Three-D Issue 28: Publishing research at the start of your career: a minefield

cgllfgfviaegmjmPatricia Prieto-Blanco
University of Brighton

The com-modification of Higher Education is happening before our eyes. It is an issue affecting researchers globally and it impacts academia at various levels. Arguably, postgraduates and early career researchers suffer the most as they are have to strike a balance between making a name for themselves and defending the academic ethos through their practice. Well, it might be naive of me to assume the latter, but I chose to believe that anyone pursuing a career in academia, and even more so in our discipline, is ideologically aligned against neo-liberalism and in defence of meaningful knowledge production. Structural development in Higher Education in the UK such as REF and TEF certainly pose challenges to our profession, but the hurdling starts much earlier for postgraduates and early career researchers.

Once upon a time, publishing one’s PhD research was a task to be carried out after the award of the title. Nowadays, doctoral candidates must manage to publish a couple of times before submitting their theses. This applies to candidates pursuing a PhD by publication and those following the traditional route. Book and conference reviews are good exercises, which certainly help in developing one’s writing skills, however they don’t really count. Chapters in edited collections are better regarded, but often they are not considered valuable outputs. The holy grail of publication are double blind peer reviewed journal articles. And the more impact factor the journal has, the better. However, there are many challenges in this process. Apart from the obvious one: much time passes between submission and publication; great effort and determination are needed to produce a paper of a standard deemed for publication in highly ranked journals. Predatory publishers are too well aware of these circumstances and take great advantage of them. In the last six months, the amount of emails on my inbox inviting me to publish in predatory journals has grown exponentially. But I should not be that surprised, as I fit the profile well: early career researcher, foreign sounding surname, low citation index. Even respectable names in the publishing industry have realised the revenue potential of predatory publishing. SAGE Open, “a peer reviewed open journal published by SAGE” regularly invites me to submit work, which would enter the review process one the “Article Processing Charge” of 395$ is met. Yes, 395$. Once more: 395$ is the cost of processing an article for review under SAGE Open. One cannot help but stop and wonder, how open is this journal then? How can afford this fee? And why already over 6000 researchers have submitted their work to SAGE Open Journal? Is it about metrics? Is it about being able to work and publish at the same time?

Long gone are the times in which PhD theses were automatically transformed into monographs. Some still do it nowadays. But it is a realistic outcome only for those who can afford the time and the income limbo. The rest of us are thrown into a very precarious job market. If you have recently looked for a job in Higher Education, or if you have been member of a panel selecting suitable candidates, you must have realised that the competition is hard. Long gone are the times where freshly baked PhDs could get a job straight away. Permanent contracts disappear even longer ago. Today, institutions frequently hire new academic staff members on fractional contracts. These are often temporary. They are time bombs. By the time one has adjusted to a new work environment, new city and has managed to learn calling a couple of people new friends, the tick of the clock becomes strident. It is time to start worrying. It is time to search for job openings. It is time to start applying for a new job. And this task is not for the faint of heart. It demands attention to detail, imagination and it is very time consuming. One might think the latter is not a problem, since early career researchers are working on fractional contracts anyway. But how fractional are their real working hours?

On the pursuit of making a name for themselves, academics at the start of their careers put on additional hours, volunteer to take home added work and go the extra mile to please management at all levels. Admittedly some of this work is remunerated, but the cost in terms of impact on career progression is, arguably, much higher than any payments. Being caught in this situation means that one’s research activity is pushed to the background. REFerable outputs: error 404. TEFable outcomes: not found 404. Reputation Score: no data available. Time to pay the 395$ and get at least an article out there in the hope of improving your citation index.

Against this backdrop, the work done by Networking Knowledge over the last eleven years becomes highly relevant. As a peer reviewed, free to readers and authors, open journal, the MeCCSA PGN publication has served the interests of many early career researchers. It is paramount that platforms such as Networking Knowledge are kept not only alive, but are given resources to continue thriving. As editor and journal manager, it is my first priority to ensure this and I am very happy to report that we are working on improving the indexing of the journal by reviewing articles metadata as well as incorporating D.O.I numbers. These measures respond to the rising predatory character of academic publishing as well as to our authors’ numerous questions regarding impact factor of the journal, acceptance rate, etc. There is one request from MeCCSA PGN members to more seniors MeCCSA scholars: please disseminate Networking Knowledge widely. Whether it is through likes and retweets in social media, forwarding issue to colleagues or including some articles in your reading lists, in times of ferocious predators, early career academics need more than ever your support and mentorship.


Three-D Issue 27: Amplifying postgraduate and early career voices

cgllfgfviaegmjmPatricia Prieto-Blanco Networking Knowledge

The first issue of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Journal appeared almost ten years ago. Released as an e-journal in September 2007, Networking Knowledge provides a space for postgraduate and early career researchers to showcase their work. Over the years, this space has nurtured upcoming scholars in the fields of media, communications and cultural studies. The voices of Veronica Barassi, Dario Linares, Ruth San Sabido, Phil Ramsey and many others have populated the electronic pages of Networking Knowledge and thereby contributed to develop a research journal that is both rigorous and free. The visibility of early career media, communications and cultural studies researchers in the UK has greatly benefited from the existence of a stable and dynamic publication: our PGN journal.

From the first editorial team to the current one, all have spoken with one clear voice: academic research needs to be productive, collaborative and open. By setting up Networking Knowledge as an Open Access e-journal in 2007, early career MeCCSA scholars obtained the opportunity to take ownership of their own publishing and distribution process. As a new editor, it is my aim to amplify the resonance of the voices showcased in Networking Knowledge. In order to accomplish this task, I will build onto the achievements of previous editors and focus on implementing small but fundamental improvements in the workflow. I expect the publishing process to grow robuster and the dissemination of contributions to become more diverse in terms of indexing, impact and geography.

Networking Knowledge is part of a network of over 10.000 journals using Open Journal System as their publishing platform. For the past fiftteen years, OJS has been fundamental in the development of open access, innovative and peer-reviewed scholarly publications. Networking Knowledge has been recently updated to OJS 3, which will help to streamline both the editorial workflow as well as the presentation of journal articles and other contributions.

In times of predatory publishers, it is paramount that honest and critical publications continue to open their pages and customary working protocols to newcomers. When I talk about newcomers, I refer to both emerging scholarly voices as well as to novel and compelling ways of distributing and producing academic research. Networking Knowledge pioneered the video abstract two years ago as an innovative and engaging way of disseminating journal articles. As practice-based research continues to grow not only in the UK but also in continental Europe, traditional academic outputs, such as the customary journal article, are evaluated, modified, expanded, remixed. One of the most exciting challenges that practice-based researchers experience is the “translation” of their work to traditional academic outputs. I would like Networking Knowledge to become a place of critical and reflective experimentation on the dissemination of academic research, practice-based or otherwise. As a matter of fact, the first issue of Networking Knowledge published under my editorial mandate contains the journal’s first visual essay.

00_cover1Co-edited with Maria Schreiber, the special issue Together While Apart? Mediating Relationships and Intimacy, seeks to explore how interpersonal relationships are mediated in contemporary contexts by highlighting emotive dimensions of mediated communication. By featuring theoretical propositions alongside empirical studies on mediations of everyday life, Together while Apart? highlights how mediated interactions are nowadays entangled with emotional processes of socialization and practices of connectivity, which take place within technical infrastructures that might afford or constrain certain practices.

Published just on time to be added to your Christmas/Winter break reading list, the sixth and last issue of Networking Knowledge in 2016, presents research from a broad variety of cultural contexts, dealing with a range of different relationship practices: parenting in Britainbackpacking Westerners in South-East-Asiayoung coupling in SingaporeTrans-experience in the USperforming para-social intimacy through Vine, and, not to be missed: the globally known <3, which French people apparently dislike. It is my pleasure to invite you to immerse yourself in the Journal’s pages, to listen to cutting edge scholarly voices and to feedback your criticism and suggestions to both the contributors and the editorial team.


Second issue of ‘Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA PGN’

Papers from the fourth annual MeCCSA Postgraduate Conference held at the University of the West of England on 12-13 July 2007 have been published in the second issue of the e-journal of the MeCCSA PGN, ‘Networking Knowledge’ (ISSN 1755-9944).

March 2008