Publish and mix it up
By David DeBrot, LSU
If you’re here for advice on how to get published in an academic journal, you’re in the wrong place. For a Google search of advice on getting published in academic journals, go here.
Instead of giving you a list of tips on getting published in academic journals, I’ll take a risk and suggest that you’ve already met a publisher who’s waiting to put your work out for public review. You.
First, let’s define ‘publish’. It is, according to Merriam-Webster, ‘to disseminate to the public’ or ‘to produce or release for distribution’. We tend to think, especially in academic circles, that ‘to publish’ or ‘be published’ is only about conference papers, journals and books. The fact is, the trend of academic publications is beginning to change to a mix of traditional and what I’ll call ‘open-access’ online publication.
You are probably already aware of how most people are now consuming information (academic and otherwise) because you are, of course, on a blog. No longer is print the go-to medium nor academic online databases the dominant channel for information. Professional and academic social media platforms (think LinkedIn and academia.edu), blogs and Twitter are increasingly the preferred methods of getting information. If I ask you where is the last place you found information in your discipline or profession, you will answer ‘online’ before ‘in a printed journal or book’. Of course, for some of you my prediction will be wrong, but you get my point, I hope. The definitions of ‘publish’ are just as relevant to online forms of distribution as printed and the importance of publishing on online platforms is likely to grow.
There is a subtle FAD (Finance and Delivery) shift occurring among universities and experts away from privately held, for-profit journals and their parent companies to more open-access online distribution. To illustrate, the number of universities encouraging their research staff to move towards more open-access online publications is increasing. Harvard University, in this letter, has told staff it is cancelling costly journal subscriptions and is encouraging them to move towards 0pen-access publishing and explore other options for distributing their research. The UK has also taken a bold step, with the Research Councils UK in this announcement making it a requirement that any research which uses public funds must publish their work in open-access journals.
Individuals and organizations waiting for the ‘tipping point’ in this trend before publishing online as well are likely to be wagering a losing proposition. As consumption of knowledge grows over time, so will the quantity. This infographic gives an indication of how much can be created in one year. Ignoring opportunities to contribute to the open-access, online distribution of knowledge, discussion and debate can actually be detrimental to your profile as a professional and a ‘knowledge creator’. Don’t believe me? Google yourself and see what comes up – because that’s exactly what your future (and possibly your current) employers will do. The time for you to begin, develop or grow your online profile as a professional is now.
One objection to my argument so far may be that there is no current equivalence between the status a journal article publication brings and publishing on a blog. A journal article signals what a blog publication does not necessarily imply. Aside from increasing an author’s citation index rating and its consequential effect on the journal’s impact factor, a published article in a respected journal signals that 1) you are a professional with expertise in the field 2) your article is very probably not rubbish 3) you are able to navigate the work, process and patience required to get published in a journal.
A rebuttal to this would be that the importance of citation indices to one’s professional status and job prospects may wane with the growth of open-access journals as well as the change in the criteria which determines the appropriacy of information to academic assignments. That is, the requirement of a minimum number of cited journal articles in written assignments may slowly disappear as the nature of tertiary assessments become more various and flexible and therefore the level of demand for such citations. Blog and open-access journal publication also allows for more immediate distribution of topical issues, a wider audience to review your work (and comment) and more people may be likely to read your work in its entirety rather than seeing it as a source to skim and cherry-pick citations from (as many university students do with journal articles).
Journal publication is still attractive though, especially to those working in highly technical fields or looking to add a bit of weight to their CV that may enable them to move on to bigger and better jobs or institutions. However, ignoring the reality of millennial consumption of information and the attendant exposure online publications can bring is leaving anyone desirous of long-term advancement holding a wholly un-diversified mix of publications and a slighter professional profile than is likely to be required to remain a competitive candidate.
A diversified mix would be an attempt at pursuing traditional journal article and book publications, but also including focused and frequent efforts at self-publication through a university or department blog or a local or regional newspaper with online distribution. By attempting the above, the signalling pending or accepted journal articles or book chapters provides to future employers will satisfy the traditionalists who are evaluating candidates based on this factor, while publishing online gives employers a preview (remember that employers will Google you) of what you know, what you care about and to some degree, who you are. It also demonstrates your awareness and savvy with contemporary and future information consumption realities.
Here is some advice on achieving this mix:
- For journal publications (traditional or open-access), a general guide would be that if you can manage it, one research project in proposal stage, one in data collection and one submitted to a journal at all times is ideal.
- Ask anyone you know who has submitted articles for journals and been through the peer-review process what is a realistic timeline and also what is the worst to expect from the process overall. Time for these projects is probably the most expensive of all, so setting a realistic timeline is important.
- For online publication, start with what you know and what you like. Blogs and other publications such as a recurring online newspaper article will quickly demand your time, energy and commitment. If you’re not ‘sparked’ by what you’re writing on, you’re wasting your time.
- Do a ‘literature review’ of blogs. Who’s publishing on your topic or field? Who’s their audience? What’s the look of the blog and ‘tone’ of the writing? You want to avoid duplication so others will see your blog as unique.
- Get on Twitter. It’s a great way to find people who write on what you’re interested in, how they write and how they design and format their own sites and blogs. You can also establish followers (and potential commenters and contributors) for your blog.
- Focus on consistent posts if you’re writing on a blog. Twice a week, once a week, once every two weeks – however frequent it is, keep it predictable and make it clear on your blog how often you publish.
- Reply to anyone who comments on your posts. A small act, but those who comment will likely appreciate it and it may encourage them to comment more and share the blog with others in your field.
- Make sure you’re happy with the amount of content and quality of content on your blog before you begin sharing and promoting it.
- Promote your online content by frequenting forums, association websites and other blogs in your field. Get involved in the discussion on a post you care about and share a link to your own blog.
- Contact your professional association and ask if your site/blog can be included on any ‘Resources’ or ‘Blogroll’ they may keep.
- If you like what you’ve read and your are a Higher Ed professional, consider writing for our blog and contact me for how to do that. Click here for my contact information.
Tags: academia.edu, academic publishing, academic social media, academic writing, blog publishing, Blog writing, consumption of information trends, David DeBrot, education, Future, future of academic publishing, getting published online, Higher Ed, higher ed careers, information consumption trends in academia, online distribution of information, open-access journal trends, open-access journals, privately owned journals
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