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June 15, 2023
Discussions and planning point towards a potentially exciting new endeavour in peer-review training for active researchers.
Yesterday, on a sunny drenched forecourt of Warwick’s fabulous arts building I had the pleasure of a lengthy and exploratory chat with my sometime collaborator – and collage as research expert – Dr Harriet Richmond. Over the last year I’ve co-facilitated a session for Harriet’s early stage researcher programme, around the areas of peer-review and editing, and it is always a pleasure to talk over professional matters with her. Albeit with the occasional segue into tangentially related topics too! I should note, each of the sessions this year was a wonderful and eye-opening opportunity to exchange insights with the delegates around their own publishing experiences – and my thanks to them all for their contributions.
Yesterday’s meeting arose on the back of these sessions, but more broadly is looking towards something which is loosely or even more directly aligned with Warwick’s increasing focus on developing effective research cultures . What we were discussing was in fact our plans for future publishing related training – and specifically that relating to the topic of peer-review. One thing that’s been evident in our discussions with delegates this past year around peer-review is how clearly there is a need to offer some form of development or training for researchers, especially those earlier in their careers. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the sole potential audience!
Most of we scholars, when we perform peer-review early in our career, and are especially lucky will find a friendly editor willing to spare a few moments to offer some guidance. More likely many of us will be left reading a journal’s online reviewers’ guide and simply conducting ourselves as professionally as we can. I can say as a journal editor over the years the variance between practices I’ve witnessed from peer-reviewers has been considerable, although virtually everyone who’s contributed to the journal has risen to the challenge admirably.
What Harriet and I are thinking about here is producing a training session – or sessions – which takes a broader look at the wider realm  of peer-review. I should add, that currently the whole enterprise is very embryonic at best, and the focus of our discussions yesterday was to find if such an enterprise would be worthwhile, and what elements we’d both like to explore within it. Hence, yesterday's meeting saw us bounce around our outline ideas, explore a bit about how we might seek to formulate an effective session and especially identify those key areas we think would comprise a valuable, impactful and interesting session. Thus, while currently absolutely nothing is set in stone – not even how I’m writing peer-review  –as I said in my note to Harriet this morning the session clearly has ‘legs’. That is to say, a strong potential to be well-received by our researcher community.
Thankfully though, we’re looking to develop this session – as part of a broader envisaged developmental programme – over the next year rather than rush to present it after the summer. Partly, this is because as reflexive practitioner scholars, Harriet and I want to let the content develop organically – something which requires time, introspection and internal debate. Additionally, it also gives us both space and time to perform some background research into the literature and praxis of peer-review. As this is something I’ve been meaning to give over some serious time to for a while, it is nice to have some greater motivation now!
I anticipate too I may well ‘field-test’ some elements of the potential session within my own anticipated  training schedule over the next 12 months. This will be useful in using live subjects – sorry, delegates – to help refine, refocus and augment the content and emphasis of the session to better meet scholar’s authentic needs.
As always, watch this space – and elsewhere – for more news on this exciting and I interesting proposal as it develops. Naturally, if anyone reading wants to share their thoughts on peer-review training, related dynamics and normative practices, you are warmly invited to use the comments below. Alternatively, if you prefer, drop me a line and arrange a chat as I am always happy to hear from those reviewers on the front line about their experiences: especially those reviewing for titles which aren’t Exchanges…
 Watch out for something exciting relating to this in an announcement next week.
 Dare I say field, in a Bourdieulian sense? Yes, I probably can.
 Peer-review or peer review? Is it a personal preference or should I be following strict grammatical rules? Your answers on a postcard too…
 My event, workshop and teaching diary for academic year 23/24 is looking very spartan currently – I’ve only one event fixed. So, I’m open to offers or requests…
January 24, 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.
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. 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:
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.
After some discussions over lunch we moved into the wrap up for the session, touching briefly again on open access and edited collections . 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  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.
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.
 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!
 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’!
 I wasn’t aware that Warwick had a series for these, so this was an especially useful bit for me.
 I think this current blog is my fourth or fifth regular professional blog platform, so yes a long time and reasonably prolific.
April 28, 2022
As part of our Accolade and EUTOPIA-SIF training programmes, I’m hosting a pair of workshop sessions next week.
The first on Tue 3rd May, is the return of the ever popular – Exchanges: Ask Me Anything session. As in previous iterations this is a freeform session, wherein I invite the audience to ask me pretty much anything about the Exchanges journal and related areas. Experience has shown half the questions tend to veer off into general topics of academic publication, but that’s fine as I’ll always be interested in a hearty discussion about that broader domain. Additionally, it’s a safe bet I will likely get up on my soapbox about the importance of early career scholars, open access and scholar-led, non-commercial journals disrupting the hegemonic commodified academic communications field.
Ahem. Or maybe this time will be a first and I won’t!
The second session, Thu 5th May, is the return of the Developing your Publication Strategy panel event. We ran this last in March 2021 and it was a very lively discussion. This time I’m joined by four panellists to answer questions, discuss comments and explore all aspects of their personal publication strategies, processes and experiences. The last running of this workshop was an excellent packed hour of discussions, and I’ve every hope this time will be much the same – even though it’s an all new panel!
Now, cynics among you might notice that both these events require fairly light preparation on my part. That’s deliberate, as running the journal – especially around an issue launch – takes up a lot of my time. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t be bringing my customary showmanship and polished hosting skills to the fore on the day! I very much expect our audiences will have a highly informative and energised time.
After those sessions, in this role at least I can then switch to preparing for the end of the month, when I’m running an undergraduate workshop on academic publishing and writing skills. Now that one, I DO need to prepare some materials for, but thankfully there’s a few weeks between then and now for me to fit that in. So more on this later session towards the end of the month.
 In my other job I’m running two workshops in May on preparing and delivering an effective conference paper. No pressure there then.
November 17, 2021
Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/special-issues
The second workshop in the Anthropocene writing development special issue project tackled peer review and exposed some of the common fears of early scholar authors.
Today was the second of my two part writing for academic journals workshops. I’ve been providing these sessions as part of the Anthropocene and more than human world project, which is tied to the special issue of Exchanges by the same name we have scheduled for 2022. It’s rather a lovely and mutually beneficial arrangement: I deliver training to a group of early career scholars from around the world in academic writing, and in return they all contribute articles to an issue of the journal. Given this helps satisfy both our journal’s primary mission of exposing new scholarly discourse from emerging voices, and provides the opportunity to support their authorial development, I couldn’t be more pleased to be involved. Plus, as those of you reading this who know me, I’ve never been one to shy away from the opportunity to speak publicly about academic publishing! 
I was originally invited to give a single three to four hour session as part of the workshop series. However, I concluded given these were being delivered online, and because I am well aware how fatiguing it can be to engage with training for even an hour, let alone for four via Teams, splitting them into two shorter sessions was a more satisfying solution. I think, reading between the lines in the comments from the participants that they recognised and were appreciate of this too.
Whereas the first workshop looked at creating impactful titles and abstracts, before moving on to building the framework of your draft article, today’s second session moved beyond these themes. Hence, we looked at elements such as effective editing, polishing and proofreading, alongside dealing with and responding to peer review feedback. There’s always lots to say about peer review, and I know it’s one of the areas many new scholars approach with considerable trepidation, so it is always worth exploring some more. In this way though, the two halves of the workshop were specifically designed to take the delegates on a journey from inception to delivery of their published article. Albeit in a slightly compressed mode. 
Additionally, by splitting the workshops in half, I was able to give the delegates the best part of two months to absorb and reflect on the first workshop experience, and begin to develop their article drafts. As a result, I designed this second session to run a little shorter because I wanted to give more time over to addressing the attendees’ questions and authorial concerns informed by this writing developmental experience. I am delighted to report they certainly didn’t disappoint as there were some excellent questions and comments, and I regret we couldn’t have been in the same room to continue some of these over a coffee and cake afterwards. 
One of the two hands-on exercises I had the delegates work through today, was intended to offer a moment of catharsis and revelation. In this they exposed their fears and trepidations concerning writing an article - any article - at this early stage of their academic career. I’ll be picking up on and returning to these comments and suggesting a few answers in a subsequent post and episode of the podcast. What was satisfying to spot, and I hope comforting for the delegates, is none of these fears were unexpected ones. Each were exactly the sort of thing I would expect to be hearing from relatively inexperienced authors.
I came away from the session invigorated and delighted by the discussions, and I hope some of that transferred to the delegates as well – it is always difficult to tell conclusively via teams. However, from the exceptionally positive comments and those delegates I spoke to during the session, I think I can file these workshops under the heading: major success.
Personally, I have considerable confidence that both workshop sessions will have gone some way to answering the delegates’ concerns. Alongside this I hope they will have strengthened the delegates’ resolve, confidence and self-belief that they can and will be able to write excellent articles which have something significant to say. Because, having read their abstracts, I firmly believe each and everyone of them does!
My thanks to Dr Catherine Price for leading on the project, and inviting myself and the journal to participate, and of course each and every delegate for their good humour, patience and engagement with the practical exercises! I await your articles with not inconsiderable interest.
 Or, to be fair, speak loudly publicly anyway.
 At the back of my head there’s a weeklong summer school which would seek to decompress what was covered in these workshops, and actually deliver a publishable paper at the end of it. I think I’ll hang on until post-COVID times to look into that though.
 Note to potential collaborators, provide me with coffee/tea and cake and I will talk for hours with and about publishing and early career scholars.
January 14, 2021
I had the pleasure this week (Tue 12th) to participate in my first teaching/seminar of the year. I had been invited, alongside my wonderful library colleague Julie Robinson, to participate in a 45 minute panel discussion for Warwick post-graduate students on the topic of ‘getting published’. Seasoned academic authors will likely realise 45 minutes is way too short a time to cover a great deal on this topic, but in the end, it seemed like we managed to pack a lot of content in what was a highly interactive and engaging session. So engaging, in fact, that we ran on for an extra 15 minutes or so due to popular demand.
Now, that’s the kind of session I like to deliver!
Thanks to David Richardson who hosted, we captured audience questions during the session. As a result, I thought it might be worth highlighting a few of the most salient ones and my responses as they refer to particularly apply to Exchanges.
Q: If I wanted to submit an article to Exchanges, would it be better to submit an abstract or the full paper already?
A: Very much the author’s personal choice. As a journal we don’t expect, unless part of a specific call requirement, authors to send us pre-submission abstracts or draft versions of their papers. Some choose to do so, and I’m always happy to provide some feedback and guidance at this stage, although I’ll hold off any fulsome critique until the final manuscript is submitted. Likewise, I’m always happy to schedule a video-call to talk through an author’s ideas for their paper, if they might find that helpful. On the whole though, the bulk of our submissions are the full paper manuscript, received without any prior conversation or engagement with the author: which is perfectly fine too.
Q: What are the most important elements that should be in abstract if the journal you are targeting is only allowing you to submit an abstract rather than the whole paper?
A: There’s a lot written online and by other authors on this subject, I personally like Rowena Murray or Helen Sword’s writing on this topic and would advocate seeking out their work. However, in brief, the abstract should be the article in miniature, containing the key ideas or arguments, along with a taste of the most significant finding or conclusion. What it should do is whet the appetite of the reader, from your prospective editor to the wider academic community, and draw them in to want to read (or accept for consideration) your paper. The abstract should also closely resonate with your paper’s text, with each abstract line approximating an introductory sentence within the article itself. This provides essential structure and signposting to guide the reader through your writing, methodology, methods, arguments, findings and conclusions in a structured and more readily comprehensible manner.
Q: Do you have any advice about how to choose the journal to publish in?
A: Aside from suggesting you consider a wonderful, friendly and highly early-career author focussed title like Exchanges I would suggest thinking about:
(1) Who are your audience and what titles are they reading?
(2) Where are your peers/supervisor publishing?
(3) Consider, but don’t be a slave to, journal metrics/impact factors etc – although be wary as ‘significant journals’ are more likely to reject your submission.
(4) Do you know or have contacts with any editors? Knowing someone will be receptive to discussing your submission can be a big help in choosing your destination.
(5) Especially for a first paper, consider seeking out early-career specialising journals. They may be more forgiving of initial errors, formatting oversights or typographical errors than some of the more core/mainstream titles.
Q: How different should a journal [article] drawn from thesis or dissertation work be?
A: This is a common and understandable issue for first time authors. An article manuscript needs to be its own discrete and contextual entity, with a slightly different authorial voice than you would likely use within your thesis/dissertation. Especially too, where you’re adapting a chapter, you need to ensure the piece can stand entirely on its own legs, supported naturally by appropriate citation. You might even need to consider simplifying the work, because there may be too many contrasting central ideas or themes in your original text to coherently present in your article. You should also consider adopting the style/voice of other pieces which appear in your chosen target journal or field, to enhance your chance of acceptance.
Q: How does one go about proposing a special issue to Exchanges or working with/for this journal as an editor?
A: As to the first part, I’d recommend listening to our recent podcast on exactly this topic. Then coming and having a chat with myself as editor-in-chief about the idea. One thing to bear in mind, we have a lead time of at least 12 months from initiation of special issue to publication, so this isn’t going to be something we can achieve overnight. There’ll also be some expectation of work from the proposer to bring the issue to publication too, part of which may well be involvement as an associate editor. We do issue periodic calls for associate editors, usually via our twitter account (@ExchangesIAS) and the journal's announcement pages - so you should follow and visit these periodically.
Q: What are the main outcomes after articles are peer-reviewed? Are articles rejected by journal editors when reviewers actually suggested major corrections?
A: At Exchanges we have four major post-review outcome: acceptance (rare!), revisions requested and then acceptance (most), additional reviews (occasional) or decline (aka reject). Hence, usually after peer-review there will be a period of revision and rewriting by the author, and in the case of where there are major (extensive) revisions requested by the editor, the piece may need to undergo a further round of peer-review, and minor corrections ahead of acceptance for publication. Different journals will handle these post-review steps slightly differently, indeed some take ‘major revisions’ to equate to reject and request the author work on them for a future resubmission. Read their author guidance to find out how it works for each specific journal/publisher.
Q: Is it better for your cv and career to publish with your supervisor or independently?
A: This varies enormously and is often affected by discipline. STEM authors are often members of team projects, and frequently only publish as one of a number of authors, with sole-authored works rare. Conversely, AHSS scholars often are lone or at most pairs of authors. That said, if you have a good working relationship with your supervisor, it can be a really great learning experience to co-author a paper with them. Just remember, just because they’re your supervisor, if you’re doing most of the writing, be prepared to insist on being the first named author on the work! You may find though, that co-authoring a paper with an established author like your supervisor might make it easier to publish in a ‘higher’ ranked journal…but there are not guarantees, and I’ve heard of many supervisors who are busy/get distracted and don’t come through on their contribution to an article: so approach, with caution!
These are only a handful of the topics we touched on in the session, hence if you have questions of your own about publishing, and especially in Exchanges, then please leave a comment or get in touch with me. I look forward to talking more about this fascinating, and essential, area of academic development.
October 08, 2020
Today we rolled out the annual Exchanges session for the IAS’ Accolade programme, although with being online this year it was slightly different. Last year we had a fantastic  gamified workshop on publishing traumas, and the year before that more of a chalk and talk session. This time, well, the opportunity to host a Reddit style AMA (ask me anything) session seemed ideal. It was discursive, well suited to the online format, allowed for written or spoken questions and best of all, I didn’t need to do too much preparation.
Well, that is aside from ensuring I’d pre-written answers for the three outline questions I’d posed in the event blurb, to ensure we had something with which to kick off discussions. My thanks to my esteemed colleague Dr Sarah Penny for hosting and acting as session chair. Also, my thanks to those research fellows who listened and questioned me for what became a surprisingly fun 30 minutes of chat about the journal and publishing in general . I hope you all got something useful, interesting or at least vaguely entertaining out of the session!
So, reader of the editorial blog, you’re probably wondering what was asked. Well, and I’m slightly paraphrasing, here are the topics we touched upon today.
- ‘Are articles rejected by journal editors when reviewers actually suggested major corrections?’
- ‘Are you approaching people to take part in the podcast or are people approaching you?’
- ‘Do you have any advice for starting out reviewing in journals? [Especially] do you have any tips for overcoming imposter syndrome?’
- ‘Do you prefer outlines [abstracts] before the completed paper [is submitted]’
- ‘I’m interested in if [Exchanges] is interested in new methods to integrate data (rather than findings from research studies’
- ‘I’ve never published before, and it’s nerve wracking’. Can you offer any support to someone like me?’
- ‘What are the three best ways to really annoy an editor?’
- ‘What’s a/your journal impact factor?’
- ‘What’s the deadline for the upcoming issue?’
- ‘Why should I publish in Exchanges?’
As for the answers…ah, you really needed to be there. However, I might pick up on one or more of these themes in future posts and podcast episodes, so maybe I won’t leave you all entirely hanging. Safe to say one or two of the questions above could probably have filled the entire 30 minutes had I given them the full answer.
Will we run this session again? I’d be keen to, and I’m sure we might find time down the line for a later Accolade repeat. Or of course, a royal command performance elsewhere. As readers, and those who know me, are aware, I will talk about Exchanges and scholarly publishing until the cows come home, so I look forward to the next session – whenever or wherever it might be!
 Well, I loved it and really want to run that session again, albeit, slightly reconfigured.
 Not to forget the hirsute Dr Marcos Estrada, one of my two longest serving and most prolific members of the editorial board for his input today too.
November 14, 2019
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of contributing to the Institute of Advanced Study’s (IAS) Accolade researcher development programme once again. Last year, I contributed a session to the programme on Exchanges and related scholar-led publishing topics which lasted around 90 minutes; although this year due to room availability my slot was regretfully cut back to an hour . I’d originally been planning something a bit different for this year, as after reflection on the previous session I concluded that it contained too much ‘chalk and talk’ and insufficient discussion and interaction. Before I heard about the session’s length, and with my own kinaesthetic learning tendencies in mind, I’d outlined a healthy 90 minute workshop deconstructing scholar-led publishing in a series of interlinked exercises. Yes, a healthy dose of gamification was included in the outline too.
Faced with my ‘reduced Shakespeare’ session, I reconfigured the workshop into roughly 20% talk and 80% activities for the research fellows. It was, thankfully, a highly energised session which engendered plenty of questions and group discussion during the guided activities. As with any lectrure, seminar or workshop there were still elements I’d tweak for a future performance, but nevertheless it was a clearly workable format that I’ll be able to reuse elsewhere . Additionally, the input, questions and insights from the fellows were extremely useful in helping to clarify various issues.
Given the appropriately spooky date for the session, I posed a question asking people to talk about and share their publishing horror stories. Every academic has them, and some may even keep people awake at night! I captured a few of them here, and I’m sure it’s a rare scjholar with whom these don’t resonate on some level.
I also ran the prototype of an exercise which challenged attendees to prioritise editorial and process elements to construct for their ‘perfect’ journal. Once again there were some key learning outcomes from this. Firstly, for the timescale I gave people too many options, and a re-run would likely need to introduce a prior winnowing technique or utilise fewer options. I might also need to introduce some clearer rules or criteria for assigning items to each category, although given the point of the exercise was to leave as much decision making in the hands of the delegates, that aspect may remain as it is. For example, here’s one of the six group’s final grids  showing one possible configuration using about 20% of the possible options.
Practically, I also learned that if you’re printing paper props off give yourself plenty of time, as I spent my entire lunch break cutting out strips of paper. Obviously, as this was the inaugural run for this session it was difficult to realise how it would work under-fire, but I’m confident with some slight tweaks it’ll produce a series highly stimulating and reflective exercises. I might also enhance the ‘playing pieces’ somewhat to make them clearer. Failing to realise that not everyone speaks fluent editor terminology was a very apposite point of feedback.
So in conclusion: what did I learn? Well, aside from the comments on the efficacy of running the session, I gained some insightful feedback on running a journal like Exchanges, and the perceptions of people within our potential contributor community. I’ll be using this feedback to help shape my planned focus groups, where I want to explore some related issues with groups of post-graduates and early career researchers alike. Naturally, I’ll talk about the results of these here.
 Rumours of a second slot in term 3 abide, but have yet to be confirmed! I'll worry about that in 2020.
 Possibly in my other teaching and workshop commitments over this academic year
 Image credit Hsiao Lie, to whom I note my thanks!
May 29, 2019
Great to hear last week about a workshop co-facilitated this month by one of my editorial board 'down under', Roy Rozario. The event aimed at early-career and postgraduate researchers centred around successful academic publishing in books and journals, with a keynote from Dr Raqib Chowdhury. With over 150 delegates signed up, everything I've heard makes it sound like exactly the sort of event which I'd have loved to have been in the audience for myself; with the exception that I'm not due to make any appearance in Australia anytime soon . More’s the pity.
I'm especially delighted to hear the event went so well, as the event was co-organised and facilitated by the industrious Roy himself. He used the opportunity to give the journal a first-rate platform to speak to an audience of engaged scholars about the benefits of publishing through Exchanges. Personally, I’ve found there’s no more productive or effective route to promote the journal to early-career researchers than speaking directly to groups of them! All in all it was a really stellar effort from Raqib and Roy, and my hat is well and truly off to them both. I've already had one or two conversations from scholars in the audience about prospective publications with Exchanges, which is a really positive outcome. Hopefully there'll be even more once people have had a chance to let the discussions sink in further.
Naturally, as I'm a month away from speaking on academic publishing to a similar crowd of early career researchers in (hopefully) sunny Prato, Italy, this session very much resonates with my own interests right now. Hence, I'm really looking forward to some interesting, insightful and perhaps challenging discussions with the delegates at the Utopian Studies conference workshop. I suspect the audience size won’t quite align with the Monash event though, although I’ll be happy to be proved wrong. Now I only need to work out how I can run a session like this here at Warwick... 
 Although, truth be told, it's a lot more fun to go and speak to audiences beyond the confines of the Coventry ring-road!
April 10, 2019
I had the pleasure this morning of spending a couple of hours training my newest members of my Exchanges Editorial Team. Sophie, Giulia and Fiona are post-graduate researchers based here at Warwick who will be supporting the production of our forthcoming Cannibalism: Bites Here & There special issue, scheduled for publication in early 2020. My hope is, like the members of the Editorial Board, that these three will not only contribute to Exchanges but have an excellent learning experience at the sharp end of publication. They’ll be working alongside and supplementing the work of my regular Board members, whom I’m sure will be supportive and grateful in equal measure for the newcomers’ contributions.
I strongly suspect that if all the papers relating to this issue for which I’ve received abstracts (30 and counting) are submitted as manuscripts, then I may well be recruiting a few more willing helpers onto the team. It’s great because this kind of community involvement really helps satisfy part of Exchanges remit as an academic training resource for emerging scholars, alongside its regular dissemination mission. I expect exciting and insightful times lie ahead for us all over the next few months as we pull the issue together.
February 12, 2019
Effective communication is at the heart of everything we do as scholars. This is was why I was delighted last week to spend three hours running a workshop entitled Effective Scholarly Communication for a post-graduate researcher audience. I’m lucky, because improving my own communication has always been an intrinsic aspect of my professional life. Partly, this is because I’ve benefited from quite a varied career trajectory, having been a participative interactive storyteller since before I was a teenager, and in the past decade a prolific produser creator of videos and podcasts. That’s before we come to my doctoral studies specialising in emerging scholarly communication practices and the few hundred articles, reviews, chapters, reports, editorials and conference papers I’ve produced during my career(s). Despite, technically, currently being an early career researcher myself, I've successfully drawn on these scholarly and performance experiences to deliver communication workshops to professionals, scholars and the public alike for many years.
Consequently, when I was invited last August to put together a session for our Research Skills Programme (RSSP) here at Warwick, I felt reliably confident in attempting to create an engaging three-hour workshop in this communicative domain. Or at least I was confident, when I originally pitched the session towards the tail end of a long hot summer. Pragmatically, finding the time to redevelop and enhance some of my earlier training into a bespoke and suitably polished researcher focussed session, absorbed rather more preparation time than I initially anticipated. Given researcher training isn’t my major focus here at Warwick, understandably this was perhaps an unsurprising conclusion to have reached.
As any experienced trainer will tell you, it’s a little difficult going in cold delivering a learning event to a new community for the first time. For myself, I wasn’t 100% sure what the intended audience would want, need or desire to get out of the workshop. I knew the kinds of material I’d have welcomed during my own doctoral training journey, but as noted, I’ve the benefit of being less a more mature scholar than many PhD candidates. Ideally, it would have been useful to get a group of PGRs together for a focus group some months ahead of the session, to workshop their skills needs more precisely. Nevertheless, I toyed with making the entire session hands-on, being a kinaesthetic learner myself this would have been my personal learning preference. However, I really felt the session needed fleshing out with some elements of chalk-and-talk to provide illustrative and instructive context. I decided given the constraints of available workshop time that what would work best would be to offer the delegates a schmorgesborg of topics within the realms of written, verbal, non-verbal and digital academic communication. The intention being, no matter what delegates’ interests or personal learning expectations were, that ideally there’d be satisfactory learning elements for everyone.
Access the session slides via the image below, although without my narrative they might lose a certain clarity.
So it was that the Effective Scholarly Communication workshop version 1.0 received its premier performance last week to a, well, slightly smaller than was optimal audience. No matter! My teaching and public performance motto has long been ‘Just play the gig!’ Which means through embracing my customary passionate and entertaining teaching performance, hopefully I provided the handful of delegates with something useful to ponder, consider and reflect upon. I do feel structurally the low turnout worked against the desired delegate interaction levels I was hoping to engender. Certainly, I had to revise on the fly a number of the workshop elements as well, to accommodate for the low numbers. I’m not entirely convinced these rejigged versions quite delivered the learning outcomes for which I was aiming. The session was designed as much for the delegates to learn from one another’s varied practice and experience, as listen to the ‘great sage on the stage’. The low numbers, I personally believe, were detrimental to some of the value delegates received from their participation, which is regretful.
Nevertheless, from the delegates’ feedback, the workshop does seem to have been a very successful activity and they benefitted from their attendance. The worked exercises and interactivity came in for particular praise, which was deeply satisfying as a good workshop stands or falls on such activities. Undoubtedly, the degree of personal attention I was able to offer the audience likely contributed to their satisfaction too.
Like many academics, I remain somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to my teaching and communicative practice, being rarely entirely satisfied with my materials and performance. I went into delivering this workshop fully aware that the original flavour, 1.0 version likely had some ‘fat’ which could have been judiciously trimmed, along with some contextual material which received insufficient prominence. Partly, this is a consequence of available preparation time, but it’s also a result of exposing the workshop to live, breathing, scholarly delegates for the first time. Hence, I’ve spent a couple of hours today looking through the delegate feedback, alongside my personal critique of the session, to identify what worked well, what didn’t, and where the session was lacking content. Good, solid, self-critical, reflexive practice in action, which will come in useful should this session be prepared for a second outing.
Naturally, the question forms in my thoughts: what next for this workshop? I’d originally planned to run the session twice within the RSSP 18/19, although I had to cancel the original November ’18 premier due to my pressing, more urgently in need of addressing, work commitments. Currently, there are no concrete plans to run the session again, although I based on the feedback I’d anticipate being asked to offer it in RSSP 19/20. That aside, I’ve had an outline approach to run the workshop (or elements) with the IAS’ Accolade training programme for our research fellows. Given the delegate numbers we get to those events, I think the challenge would be making the session coherent as I don’t think upwards of twenty delegates would make for a viable session.
With the training written, field-tested and subjected to a little peer review (thank you delegates!!), I’m sure evolving the next iteration will be faster, although I’ve a few more communication texts I’d like to read in preparation! Then there’s the 3.0 version and perhaps taking the show on the road to consider. Certainly, this is one workshop I’ll be able to deliver repeatedly, albeit with subtle and suitable enhancements.
Thanks to the RSSP Student Careers and Skills team for their administrative support and commissioning the session. Also the netizens of the firstname.lastname@example.org list for sharing their insights. Finally, thanks to the PGR delegates who attended, shared, participated and engaged, I hope the session was of value!
 Version 2.0 may revert to Effective Academic Communication as I Scholarly Communication tends semantically to be associated with publishing, and the session was broader in scope.
 Live action and table-top role-player variety, in non-academic speak.
 Portmanteau of ‘producer’ and ‘user’ indicating someone engaged in ‘peer productive’ creative activities, as a ‘professionalised amateur’. Something community media sharing platforms have enabled.
 Some of which people have even read!
 Might be something useful to conduct for a revised version. If any PGRs would like to take part, drop me a line.
 Ideally around 12-16 delegates, enough for interaction, but not too many to diminish individual attention.