Personal statement on publishing and reviewing

When it comes to the world of academic publishing process there are many individual and crosscultural differences to contend with. Rarely are these differences articulated. The point of this page is to make my personal positions explicit in order to avoid awkwardness.

For example, if I find myself in a position where I have to reject somebody’s kind invitation to publish in an edited volume, or if I need to turn down a request to review a paper or to examine a dissertation then I can be transparent about my reasons. And to be clear, I’m not asking others to adopt any of these stances!


My policy on submitting to edited volumes and conference proceedings

Miss Nancy Mitford is unable to do as you ask

I cannot commit to publishing in edited volumes, including conference proceedings. This is simply because the publication cycle for these works always exceeds the average length of a postdoctoral contract, sometimes by a factor of many. What this means is that I never really know if I’ll be available to put in the time and effort on a chapter when the editor requests it. Please don’t hesitate to invite me anyway since I may be in a position to agree, but don’t be offended if I reject your invitation or ignore a call-for-papers.

A tricky situation: Sometimes I am invited as a speaker to a conference and I may be paid an honorarium or have my travel and accommodation paid for. This is usually a huge expense if I’m coming from Australia. In these situations I understand the moral obligation to reciprocate this kindness by contributing to a proceedings publication, but for all the aforesaid reasons I cannot guarantee this.

My policy on choosing journals to submit to

I choose to publish in journals where I expect to get the most relevant feedback from editors and reviewers. Accordingly I do not always submit to OA journals, but I will always make a pre-print available online, and I will send a full published version to anyone who makes the request via email.

My policy on multi-authored papers

My research straddles the humanities, where co-authorship is rare, and the social sciences, where co-authorship is the norm. Order of authorship is a delicate issue. I think it is important to discuss the order of authorship early in the development of a paper, even if this is uncomfortable. At the same time, it is worth discussing who may or may not be a contributing author. For the final paper I am a strong believer in including an explicit statement in the acknowledgments or first footnote, explaining the precise role of each author on the paper. This is about accountability but it also helps readers.

My definitions:

first author: does most of the overall writing work, does most of the lit review, develops the specific hypothesis relevant to the data (not the general theory), manages interactions with editors, is also the corresponding author. As a rule of thumb, if an author is not capable of answering most of the questions put to them by editors or media outlets they should probably not be the first author. For data papers, with no hypothesis, the first author is the person who did the most work compiling, coding and organising the data. After all, this is analytic and theory-informed work and should be recognised as such. If a first author is a postgraduate or undergraduate then more senior co-authors might legitimately help manage interactions with journals and media.

secondary authors: contribute specialist knowledge to sections of the paper (including the lit review) but they also write those sections. Providing comments on a draft is not sufficient to award authorship even if they happen to be great comments. For me, a key part of collaboration is figuring out how to write together and to interact productively on the level of text, not just in meta-commentary.  A secondary or last author may be one who contributes a broader theoretical framing and guidance but they must commit to meaningful work on the paper too, and their specific contribution should be set out in the acknowledgments. It’s often cringingly obvious to readers if an article has been cranked out of a papermill with last authorship granted as a kind of tribute to the monarch.


My policy on reviewing papers

Before deciding to review a paper I follow the Mannheim Principles and I will always ask the editor(s):

a) Have you already read this paper?

b) Having read it, on what basis (in very general terms) do you consider that it deserves expert evaluation?

c) If it passes review by all reviewers, do you commit to publishing it?

In the event that there are negative or non-committal answers to any single one of these questions, I will decline to review the paper. This is not to be rude. The Mannheim Principles are designed to prevent the time of the reviewer and author being wasted, if, for example, an unread paper is being sent out for review. That time can be redeployed reviewing papers for journals that have better defined policies when it comes to the use of voluntary labour.

I am always happy to review papers in the field of Philippine studies, Australian studies, linguistic anthropology and writing system research. I am unlikely to agree to review papers on grammar or applied linguistics, even if they intersect with languages that are familiar to me.

Otherwise, there are only a few circumstances in which I will decline to review a paper: if it is beyond my expertise, if I have already reviewed an unusually high number within the year, if I have already reviewed several papers by the same author, if the author/editor does not provide access to the data that the paper relies on.

I will not review papers in journals owned by Elsevier, unless the publisher commits to releasing the paper (if passed) as full open access at no cost to the author.

Some journal editors maintain the discretionary right to reject papers even after they have passed review, or after the author has addressed reviewers concerns. If the editors cannot pre-commit to publishing a manuscript that passes peer review it ought to be rejected at the editorial desk and not sent out for review at all. Otherwise the time of the peer reviewers and the author has been wasted. I will not review or submit to journals with this policy.

I stand by my review comments so I’m happy to be identified by name to the author at the editors’ discretion.

My policy on reviewing ARC grants

The ARC system is in dire need of reform. I endorse the process proposed by Nick Enfield, and above all the cheap reforms proposed by many academics, summarised by ARC Tracker here. In particular, I support principle 4 of the 2020-21 pre-budget submission: “Put inappropriate and unprofessional reviewers on notice”. There are a small number bad actors in the system that wreak disproportionate damage, and at the moment there are no consequences for those who submit unprofessional or ‘sabotage’ reviews.

For that reason I genuinely regret that I will not be able to review ARC grants without first receiving a convincing, public response to the the pre-budget submission. I’m not trying to make a fuss. It comes down to a question of not wanting to waste anyone’s time. From a purely pragmatic stance, there can no value in investing effort into a professional review if there is a clear risk that an anonymous co-reviewer will not be meeting the same standards and is thus undermining everyone else’s hard work, especially the applicant’s. We all have an interest in keeping dysfunction at bay.

My policy on being reviewed

Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him

I will never waste anyone’s time by submitting a paper or grant application that I believe to be sub-standard. So if it turns out that the work that you’re editing or reviewing is objectively terrible, that’s because I’m a terrible scholar, not a terrible person. Please assume good faith and take licence to be as critical as possible.

I will address all peer revisions, or give full explanations as to why I haven’t in a given instance. I am happy to make further necessary editorial changes after peer revisions are already incorporated into a draft, but on ethical grounds I will not modify core content or analysis because these requested changes will not have been assessed by reviewers.

My position on peer-review models

Peer review is by no means perfect, but I believe the best model available is the group-consolidated method promoted by eLife that addresses two of the biggest drawbacks of classical models: pace of review and quality control. You can read about the eLife review process here. I’m also in favour of post-publication peer review.
As outlined above, I reject the practice of editors rejecting manuscripts after they have passed peer review and after the author has incorporated requested revisions according to editorial direction. If the editors cannot commit to publishing a manuscript that passes peer review it ought to be rejected at the editorial desk and not sent out for review at all. Otherwise the time of the peer reviewers and the author has been wasted. I will not review or submit to journals with this policy.