Department of Responses and Cool Ideas: More From The World Of Academic Publishing

August 26, 2010, 1:30 pm

Here’s some follow-up to Wednesday’s post on reforming scholarly publishing practices:

*As a cosmic reminder that some journals do not live to torture us, yesterday I received notice that an article had been un-ambivalently and swiftly rejected by a top journal. Right on! They turned it around in less than a month. Follow-up question: When an article is rejected, what do you do, dear? Answer: Thank the editors sincerely for their professionalism in letting you know so fast, and so politely, and send it off immediately to a specialty journal.
Another question: do the editors of this journal read Tenured Radical? Were they making a point? I posed this question at home and it was strongly inferred that my ego was wandering way off the reservation. Again.
*A friend who is a senior scholar and an experienced journal editor wrote in response to the post to say that s/he was in complete disagreement about eliminating “revise and resubmit” as a category. To elaborate: “some of our best…pieces [are] the result of great reviewer direction and energetic author redrafting. To do away with that would effectively close out grad students from journal article publishing, and they do some of the best work.” That sounds right to me, so let me refine my critique: readers should not use the category of “revise and resubmit” when they really mean “reject.” How’s that for a fair compromise?
*One of the quickest turnarounds I have ever experienced was editing a round table on feminist blogging for the Journal of Women’s History. From the time the proposal was accepted to it’s forthcoming appearance in winter 2011 (subscribe now and reserve your copy!), it will have taken 18 months, only six of which will have been devoted to the publishing process (as opposed to writing, editing and review.) Does the increase in “special issues,” clusters and round tables suggest that many hands make light work? Is it possible for journals to squeeze the time frame on publication without sacrificing quality by committing to relevant topics that demand timely publication? What might this teach us about the possibilities for shortening the publication timetable for articles that come in over the transom?
*There is an argument to be made for publishing a variety of pieces that have no central theme or connection, particularly in prominent journals, published by professional associations, that by necessity speak to very diverse audiences. The biggest complaint I received, across fields, was that by the time work actually appears in journals it is often longer cutting edge, or the book project that it is part of has appeared. So how about if journals just held their referees to a faster timetable, and also used the Internet to publish shorter pieces, or articles that actually need to come out quickly or have their relevance eroded? Forums, like the ones you have seen here on this blog, could also pick up on exciting books that people need to know about now — not two years from now; and book reviewing could be entirely web based. Over half of the pages in two top journals in my field are filled with book reviews — books that came out years ago.
*When in doubt, start a cool new journal. Joan Wallach Scott tops the masthead of History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History; you will see a few other members of the Differences crowd on the editorial board. For those of you not on the H-Net Announcements listserve:
History of the Present is a journal devoted to history as a critical endeavor. Its aim is twofold: to create a space in which scholars can reflect on the role history plays in establishing categories of contemporary debate by making them appear inevitable, natural or culturally necessary; and to publish work that calls into question certainties about the relationship between past and present that are taken for granted by the majority of practicing historians. Its editors want to encourage the critical examination of both history’s influence on politics and the politics of the discipline of history itself.

‘Tis a journal after the Radical’s own heart. Good luck and God Bless, that’s what I say. It’s biannual, and issues will be carried by JSTOR as they are published, so no more paper coming will be into your home — unless you have a journal fetish and you want it to do so.
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