A new framework of dynamic authorship

Arjun Rajkhowa

Dr Arjun Rajkhowa works as the manager of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship at the Department of Medicine and Radiology, University of Melbourne.

His research interests include public health; media, culture and society; human rights; and policy. He writes for academic journals and online media outlets. He has volunteered in the community sector in Melbourne for several years.

His Twitter handle is @ArjunRajkhowa. His ORCID is 0000-0002-3760-2182.


Written in stone, by Jonathan O’Donnell, on Flickr.

In an academic publishing environment that does not require publishers to compensate contributors for their knowledge and output, or to provide an authentically supportive framework for scholars to exercise ownership of their work, what recourse does an author have to dynamic scholarly revision of their work?

English as a second language

Papers produced by academics who use English as a second language, for example, may have language and style-related errors that may need correcting, but this is often not possible. When a paper is accepted by a publication, a modicum of editorial oversight may be expected, but often there is little editorial oversight. If a paper is poorly written, it ought to be rejected. However, if a paper has been written well and yet contains some errors, then it should be possible to revise the work dynamically and correct these minor errors through ongoing revisions. Some writers simply need time to improve their work!

The lack of editorial scrutiny

Unfortunately, even though academic publishers pride themselves on offering rigorous peer review, and sometimes use rejection rates as an indication of academic standing, in many academic journals, there is little (if any) editorial oversight after the article has been accepted for publication.

The peer reviewer’s role is fundamentally content-related. Depending on the nature of the paper, they are to assess whether the paper accurately represents the results of the study, analyses the issues raised in a coherent manner through cohesive arguments, references the appropriate literature in the field, and otherwise presents ‘sound’ scholarship. The reviewer’s job is not, for example, to correct and improve the quality of the language used in the paper.

Unfortunately, many journals do not provide much editorial input once the paper has been accepted for publication. There is little, if any, editorial scrutiny of the quality of the writing. As authors, some of us are acutely aware of the variable quality of our own writing. Those of us who work in collaboration with other authors often find ourselves belatedly struck by (sometimes flagrant) stylistic and linguistic errors in the paper. Read more of this post

Saving space

References, listed without any gaps between them.

My least favourite way to save space – turn the reference list into a solid block of text.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had all the space that you needed to explain your research carefully and completely to the funding agency?

Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was space for nuance and complexity?

Wouldn’t it be terrific if your application fitted within the stupid page limit and you didn’t have to delete another half a page…it’s already midnight and you just want to go to bed.

Much as I feel for your sleep-deprived editing self, it wouldn’t actually be very pretty at all. I’ve seen people provide thirty pages when they were asked for two. I’ve had researchers complain that they can’t attach their 50-page CV to an application. I know what it is like to have 130 pages of application to review and comment on, with just a couple of hours to do it. I know that there is never enough space to write what you want, in the way that you want.

I also know that there is never enough time to read what is submitted, with the attention that it deserves. Read more of this post

Re-skilling

Rusty horse (Photo by Marcus Schwan) | flickr.com

Rusty horse (Photo by Marcus Schwan) | flickr.com

I was reminded recently of how much you need to keep exercising some skills as a scholar.

What you learn in academia isn’t like ‘riding a bike’ and there are skills that can be forgotten. In my case, I should probably confess that I don’t even know how to ride a bike so we’re talking about being way behind the 8-ball here.

The skills I’m talking about are those involved in editing a special issue journal.

The setting was as amenable as it could be for a good outcome. I was co-editing the issue with one of my best academic buddies. We had worked together on different projects before, including co-authoring a piece of writing, and we knew we could work together.

The journal was one I was very familiar with and had published with a couple of times before. It was a publication friendly to our particular focus and range of topics.

The general editor of the journal was also a good academic friend so, really, it was as collegial an environment as it could be.

I have previously edited six special issue journals, across a range of publications and with different co-editors or solo. Even so, I hadn’t edited a special issue for a few years and I felt rusty. Read more of this post