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October 08, 2020

Exchanges AMA 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 [1] 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 [2]. 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!


[1] Well, I loved it and really want to run that session again, albeit, slightly reconfigured.

[2] 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

Building a Better Journal Workshop

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 [1]. 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 [2]. 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.

Publishing fears

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 [3] showing one possible configuration using about 20% of the possible options.

Process Document

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.


[1] Rumours of a second slot in term 3 abide, but have yet to be confirmed! I'll worry about that in 2020.

[2] Possibly in my other teaching and workshop commitments over this academic year

[3] Image credit Hsiao Lie, to whom I note my thanks!

May 29, 2019

Mentioned in Dispatches: Exchanges at Monash

Raqib & RoyGreat 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 [1]. 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... [2]

Crowded and buzzing seminar at Monash May 2019[1] Well, unless someone invites me out there to speak myself. Have laptop, will travel!

[2] 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

Welcoming our Special Edition Associate Editors

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 Scholarly Communication – Workshopping the Issues for PGRs

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[1] 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[2], and in the past decade a prolific produser[3] 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)[4]. 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)[5] 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[6]. 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[7].

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 list for sharing their insights. Finally, thanks to the PGR delegates who attended, shared, participated and engaged, I hope the session was of value!

[1] 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.

[2] Live action and table-top role-player variety, in non-academic speak.

[3] Portmanteau of ‘producer’ and ‘user’ indicating someone engaged in ‘peer productive’ creative activities, as a ‘professionalised amateur’. Something community media sharing platforms have enabled.

[4] Some of which people have even read!

[6] Might be something useful to conduct for a revised version. If any PGRs would like to take part, drop me a line.

[7] Ideally around 12-16 delegates, enough for interaction, but not too many to diminish individual attention.

October 03, 2018

Peer Review Finalé

The final day of the PLOINA Peer Review Summer School saw me spend most of the day working with the delegates. In the morning I was contributing to a session alongside some other esteemed journal editors, where we each contributed our thoughts on the process of being a reviewer from an editorial standpoint. My session was a development of a talk I’d given earlier this year to some of Warwick’s STEM post-graduate researchers, but it was still fascinating listening to the other talks (from Professor Cath Lambert and Dr Joan Marsh) and hearing their different points of view. Even as an editor, I feel there is still so much to learn about the art and application of peer reviewing, all of which is very much to the benefit to my continuing quest of quality assurance for Exchanges.

After lunch, myself and the hard working event host, Dr Charoula Tzanakou, facilitated a session wherein documents from delegates underwent a live peer review by other attendees. The idea behind this was not only offering a direct benefit to those brave souls willing to contribute their work in progress, but also to cultivate an attitude of constructive but empowering critique from the delegates. Interestingly, one of the lessons which emerged from this session was very much the amount of time and effort that goes into making a constructive peer review critique. It certainly isn’t a trivial exercise, and I hope the delegates were all able to take on board that while it can be a challenging exercise it is also a deeply satisfying one. Satisfying, especially in terms of being exposed to new thought, but also in helping to shape scholarship and assist fellow scholars in the development of their authorial voice.

Over the three days I was in attendance, I was deeply honoured to have been involved in what was clearly a much needed, well-received and valuable summer school. My thanks to Charoula, and Polina Mesinioti, for the invite to participate and their extensive hard-work in organising and hosting this excellent event. That is, if the conversations I had with delegates were anything to base feedback on! I also feel I’ve learned a great deal about peer review myself, and will be spending more than a few minutes looking to apply this increased expertise with Exchanges and our practices. I also hope some of the delegates will consider registering with Exchanges as part of our peer reviewers’ network: it only takes a few moments, and there are so many benefits in terms of enriching your personal scholarship and contributing to developing the scholarly literature.

July 02, 2018

Workshopping Exchanges

In recent days I’ve been asked to run two different workshops this coming autumn. Firstly, I’ll be likely contributing to a summer school on peer review and effective academic writing. This is quite exciting as it’s a development of the brief session I ran a month or so back for STEM post-graduate researchers at Warwick. Naturally, I haven’t even begun to start pulling the material together for this, but it will make for a great opportunity to firstly promote the journal to some future potential authors and reviewers. Secondly, it will once again provide me with a strong motivation to go back over my own peer-reviewing knowledge and the journal’s protocols with a fine-toothed comb. Benefits all round there.

The other workshop is a new development in the Institute’s Accolade programme for our research fellows. The brief is to run a workshop for a couple of hours around Exchanges and scholarly publishing. Obviously as Senior Editor (and a researcher into publishing practices) I could easily fall into a long discourse about publishing developments, but I think it would be more beneficial for the participants if I mostly hold off on that and develop some more kinaesthetic learning experiences. I’ve sketched out a session thumbnail for now, but I’ll come back to this in a few months as the ideas start to crystallise in my head a bit more.

Whatever happens, it is great to be contributing to training and teaching once more, whilst also spreading the good word about Exchanges.

December 2020

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