GCfE 9th Annual Conference: A Guide to Publishing and Editing

The GCfE roundtable session on publishing featured presentations by Zainab Naqvi, a second year Law PhD candidate and the current Publications Co-Chair for the GCfE; Gail Mobley, a third year English Literature PhD candidate and the Publications Co-Chair for 2013/2014; and Dr Stephen Forcer, a senior lecturer in French Studies at the University of Birmingham and an editor and referee of numerous academic journals. For this session our participants provided background on their individual experiences with publishing and editing and then held a more open floor Q+A style discussion.

Q: The REF

The Research Excellence Framework is the method of assessing the quality of research at higher education institutions in Britain. Although according to Stephen, the REF may find itself exported to other parts of the world sometime in the future. The REF is a points based system, 0-4, and generally to be hired for an academic position today you will want publications scoring a 3 (internationally excellent) with the potential for 4 (groundbreaking). Researchers must submit 4 items to the REF for evaluation, a monograph counts double. So generally speaking academics are submitting 3-4 pieces over 7 years for evaluation.

Q: The value of peer review

Like the REF, peer review ensures the quality of an academic journal article, book chapter or monograph. Having your work peer-reviewed and published in a peer-reviewed collection ensures that standards are in place to measure the suitability of a publication, and that not just anything will be published. It is important to keep in mind who might be peer-reviewing your work when submitting. If your peer-reviewer is a major specialist in your field and your paper doesn’t even mention them this might give them pause, and not just for reasons of vanity. It shows you don’t know enough about relevant researchers in your area, or that you have not done the proper legwork in submitting your paper.

Q: Impact, and does this mean publications?

Publications are the strongest way through which to make an impact within academia, and certainly the key consideration of things like the REF. However, one thing that higher education institutions are increasingly looking for is impact outside of academia. In the Arts and Social Sciences this relates to defending potentially more obscure research. Public engagement activities and social media are other ways in which to ensure your research is relevant and can be pitched to a wider audience. The Research Poster Conference hosted by the University Graduate School annually enables researchers to present their work to a non-specialist audience, providing the opportunity to think about how you would translate your work to an audience outside of your field, and potentially even outside of academia. Social media platforms like Academia.edu, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs (such as WordPress) provide a platform to get your voice, research and ideas out to a wider audience.

Q: Publication and Post Doc

At the end of your PhD you should have clear intentions about publications/publication opportunities going into a post-doc. Turning your PhD into a monograph is one possible outcome of your studies, and you will need to think about where would be the best place to aim your research. In regards to the publisher you use the REF is not concerned, as they only care about the quality of the work. However, hiring universities will likely weigh where you have published, and not all publishers are considered equal. Hiring departments and what they look for vary. When it comes to interviews for academic positions its also worth keeping in mind that sometimes extra places appear. Even if you know you are interviewing against someone more qualified, with more publications, it doesn’t mean you won’t both get the job. Or that you are actually a better fit for where you interview.

The GCfE committee would like to thank everyone that came along to this session, as well as our speakers, and hope that those of you reading at home find this small snapshot of the session useful. For more about the conference keep an eye out for our next newsletter which should appear near the end of the summer term. See our publications tab for information about our recently opened journal cfp, and check back next week for more information about the journal, the newsletter and another potential Cambridge Scholars Publishing opportunity.

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