Call for Submissions
We invite contributions for Explanation Points: Publishing in Rhetoric and Composition.
We are currently seeking contributions from faculty at 2-year institutions, 4-year teaching schools, and in adjunct or non-tenure-track positions at any institution. We are looking for short contributions by established and new members of our scholarly community, as well as those who have served as journal editors, on editorial review boards, and in other publication-related capacities.
This collection offers advice for publishing in rhetoric and composition (writing studies, technical communication, rhetoric, etc.). We invite contributions that offer first-person narratives of the best advice you have received or you have given during the writing process.
Read more here: http://www.digitalwriting.org/ep/
I’m about a year and a half into this editor gig and continue to engage in introspection, reflection and analysis about how exactly peer-review functions in the world of scholarly journal publishing. Though I have a strong record of publication in peer-reviewed journals and did prior to starting my term as editor, there is so much about scholarly publishing that is opaque. Before applying to serve as editor, I read Do We Still Need Peer Review? An Argument for Change by Thomas Gould. And I regularly follow the ongoing sagas of higher education publishing crises around predatory journals and the publish or perish mentality that has come to (if sloppily) be shorthand for the cutthroat world of the tenure track.
That being said, I decided that so little is said about how editing and peer review works that I want to write a little bit about what I have been doing, realizing, and concluding throughout this process. In part, (spoiler alert) this blog is inspired by the article I read in Inside Higher Ed recently called “Publication by Chance,” which reports in from a recent study of peer review practices. As the story reports on the shortcomings of the peer review process: “it can miss major errors in submitted papers, leaves room for luck or chance in publication decisions, and is subject to confirmation bias among peer reviewers. Given those factors, he says, it’s “natural to inquire whether the structure of the process influences its outcomes.” What the study eventually concludes is
The best-performing system in the study was unilateral editor decision system without desk rejection, meaning all papers were read by reviewers but the editor had final say about publication: just 6 percent of papers published under that system had reader evaluations under 0.65 (meaning that just 6 percent of papers were believed to be worse than 35 percent of other papers in the simulation population). If editors desk-rejected 50 percent of papers under the unilateral editor decision, that share fell to 1 percent.
After close to two years of finding my own way on what it means to be an editor–what it means to be a gatekeeper for what counts as new knowledge in the field, or to create the future historical record of the scholarly priorities of a discipline. Whew. That’s a big responsibility. And it’s a big responsibility to sort out independently, even it if it is with the vetting and imprimatur of the colleagues who review and (in my case) sponsorship from a national organization who put me here.
Things I Have Learned
- Reader reports (peer reviewers) vary wildly in their quality and perspective and you can’t always anticipate whose will offer what insights. Taken together, they tend to offer a good picture of a) what readers can and will want and b) how and whether the manuscript being reviewed lines up with the quality expectations of journal readership
- Writers don’t expect desk rejection, even though a lot of journals make this a regular practice for approximately 50% of their submissions; in the Esarey study, this practice actually increased (according to his methodology) the overall quality of the published submissions, but with TETYC I don’t see this as the function of the journal. We encourage new writers to benefit from the expertise and time of the scholars in the field, and this necessarily involves circulating manuscripts for feedback that may not be, intuitively, the best fit for the journal. I’m not willing to let me personal judgment (which even if it is an informed one, will be framed by my own interests, preferences, and unconscious biases) unilaterally weed out half of all submissions.
- On a related note, I’m realizing that I can’t always know what the final version of a manuscript will look like. Something that I may not personally be all that excited about, through the process of revising and resubmitting, can be transformed through reviewer feedback, editorial direction, and the time and efforts of writers.
- Reviewers are grateful for the opportunity to a) see what other reviewers actually wrote and, at the very least, b) see what other reviewers recommended. It makes me realize we’re all operating in these different hallways and seeking opportunities to have conversations about our judgements.
Where I Am Now
Perhaps this blog entry is a just a way of taking a public rhetorical sigh–that for all the “feeling my way through” I’ve been doing in the last two years, I intuitively came to the conclusion that Esarey’s research study did, which is that good peer reviewed scholarship is a balance of open circulation; expert review; diverse opinions, thoughtfully rendered; and independent decision-making on the part of a person who sits at a distance (not quite an archimedean point, but something like it) and makes a call. I hope to grow as an editor and in my ability to continue to build a scholarly foundation for the field that gives people what they need in order to do good work in their classrooms, in their writing, and in their institutions.
The March 2017 issue is available online!
Free access is available for the Editor’s Introduction and Darin Jensen and Susan Ely’s opening piece, and TYCA to You!
If you haven’t yet had a chance, take a look at the latest issue of TETYC.
Nonsubscribers are able to read the Editor’s Introduction as well as the “TYCA White Paper on Placement Reform.”