Tag: journals

Pitching Your Article?

Dan Nexon has instituted a new Ask the Editors feature on his editor’s blog on the newly revamped ISQ website. If you haven’t seen it yet, PTJ has done a great job developing the site and Dan hasn’t missed a step in the transition from his great blogging here at Duck to his new role at ISQ.

In the first installment of Ask the Editors Dan responds to a reader’s question on what information should be conveyed in the dreaded cover letter included with an article submission. The reader referred to the cover letter as that “mystical piece of the peer review process.”

Dan’s response is insightful and certainly a must read for anyone considering submitting a piece to ISQ, but one of his major conclusions strikes me as curious. He writes:

In short, a manuscript’s cover letter bears almost no resemblance to what accompanies an application for a job or for a grant. You should not use the cover letter as place to “pitch” the manuscript to us.

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What are the “Big Issues” of International Politics, and How Should Journals Address Them?

A common complaint among international-relations scholars is that our journals don’t sufficiently engage with big, new, and pressing issues of world politics. Those that do, on the other hand, often get criticized for a lack of rigor. I’ve made this complaint before, in the context of the financial crisis, and Kate Weaver offered some thoughts about “what’s wrong” with IPE. But the problem extends far beyond the financial crisis and IPE.

Standard explanations for this state of affairs include:

  • the length of the publication cycle: it can take years to get from paper, to submission, to making it through peer review, to showing up in a journal;
  • disciplinary incentives to tackle narrow topics and to squeeze incremental findings out of those topics; and
  • the general parochialism of academic international relations.

On the other hand, not a few people argue that the whole point of academic international-relations work is to avoid faddishness and overly speculative claims about unfolding events. Anyone who has ever head “journalism” used as an insult knows one version of this line of argument. Still, the fact that international-relations articles usually genuflect in the direction of policy relevance suggests that even those in this camp think journals should have contemporary salience.

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Talking Academic Journals: Online Fora

At the end of May I posted the Georgetown-anchored bid for International Studies Quarterly that provides a roadmap for what we intend to do with the journal. I also briefly discussed the online model we’re developing for International Studies Quarterly Online, an effort under the capable supervision of PTJ. And yes, we might need a better name for it.

Among the online-only content that expect to include on the website are symposia and fora. We envision this content as less formal and shorter than what you would normally expect in International Studies Review (ISR) or International Studies Perspectives (ISP). In short:

  • It won’t be peer-reviewed;
  • It will allow for blog-style commenting and interchange; and
  • It will leverage the ISQ brand to bring in writers and readers.

These features create, we hope, opportunities to start, continue, and forward discussions relevant to international-studies theory and practice.  Continue reading

Measuring Journal (and Scholarly) Outcomes

Another day, another piece chronicling problems with the metrics scholars use to assess quality. Colin Wight sends George Lozano’s “The Demise of the Impact Factor“:

Using a huge dataset of over 29 million papers and 800 million citations, we showed that from 1902 to 1990 the relationship between IF and paper citations had been getting stronger, but as predicted, since 1991 the opposite is true: the variance of papers’ citation rates around their respective journals’ IF [impact factor]  has been steadily increasing. Currently, the strength of the relationship between IF and paper citation rate is down to the levels last seen around 1970.

Furthermore, we found that until 1990, of all papers, the proportion of top (i.e., most cited) papers published in the top (i.e., highest IF) journals had been increasing. So, the top journals were becoming the exclusive depositories of the most cited research. However, since 1991 the pattern has been the exact opposite. Among top papers, the proportion NOT published in top journals was decreasing, but now it is increasing. Hence, the best (i.e., most cited) work now comes from increasingly diverse sources, irrespective of the journals’ IFs.

If the pattern continues, the usefulness of the IF will continue to decline, which will have profound implications for science and science publishing. For instance, in their effort to attract high-quality papers, journals might have to shift their attention away from their IFs and instead focus on other issues, such as increasing online availability, decreasing publication costs while improving post-acceptance production assistance, and ensuring a fast, fair and professional review process.

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New Journal: Political Science Research and Methods

Cambridge University Press has un-gated the inaugural issue of Political Science Research and Methods, edited by Cameron G. Thies and Vera E. Troeger. Thies and Troeger have implemented a textbook journal launch, complete with major names in the field and strong articles. Continue reading

Talking Journals: ISQ on the Web

Alright folks, I don’t really have much to say here. Instead, I’ll provide a link (PDF) to a copy of the bid we submitted nearly a year ago. Be warned that it includes some egregious typos and other fun* stuff. Continue reading

Talking Academic Journals: Publishing the “Best Work”

Note: this is the second in a series of posts opening up issues relating to journal process for general discussion by the international-studies community.

All journals commit to publishing “the best work” that they receive within their remit. All journals aspire to publish “the best work,” period, within their specialization. This raises special challenges for a journal such as the International Studies Quarterly, which constitutes the “flagship” publication of the International Studies Association (ISA). The ISA is incredibly diverse. It includes members from all over the world–nearly half are based outside of North America–who work in different disciplines and within heterogeneous research cultures.  Continue reading

Talking Academic Journals: Collecting Data

Note: this is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts opening up issues relating to journal process for general discussion by the international-studies community.

Although many readers already know the relevant information, let me preface this post with some context. I am the incoming lead editor of International Studies Quarterly (ISQ), which is one of the journals in the International Studies Association family of publications. We are planning, with PTJ leading the effort, some interesting steps with respect to online content, social media, and e-journal integration–but those will be the subject of a later post. I have also been rather critical of the peer-review process and of the fact that we don’t study it very much in International Relations.

The fact is that ISQ by itself–let alone the collection of ISA journals and the broader community of cognate peer-reviewed publications–is sitting on a great deal of data about the process. Some of this data, such as the categories of submissions, is already in the electronic submission systems–but it isn’t terribly standardized. Many journals now collect information about whether a piece includes a female author. Given some indications of subtle, and consequential, gender bias, we have strong incentives to collect this kind of data.

But what, exactly, should we be collecting?
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Tracking and Political-Science Journal Accountability


(click on the image to enlarge)

I’m usually cautious about linking to anything in the PSJR/PSR family of sites, but this strikes me as pretty interesting: a wiki devoted to tracking political-science journals. Contributors note the journal, the turnaround time, and information about what happened to the article. Despite the promulgation of end-of-year journal reports, the submission-to-review-to-outcome process remains a mystery to many. In general, more information is a good thing — especially considering how much influence peer-reviewed publications have on the allocation of status, prestige, and resources in the field.

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Podcast No. 11 – Interview with Janice Bially Mattern

The eleventh episode of the Duck of Minerva Podcast just went live. In it, I interview Janice Bially Mattern of the National University of Singapore. Her first monograph is Ordering International Politics: Identity, Crisis, and Representational Force (Routledge, 2005).


  • Front Matter
  • An Intellectual Introduction
  • Ordering International Politics
  • Transnational Organized Crime
  • Hierarchy, Emotion, and Transnational Criminals
  • The Multivocality of Mattern’s Work
  • Styles of Reasoning in IR
  • Taking Over the International Studies Review
  • International Theory Redux
  • Working in Singapore
  • End Matter

Note: podcasts now seem to be appearing every Friday, give or take. We’ll see how long we can sustain it.

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Bad Metaphors: Journals, Articles, and Pages

As a graduate student at an urban university,
I envy this RA’s large office.

New technologies adapt terms from older tools, even when they’re curiously inappropriate. Consider “dashboard,” which we use now to refer to an easy display of critical information (as in Google Dashboard) or the control panel of an automobile. Originally, however, a dashboard was (per Wikipedia) “a barrier of wood or leather fixed at the front of a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh to protect the driver from mud or other debris “dashed” (thrown) up by the wheels and horses’ hooves.

 Clearly, that term outlasted its original meaning.

Nobody cares, of course, if words find new meanings, even to the point of rendering the original definition archaic. But the analogies that shape our technologies are subject to the same dynamics. Consider, for instance, my current work habits. My workflow for reading and notetaking involves highlighting the PDFs using iAnnotate, syncing the files to my desktop via Dropbox, and finally recalling them on my monitor when I write using LaTeX. 

Every stage of this process is inefficient and governed by obsolete metaphors.

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Perspectives Ungated

Cambridge University Press has un-gated the New Orleans issues of Perspectives on Politics until 16 September. From the release.

This issue, themed “Post-Katrina New Orleans and Politics of Reconstruction,” takes an in-depth look at the various political and cultural issues involved in rebuilding the Big Easy, including social triage, structural violence, and more. For more background on the issue, read Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey C. Isaac’s introduction.

Thursday Morning Linkage

It’s a beautiful day in Washington; not so beautiful in New Orleans. Some of this text comes from PM.

Irony’s Bucket List: Academic Journal Section

The latest issue of International Studies Perspectives includes a forum on open access.

I bet you can guess where this is headed

Perspectives on Politics: Special New Orleans Issue

I am very happy to report that Melissa Harris-Perry just held up a copy of the new Perspectives on Politics on her MSNBC show and quoted me (!!) about “Post-Katrina New Orleans and the Politics of Reconstruction,” the theme of our new 10th anniversary issue!! The “play” she gave our journal on the air was greatly appreciated….

I believe that the current issue of Perspectives is the first issue in the history of APSA journals to be a special issue (at 300 pages!), timed to come out in advance of the annual meetings, to address a major issue linked to the meetings, in this case the site of the conference itself, a major city with huge practical and symbolic importance in American public life. 

We do the work that we do for the Association and with the goal of continuing to “grow” and improve Perspectives as a journal that is scholarly, engaging, and relevant. 

And we are happy that this work can play some small role in contributing to the public esteem of our profession and our Association….

Our special 10th anniversary discussion/reception, will take place on Friday, August 31, from 4:15-6:00 pm in Sheraton Rhythm 1. This event is being billed as “Perspectives on New Orleans and the Politics of Reconstruction: A Discussion of Perspectives on Politics with the Editors.” There will be a brief introduction thanking the many people who have contributed to the journal; brief presentations by Edwina Barvosa, Henry Farrell, Elizabeth Markovits and me; and then informal discussion, all in the context of a reception featuring wine, beer, and hors d’oevres, courtesy of APSA and Michael Brintnall. Please come to this event if you can, and please spread the word, and encourage your friends, colleagues, and students to attend.

Against Journal Impact Factors

There’s a fascinating post making the rounds. In it, Stephen Curry discusses the history and abuse of journal impact-factor data. Curry links alternatives to the rise of open-access publications and new-media discussion of research findings. 

Twenty years on from Seglen’s analysis a new paper by Jerome Vanclay from Southern Cross University in Australia has reiterated the statistical ineptitude of using arithmetic means to rank journals and highlighted other problems with the impact factor calculation. Vanclay points out that it fails to take proper account of data entry errors in the titles or dates of papers, or of the deficient and opaque sampling methods used by Thomson Reuters in its calculation. Nor, he observes, does the two-year time limit placed on the impact factor calculation accommodate variations in the temporal citation patterns between different fields and journals; peak citations to Nature papers occurs 2-3 years following publication whereas citations of papers in Ecology take much more time to accrue and are maximal only after 7-8 years). Whichever way you look, the impact factor is a mis-measure.

His conclusion is harsh, but in my view, fair.

But every little helps, so, taking my cue from society’s assault on another disease-laden dependency, it is time to stigmatise impact factors the way that cigarettes have been. It is time to start a smear campaign so that nobody will look at them without thinking of their ill effects, so that nobody will mention them uncritically without feeling a prick of shame.
So consider all that we know of impact factors and think on this:

  • If you use impact factors you are statistically illiterate. 
  • If you include journal impact factors in the list of publications in your cv, you are statistically illiterate.
  • If you are judging grant or promotion applications and find yourself scanning the applicant’s publications, checking off the impact factors, you are statistically illiterate.
  • If you publish a journal that trumpets its impact factor in adverts or emails, you are statistically illiterate. (If you trumpet that impact factor to three decimal places, there is little hope for you.)
  • If you see someone else using impact factors and make no attempt at correction, you connive at statistical illiteracy.

I’ll try to have more to say about this, and its evil cousin, citation counting, at some near-future time.
Also, see Curry’s “Coda

The Great Journal Impact Factor Race, Web 2.x, and the Evolution of the Academy

Back in May Robert Kelley touched off a discussion about Journal Citation Reports and impact factor rankings. Journal impact factor provides a textbook study in the consequences of a well-institutionalized but highly problematic quantitative measure. Impact factor is highly skewed, easily gamed, and somewhat arbitrary (two-year and five-year windows). Nonetheless, it drives a great deal of behavior on the part of authors, editors, and publishers.

Impact factor, of course, is just one objective in the pursuit of prestige. Editors, boards, and associations want the status that comes with being involved with a “leading journal.” Publishers want that prestige as well, but only for its intrinsic value. For publishers prestige, profile, status.. these matters because they separate the journals that a library “must have” from those that the library can do without. So journals such as International Studies Quarterly and European Journal of International Relations remain valuable and prestigious commodities even if they’ve had a few “bad years” in terms of impact factor; very few international-relations scholars, let alone librarians, are going to ditch them in favor of Marine Policy.

I’ve learned a great deal about impact factor and “prestige” over the course of two editorial bids; indeed, one of the things I’ve stressed is how far behind the curve most international-relations journals are at exploiting new media to boost citation counts and the general profile of the journal. Publishers think so too. Indeed, they’d like authors themselves to pick up some of the burden. Here’s an email from SAGE that a friend of mine sent along earlier today (each page is an image, so if you have trouble reading them click on each to enlarge):

This is pretty amazing stuff — on a number of levels.

SAGE covers virtually all the bases, from maintaining an Academia.edu account, to tweeting, to creating a website. They want their authors not only to self-promote on wikipedia, but also to take up blogging.
I’m not sure I’m cool with this. SAGE is asking academics to make significant time commitments. For most article authors, these commitments aren’t commensurate with the benefits they’ll receive. It isn’t as if taking of tweeting instantly makes you an important figure in your area of expertise. My sense is that the RSS feeds of most international-relations and political-science blogs have fewer than fifty subscribers, which suggests typical readership in the dozens. This means that the marginal benefits of the most intensive activities SAGE recommends aren’t likely to be worth the costs in time and effort. 
But journals don’t require these efforts to realize large payoffs. The most successful international-relations journals might achieve two-year impact factors of between three and four average citations per article. Once we get below the top few then we are talking about journals with between one and two average citations per article. The benefits for publishers such as SAGE then, is potentially quite significant. If all that effort generates fewer than ten additional citations for relevant articles, they still might see their journals (easily) catapulted up the rankings.
At the same time, I also feel a bit vindicated. This reinforces my sense — articulated best by Charli and Dan Drezer — that we’re going through a major transformation in the relationship between international studies and Web 2.x activities. Popular writers have long been doing — with the active encouragement of their publishers and agents — most of these things. Indeed, pretty much every author I’ve asked to interview for NBN’s SF and Fantasy channel maintains some combination of blog, website, twitter feed, Facebook presence, livejournal account, and so on. They have to: their income depends on their sales and their relationship with their readers.

The authors of the Duck aren’t exactly strangers to most of these methods of shameless self-promotion. Still, most of us got into new and social media for fun and community rather than for profit. I remember routinely having to justify my blogging activities to my friends, mentors, and colleagues. How times have changed.

At least those are a few of my disparate reactions. I wonder what our readers think.

Academic IR and the Information Age: Journals

As my post on “open access” demonstrates, I’ve been thinking a lot about International Relations  journals over the last few months, particularly with respect to digital media. Charli’s excellent presentation on the discipline and “web 2.0” fell at an interesting time for me, as I was working on a journal bid. My sense is that academic International Relations journals have a mixed record when it comes to fulfilling their varied functions in the field, and that better internet integration would help matters. This post seeks to make that case — albeit in a very preliminary way — but also might be read as a rumination on purpose of IR journals… and an attempt to raise questions about the state of journals within international studies. 

I guess a good place to start might be with the “official line” on academic journals. What are they for? The quasi-random people behind the wikipedia page on the subject write:

An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research. Content typically takes the form of articles presenting original research, review articles, and book reviews.

We often hear about journals as sites for “leading” and “cutting-edge” research on particular topics and, depending on the journal, particular inflections. But, as many commentators point out, the time from submission to publication at many prestige journals now lasts at least year. Articles sometimes accumulate a great deal of citation and discussion by appearing at online depositories, such as SSRN. Indeed, work in International Relations  — most often quantitative — gets de facto peer reviewed many times before it appears in a journal. Indeed, this kind of peer review is arguably less stochastic and, in aggregate, more complete than what a manuscript receives at a journal.

My sense (and that, I believe, of many others) is that academic journals serve a number of purposes that are connected, but not always tightly coupled, to idealized accounts of what they’re good for.

  1. Professional certification. Leading journals are hard to get into. The volume of submissions, as well as the (related) attitudes of referees and editors, require a piece to “hit the jackpot” in terms of reviewer evaluations. Because referees and editors care about maintaining–and enhancing–the perceived quality of the journal, they work harder to make articles conform to the field or subfield standards of excellence. As we move down and across the journal hierarchy, these forces still operate but to lesser degrees. Thus, lower-ranked journals or journals perceived as being “easier to get into” provide less symbolic capital. 
  2. Defining standards of excellence. Another way of saying this is that journals produce, reproduce, and transform genre expectations for the style and content of scholarly work. What appears in leading journals sets standards for what should appear in leading journals; even if scholars don’t necessarily buy those standards, those attempting to publish in such journals will seek to replicate “the formula” in the hopes that it improves their chances of success. The same is true of less prestigious and more specialized journals, but those on the top of the hierarchy inflect as example (whether positive or cautionary) genre expectations associated with many of their less famous relatives. 
  3. Vetting work. Regardless of what one thinks of the state of peer review, it does provide a gauntlet that often improves–by some measure or other–the quality of the product. So does the attention of dedicated editors. At the very least, we believe this to be the case, which is all that matters for the role of journals in vetting scholarly pieces.
  4. Publicizing work. Scholars read journals–or at least tables of contents–that “matter” (i.e., have currency) in their subfield and in the broader field. So getting an article into a journal increases– subject to the breadth and depth of that journal’s reach–the chances that it will be read by a targeted audience. 
  5. Constituting a scholarly community. Much of the above comes down to shaping the parameters of, and interactions within, scholarly communities. These “purposes” of journals do so in the basic sense of allocating prestige, generating expectations, and so on. But they also contribute to a scholarly sphere of intellectual exchange–they help to define what we talk about and argue over. 

My claim is as follows: every one of these purposes is better met by embedding scholarly journals in Web 2.0 architectures and technologies, whether open-access or not, peer-reviewed or not. The particular advantage of these hybrids lies in vetting, publicizing, and constituting a scholarly community.

Digital environments promote post-publication peer review both by allowing comments on articles and by facilitating the publication of traditional “response” pieces. There’s no reason to believe that they undermine the traditional vetting mechanisms, as they handle core articles the same way as non-embedded academic journals.

Traditional journals, on the other hand, do a poor job of publicizing work; particularly older articles that disappear into the ether (or the bowels of the library). That’s why blogs such as The Monkey Cage have occupied such an important position in the landscape. A journal embedded in shifting content — blogs, blog aggregation, web-only features, promotion of timely articles and articles that speak to recent debates in other journals — keeps people coming back to the site and, in doing so, exposes them to journal content.

The advantages in terms of constituting and maintaining a scholarly community should be obvious. Web 2.0 integration promises to transform “inputs into community” into ongoing intellectual transactions among not only scholars, but also the broader interested community.

As alluded to above, this transformation is already occurring. But I worry about two aspects of its trajectory.

  1. The most “important” general journals in the field are way behind. 
  2. A number of the current experiments are operating in isolation from the online academic IR community, e.g., they produce “blog posts” that read like op-eds intended for the New York Times, and the only evidence of being in conversation with that community is in the form of desultory blogrolls.


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