with what your funder wants! Keeping them happy, could be the key to keeping a strong record of successful grant acquisition!

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Endnotes

[1] Which I’ll acknowledge here, is very kind of them and I am deeply touched when authors do this.

[2] Some is though, and we’ve certainly published a few independent scholars over the years who have self-funded their efforts. Never in the sciences mind you!

[3] These days at least – I began my academic career as a biomedical research scientist, truth be told.

[4] The UK research councils, source of much of today’s research funding.

[5] Glancing at the Wellcome Trust, their acknowledgement phrasing is near identical. I suspect that means most, if not all, major UK funders follow a similar pattern. But don’t take my word for it – check your own funder!

[6] Ideally, putting an acknowledgement box as part of the submission wizard would be useful, but making changes to OJS’ implementation is, regrettably, still beyond us currently until the Warwick University Press sorts out a lot of long pending support and infrastructure questions.

[7] To the best of my knowledge, no one has, yet, thanked their pet gerbil or ferret for contributions above and beyond in our pages. I suspect this is a situation which may one day be challenged.


November 29, 2023

Author and Style Guidelines Updated

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

Updated guidelines means easier submission experience for authors

A task I’ve been meaning to get around for some months [1] has been to go through our Author and Style guidance pages and refresh the content. Finding the right moment has been trickier than I thought, but in the wake of our recent 10th birthday issue, it seemed the ideal time to revisit this vital guidance to our authors, and make some judicious changes. Going through I could spot areas where the advice has been lightly tweaked over the years, and as a result some elements of it were mildly contradictory. Indeed, I strongly suspect it hasn’t come in for anything like a systematic review since I first came aboard the journal, and I don’t believe I’ve really had a look at the style guide quite as closely as I have in recent weeks.

The good news is that the changes are all now live, and both guides are – hopefully – a lot clearer.

Now, if you’re an author whose article is already underway – don’t panic! We’ve not made any major changes! We’re the same journal with fairly broad and welcoming requirements which make it as easy as possible for authors to contribute. This exercise was rather about bringing this online guidance more closely into line with what we advise authors in our 1-2-1 consultations.

Naturally though, we can’t claim to be perfect – so if there’s any aspect you’d like to see more about on these pages, let us know. We’re only too happy to keep refining and improving this guidance to ensure it continues to be fit for purposes for the next decade of Exchanges.

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Endnotes

[1] Maybe even years.


November 07, 2023

Submission Guidance Video Leads to Smoother Submission Experience

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

A new video offers to smooth the route to paper submission.

As part of the preparations for our various special issues, I’ve been working on some new advice for submitting authors on the practical steps they need to take. I strongly believe in diminishing as many of the mechanical barriers to submission as possible, and offering a stepwise guide is one way to address this. While I might not be able to tweak the underlying OJS code on which we run Exchanges[1], there are still at least some ways I can try and make the submission experience easier.

Case in point: While writing the two page ‘here’s what you do next’ guide for the authors, I found myself thinking ‘I wish we had a handy video talking people through the steps involved in manuscript submission’. Such a compulsion might be a holdover from my long-ago days as an academic librarian – I wrote so many printed and media guides back then – but as I said, any barrier is a barrier too many in my book (journal). I thought this would be an easy task, maybe taking a couple of hours or so at most to script, record edit and share.

I was wrong. But you can click on the screenshot below to watch the final video all the same:

Submission video guide

You see, as part of the process of writing and creating the guide I had to go through the actual submission process myself with a dummy paper. I have to do a submission when I add the editorial each issue, but I generally don’t pay a lot of attention to what I’m doing – just need to get the paper into our workflows! However, this time going through the process more carefully, and observing each aspect was really helpful because it caused me to notice a couple of elements of our ‘submission wizard’ [2] which I wasn’t happy about.

One of them was the wording on our clickthrough publishing licence’. The phrasing here seemed less than clear in places, and I confess I suspect no one has looked at this since the journal first launched. As a result, after a little fiddling around on OJS I found where I could edit and revise them. Hopefully, now the phrasing is better than it was – let me know your thoughts on this if you have them.

I also discovered a strange glitch which was restricting the article submission types which were visible to non-editors. This isn’t too much of an issue in the editorial process, as we can shift the type easily – but at submission, I suspect this might be off-putting to an author. As I normally look at the site in ‘uber’ editor mode, this is the sort of detail which is easily missed too. In preparing for my video though, I switched to my alt-author account which as a result highlighted the issue! It appeared from what I could see that the article type categories available to authors clearly weren’t as they should be – with some options not displaying – and others erroneously still showing.[3] Certainly, they were far from clear and as far as I was concerned – a barrier to submission!

My apologies to our authors if you’ve experienced this glitch! I’ve no idea when it arose – I’m hoping it’s not been too long, but I have my suspicions. Nevertheless, I can assure you it’s been cleaned up. Now, the options to submit are in our five major formats: peer-reviewed article or review, and editorially revied conversation, critical reflection or book review.

Phew.

With this sorted (and despite a computer that insisted in BSODing me once) the new guidance video still went live last week. And while this might have all taken me much longer than I anticipated to resolve, hey, at least it also means I had an opportunity to hopefully streamline the submission process slightly.

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Endnotes

[1] More is the pity here.

[2] It doesn’t wear a pointy hat, nor an eight-pointed star.

[3] I was fairly sure we weren’t interested in submissions to the special section of the journal published in 2014.


September 07, 2023

Crafting Future Themed Calls for Exchanges

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

Can themed calls encourage more submissions to a journal?

This week we hosted the semi-annual Board meeting(s) for Exchanges, wherein all our Board members and associate editors are invited to catch up with events and progress on the journal, and also bring new ideas to the table too. One recurrent theme, for us and indeed most smaller journals, is maintaining the amount of manuscripts we receive for consideration as papers. While Exchanges is blessed with a strong and steady flow of special issues [1], as Chief Editor I am always concerned about the amount of potential content we get which will be potentially appearing in the issue after next.

In the past we used to do semi-regular themed calls, but with the advent of the special issues programme in 2019, these have been largely – if not entirely – phased out. [2] However, after discussions at the Board we agreed it was perhaps a good time to try again. Of course this is where the question arises: for a broadly, interdisciplinary and general journal – what topics would interest the broadest spectrum of potential authors?

There were a few suggestions in the meeting on the day, but as not all of the editors were present I decided to poll them all on their thoughts and ideas – not just for this issue but for future ones too. It’ll be very interesting to see what ideas come forward, and even more fun shaping this into our first themed call for easily a year.

If you’ve any thoughts about the kinds of themed and focussed calls for papers you’d like to see from Exchanges, then please comment below – or get in touch via the journal. I’d love to hear from you!

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Endnotes

[1] A lot of news about developments in this respect coming soon!

[2] The forthcoming autumn issue for example has a number of papers responding to our birthday call.


March 24, 2022

Updating our open call for papers for 2022

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/announcement/view/35

A legacy piece of vital information gets a brand new 2022 hat, as our Editor-in-Chief updates our open call for information.

Today I got around to handling a task which has been pending for a little while: revising the text of our open call for papers. I know from experience how some of our authors come direct to our submissions page when they want to find out more, and that’s great. On the other-hand though, I’m aware more than a few prospective authors look towards the journal’s front page, especially our announcements section, when they are looking for news or information about the types of work our title likes to receive. As a result, the announcements section has long been the perfect additional location place to host this kind of vital information on Exchanges.

Now, the prior version of the text was, admittedly, getting a little long in the tooth given how I originally wrote it back in May 2020. Since that time, I have also probably adapted, reworked and reused this same block of text in the pages of each issue's editorial too, so there has been a sort of second life for the material. Nevertheless, I decided rather than drawing on these 'child' versions, writing from fresh about the kinds of manuscripts we like to receive for the journal seemed a better option. Certainly, coming at it from a fresh angle felt a superior route in terms of clarifying a few further issues for our authors.

I also took the chance to add in a new nugget of information that our most recent version of OJS makes possible: acceptance and rejection rates. Before the January update if I wanted to generate this kind of information on the fly, I would have to do considerable amounts of manual processing. Now though, it is possible to generate this kind of statistical information - along with other useful stuff too - in an instant. I can even specify a particular date range. Which means should I, for example, want to see how my own tenure as chief editor ranks alongside those who came before, in terms of our quality bar, it is now the matter of a moment’s work.

For the record since 2018 our acceptance rate for publication has been 55% of all submissions. Which, given the reaction I've had from a few people I shared it with over the last week or so, seems to be a reasonable figure for our kind of title. Doubtless, I'll probably find time to delve into this statistics module a little more deeply over the coming months, and maybe return to reflect on what I find here as well.

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For more information on submitting to Exchanges, or about the journal in general, contact Editor-in-Chief, Dr Gareth J Johnson (exchangesjournal@warwick.ac.uk).


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.


June 17, 2021

It’s so funny, how we don’t talk anymore…

Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/ias/postdocs/accolade/calendar/summer/#story8

I was speaking today as part of the IAS’ Accolade programme in an AMA (ask me anything) segment about the journal and the podcast. There was an excellent question from the audience about the different formats we accept for publication, and I waxed lyrical for a while about interviews. Hence, I thought it was perhaps worth capturing some of the points of interest for future authors.

Interviews, or conversations as they’re termed in the journal, were very much Exchanges’ stock-in trade in the early years. If you look at those nascent years, you’ll see time and again interviews with significant figures and scholars cropping up in the pages. This was, in part, an artefact of the close association the journal enjoyed (and continues to) with the IAS’ fellows programme. Many of the participants would, as part of their research programme, arrange for a significant scholar to visit Warwick for a period, to engage with the local community and potentially spark an ongoing collaboration. During such visits, keen fellows would stage a recorded and transcribed interview with these visitors, which would then be submitted to Exchanges as a partial record of the engagement success.

In recent years, as the journal has consciously decoupled from Warwick somewhat as part of our move towards a greater internationalisation, these interview submissions have dropped away. It is not that they solely come from Warwick, but with our close organisational and operational links, I suspect we spurred more of our local scholars to produce them than the wider author community. I am racking my brain currently to think about the last time I actually had a conversation piece which we saw through to publication.[1]

Nevertheless, what I wrote in an earlier blog post about the value of these interviews/conversations stands. They are always highly read, often downloaded and very warmly received by the readership. They provide an accessible gateway into a subject area for scholars old and new alike, and do wonders for the authors in associating their names with that of their interview subject in print! They are also, relatively speaking, an easy format to create an article around and as such I remain surprised we don’t continue to get more of them. Compared to the weeks and months you’ll labour over a peer-reviewed article, a conversation piece [2] is a relatively easy ‘win’ to add to your publication record: while also making a valuable addition to the wider disciplinary discourse!

Which brings me to today and my discussions about formats for the journal. In the past we’ve generally had conversation articles which are comprises of a singular subject along with one or two interlocutors providing much-needed context, asking questions and steering the debate. It is a talking head format which works well, so well in fact that I’ll confess it forms the basis of The Exchanges Discourse’s configuration when we have guest speakers on the podcast. What we haven’t had though on the podcast or as interview papers in the journal are true discourses: that is, debates between a small coterie of speaking-heads in discussion. I’m know such discussions are frequent occurrences in formal and informal settings aplenty, not just at our home institution of Warwick, but within the various interdisciplinary-led early career researcher communities around the globe.

While part of me thinks such a format would be ideally suited to appear on our the podcast [3], I think such a discussion transcribed would also create an engaging, entertaining and informative article. If I’m being honest, I can almost see one now with three scholars: one drawn from within the STEM social science and arts and humanities disciplines apiece; debating what they envisage or perceive impactful and fruitful interdisciplinary research and practice to comprise.

Such a discussion represents a titular topic for the journal, but oddly not one with which we’ve ever had an interview specifically dealing. There are undoubtedly many other topics which might be debated in this collegiate manner as a conversation article for the journal. Certainly, I would strongly encourage anyone who is inspired by this idea to consider proposing or submitting it. Naturally, I stand ready, as always, to provide guidance and advice on the format, and to act as a sounding board for any potential authors considering such a submission.

Of course, we could take one step beyond this and actually have the discussions appear in both print AND as an episode of the podcast simultaneously. Now, this would not only enable readers and listeners alike to access the debate in whatever media format they preferred, but serve to link together these two key arms of the Exchanges operation. It seems, the more I think of it, as an idea whose time has come.

So, there’s my challenge to our readership and any budding authors out there: start thinking about a discussion topic or interview subject that could form a readable and valuable article for Exchanges next issue. They don’t take long and you’ve a few months ahead of our next scheduled October publication date to go through our editorial processes.

I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts, and even more so, reading any submissions.

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[1] It wasn’t that long ago – Vol 7(3). But safe to say they have been submitted exceptionally rarely in the past two years.

[2] Or a critical reflection, if I’m being honest about the work involved.

[3] If you agree, and have or two like minded scholars, get in touch and let’s see if we can feature your discussions in an episode.


October 06, 2020

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Declining Manuscripts

As I’ve written and talked about previously, one of the least pleasurable tasks within the editor-in-chief’s bailiwick is that of declining author submissions at any point in the editorial cycle. This is foremost within my mind this morning as writing to inform an author their work was not being progressed for publication consideration was essentially the first task I deal with today. One thing I find invaluable to keep at the forefront of my mind when dealing with this unpleasant, but essential, editorial task is the ‘human factor’. That is to say, on the end of my dreaded missive lies another genuine human being, resplendent in all the highs and lows of professional and personal life which creates the lived human experience.

Consequently, what I always find myself thinking as I write to them is that no matter how polite my phrasing and encouraging my words of explanation, there will always be a sting of rejection for someone elsewhere on the planet. No one likes to feel they’ve not made the grade whether it be after an unsuccessful job interview, disastrous date or hearing from a ‘heartless’ academic editor that your work’s not going to appear in their journal. Learning how to cope and handle with being rebuffed in academia is a skill we all have to develop, and from which we can learn, adapt and grow in our professional practice. Believe me when I say I’m speaking from personal experience here!

When considering the person I’m writing to, it’s worth remember while we continue to have many submissions from my own host university [1], a rapidly increasing proportion of the work Exchanges considers is by individuals I may never meet. This means I’m likely unaware of their individual circumstances and can never be entirely sure if our decline will be a crushing blow or merely just another Tuesday in their academic trajectory. Perhaps editors with more years more experience than myself have learned to harden themselves to a greater degree when scripting these terminatory communications. I’m not sure, and I’m equally hesitant to will myself towards achieving such a lapidarian exterior.

Incidentally, writing to an author I know personally strangely makes the task simultaneously harder and easier at the same time. Harder, because I know exactly who I’ll be disappointed and likely have a clearer idea of the personal circumstances and challenges they’re embroiled within. Easier, because I can write more as a critical friend than a dispassionate if concerned editorial worker.

Part of the reason why I agonise somewhat over the impact of the ‘declined’ email is due to the nature of Exchanges. We are a journal which champions and encourages contributions from first time authors. This means we have authors who might not themselves be used to on the receiving end of a rejection before, and I strongly believe it is our role as a journal to cushion the blow to a moderate degree. I would rather we were perceived as a title which encourages new authors, than dismays them with an offhand or discourteous dismissal.

Additionally, working with first time authors also means at times the submissions we receive may lack sophistication of voice, style and structure. Naturally, not all first-time authors submit weaker work, far from it, as we have been privileged to consider, accept and publish many well-written articles by new academic authors. However, we do continue to have a steady stream of submitted manuscripts where the author has demonstrably yet to make the transition from a ‘student essay’ to ‘scholarly academic’ voice. For some authors, we can explore ways to achieve this transformation during the review and revision cycle. For others though, the weaknesses are sadly so endemic that it is kinder and perhaps more expedient for all concerned to remove them from publication consideration.

In these latter cases, and indeed whenever we decline work, I take it upon myself to not only inform the author of our decision, but to explore with them the steps they could take towards authorial redemption. In this respect I have been delighted over the last couple of years that a handful of authors have taken onboard our comments and feedback, overcome the sting of rejection, and later resubmitted a reworked manuscript. Not all of these resubmissions have been successful in achieving publication, such is the nature of our quality assurance regime.

Nevertheless, that some authors try, reinforces my belief in the importance of how and what we say to authors at the point of decline matters beyond any emotional considerations. It hopefully contributes as well in some small way to enhancing their reflective professional practice and self-critique as they progress towards become accomplished, and hopefully successful, publishing authors.

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[1] Thank you to each and every one of you who has submitted to us, it’s great to keep that ‘Warwick Wow Factor’ appearing in our pages.


March 03, 2020

Special Issue Call Announced Nerds, Culture and Loneliness

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/announcement/view/20

Hopefully by now you’ll have seen the announcement from Exchanges about our latest call for papers. This time we’re teaming up with SOAS and the University of Oxford to produce an issue with papers which ‘explore fictional representations of nerds and loneliness across various media and culture’. Naturally, those of you who know me in real life, know this is a topic very close to my heart and lived-experience. Unlike earlier calls, we’re only seeking abstracts in the first instance (300 words by 6th April), so hopefully this’ll net us a rich range of potential contributors.

If you’ve been keeping track, this represents the third of our special issues we’ve formally launched preparations towards: with the recently published Cannibalism issue being the first and the pending CliFi issue the second. Interestingly, with each of these issues we’ve followed a slightly different pattern for submissions. For Cannibalism, we had a preselected number of authors who had already contributed to a conference, who were directly invited to submit. For CliFi, while we were associated with last year’s European Utopian Society’s conference in Prado, the call for contributions was very much open to any scholar globally. This time we’re almost blending these prior approaches, by starting with a call for abstracts, which will be followed by a workshop event (in early 2021), and then expecting contributors to the workshop to contribute a paper to Exchanges’ special issue.

In many respects, I think this last model may be my favourite, as it embeds Exchanges in the workshop processes and discourse from the outset. It’s not to say it’ll be the only model we’ll use in the future. I’d be lying if I suggested that. Certainly though, given a free hand with future collaborative special issues, I’d hope we can emulate as many elements as possible of this approach, as I believe it’ll serve to offer dividends in thematic coherency and editorial efficacy alike.

I should note at this point, my big thanks to Dr Filippo Cervelli (SOAS) and Dr Benjamin Schaper (Oxford) who came to me with this proposal a few months ago, and following some enthusiastic discussions on both sides, have helped guide us to this point. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what sort of material this call elicits, and working with Filippo and Ben over the months to come.


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