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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  October 2007

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION October 2007

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Subject:

Re: Another publishing comment

From:

Janet Gunning <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 23 Oct 2007 14:35:06 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (172 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Hello,
Sorry - I didn't intend my inverted commas around 'right' to come across
as weird or sinister. I agree that on the whole the peer-review system for
academic publication is straight-forward and works well.

My point was simply that in the UK an added complexity to the sometimes
fraught relationship between academics and their publishers (whether
articles for journals, monographs, edited books, other non-academic
publications etc) is the RAE, and it would be naive to think otherwise.
This is particularly true in relation to issues of timing and delays in
publication (which is where this thread started I think). The RAE works on
a 5 year cycle - and depts often put a great deal of pressure on their
staff (especially early- and mid-career members of staff) to publish
within the cycle. So the ability of publishers and journals to produce on
time can be as important a factor in the decisions academics make about
where to submit their work for publication as prestiege.

I know of one instance of someone who was well down the book contract
process with a very prestigious university press, but this press is
notoriously slow and the book would probably not have been out within the
present RAE cycle, so his dept strongly advised him to switch to a
smaller, faster, less prestigious academic press. I know of early-career
scholars who are job-hunting at the moment, who have delayed submitting
work for publication until next year - because then it will fall within
the next RAE cycle, and so enhance the research profile they will take
with them to any future employer.

The British university system has changed a great deal in the last 15
years - and the RAE, along with the advent of the new universities (the
old polytechnics) and changes in university funding (universities are
still primarily govt funded), is central to that. It is not so much that
academics themselves care about the RAE - it's more that university
administrators take the RAE so seriously.

Anyway - apologies for the inverted commas!

Janet


> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and
culture
>
>
>   This discussion is beginning to sound rather weird and sinister.
> Granted, I have been retired for over ten years but, assuming that there
has been no earth-shaking change in that time, I think that the whole
question of publication in academic journals is reasonably simple. 
First of all, I think most academics see their work as multi-faceted. 
To learn and to teach includes doing research and sharing the results of
that research with others.  Much of what we learn and teach may
> eventually contribute to a wider understanding of some aspect of the
world that might attract a popular audience but the nitty-gritty that
makes up most articles does not.  Academic journals cost money because
printers, etc. do not work for nothing but they are not profit-making
enterprises.  Writing articles for them and acting as peer reviewers
(and contributing book reviews) are all activities that we see as part
of our work.  As long as employment in a college pays reasonably well
and offers other perks that we value, most of us view this work as part
of the over-all job.  Our hiring, tenure, and promotion is generally
dependent on the judgment of our peers and we exchange these services
among ourselves in return.  In that sense, we don't work for nothing--we
work for advancement in our jobs.   Most of us know what the "right"
journals are though it is a rather informal understanding and if we
don't know, we ask one another.  (If an American historian is on a
search committee, she will not have difficulty in finding out from a
medievalist that Speculum is a "right" journal.)  Whether  non-academic
publications count or not is an individual matter for the committee to
decide.  For example, the esteemed Paul Krugman writes wonderful op ed
pieces for the NYTimes but the reputation that made him a distinguished
member of the Princeton economics department does not rest on that
oeuvre.  The original intent and, as far as I know, the continuing
intent of the whole system is aimed at producing good research and
making it publicly available while the hiring institution hopes to get a
faculty that is up to snuff on that research and actively contributing
ot it.  Overhead from grants is a different matter and one that does not
much favor medievalists.
>
>   Jo Ann McNamara
>
>   ----- Original Message -----
>
>
>   From: Ann Ball
>   To: [log in to unmask]
>   Sent: Monday, October 22, 2007 10:03 AM
>   Subject: Re: [M-R] Another publishing comment
>
>
>   medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and
> culture
>   From one who sits on the other side of the publishing world, this
thread
> is fascinating.  How do the universities decide what is the "right
journal" -- do they have an "approved" list?  What do the journals give
as their reason for not paying for the hard work you do?  I understand
the request for "freebies" occasionally -- I do it too sometimes for
charitable publications who are totally non-profit (although at this
stage I usually offer them the right to publish reprints of previous
articles), but someone mentioned that these journals cost those who read
them soooo...
>
>   Certainly I have heard the old "publish or perish" for many years.
And
> I suspect the original intent was to gain publicity for the institutions
which needed the publicity to attract high quality students, funding for
programs, etc.  I suspect Catherine's comment about the tag to
> applications reading 'ability to attract significant research funding'
falls into this category.
>
>   However, if one of your academics published a book with a non-academic
> press (or an article) would that not be a plus point at all?  Granted,
most of the academic writing I have read is "heavy" and the paid kind is
"light" it seems to me that if a work was accurate, even if not
> expressed in academic terms, and becamse popular, it would naturally
attract good attention to the institution involved.   And judging by the
wit and wisdom of some of the notes on this list I suspect there are
people there who could do a good job in the non-academic world, too.
>
>   In the meantime I'll wish you the same good luck my friend Celia just
> had, albeit in a different discipline.  She just took a new job and
something was brought up about the possibility of starting a new class. 
She had learned on a previous job that the U.S. government had set aside
funding for innovations dealing with this subject and mentioned it to
her department head.  Shortly thereafter, she was brought in, told to
design the class and told she had a budget of half a million dollars! 
Whoopee!  May you all be blessed with that type of luck.
>
>   Best,
>   ann
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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