Academic Publishing

Today I attended a panel on Publishing cosponsored by the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center and Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism. The panelists were: Marilyn Billings, Scholarly Communication and Special Initiatives Librarian, UMass Amherst, Ralph Faulkingham, Professor of Anthropology, UMass Amherst and Co-Editor of the African Studies Review, Paula Giddings, Senior Editor, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism,  Laura Lovett, Associate Professor of History, UMass Amherst/Director, Five College Women’s Studies Research Center/Editorial Staff, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Karen Sanchez-Eppler, Professor of English and American Studies, Amherst College and Editorial Staff, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, and Bruce Wilcox, Director, University Press, UMass Amherst.

The discussion was mainly about publishing articles in scholarly journals, which seems like an arduous task. Several of the speakers connected publishing to advancement in one’s career. Given that it can sometimes take up to two and a half years for an article to be published, the process seems designed to be very anxiety provoking.

One of the questions from the audience was about journals not wanting an author to submit to more than one journal at a time. Karen Sanchez-Eppler said she feels it is because the peer reviewers are volunteers so the journals’ editors want to be protective of their time and energy. She suggested that it is a system of collegiality. Of course, whether they mean it or not, it also acts as a barrier to entry for aspiring academics. The journals’ editors and reviewers are already in, to a greater or less extent, and their decision on your journal article submission can play a role in whether you rise up the tenure track ladder or not.

Another group of questions was about images and copyright issues more generally. This is a very grey area since a lot depends on whether you think somebody will notice if you have used an image or not. I tried very hard to acquire permission for all the images in Brewing Battles but I know that other authors are sometimes not as scrupulous. It can cost you a lot of money to use images; authors usually bear the cost.

Marilyn Billings is a librarian at the University of Massachusetts where they are encouraging PhD students to place their completed dissertations in an open access format, Scholarworks, that the University maintains. This is not a replacement for what in my day was UMI and is now Proquest UMI Dissertation Publishing.  Although Scholarworks is not competing with UMI, I wonder about its future.  As both print on demand companies and open access services provided by universities increase, the option of placing your thesis with UMI to be “published” seems less automatic.

I am not an academic although I am a historian and I do have a PhD. Listening to both the speakers and the audience, I realized once again what a difficult career choice academia is, certainly, until you get tenure.

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