Now that there are national exercises to monitor and rank universities, faculties and academics, such as the Research Excellence Framework in the UK and the H index worldwide, academics are under ever more pressure to publish (or perish), to perform, and to compete against one another. There have never been so many places to publish, and early career academics have never needed publications as much as they do now. Into this uncertain environment comes a useful, thoughtful and ambitious book, the central objective of which is to inform and assist academics who want to be more successful at being published.
The book is made up of an introduction and 11 chapters written by an assortment of academics from various disciplines (science, social sciences and education) and based in different countries from across the developed world. The book is divided into three parts: mapping the publication landscape; writing for publication - learning from successful voices and further challenges and possibilities. By reading the book, aspiring and established academics can discover what they may have, hitherto, not known they didn’t know, or what Donald Rumsfeld called 'unknown unknowns'.
In the first chapter, Andy Hargreaves and Ciaran Sugrue set the scene of the modern publishing world for academics that includes not only books and journal articles but also blogs and tweets. By providing an example of how social media can be used, the authors alert us to the fact that the book is going to challenge our preconceived ideas of what constitutes academic writing. Sugrue addresses the ever increasing number of avenues to publish in chapter 2, 'The panoply of publications', and highlights how the publishing landscape does not stay still for long. He also highlights the particular issues facing doctoral candidates as they seek to understand what can appear to be the unwritten rules of publishing. If you have yet to get to grips with journal rankings and metrics then chapter 3, 'Calculating journal rankings', by Lutz Bornmann, Werner Marx and Robin Haunschild should be helpful and it, along with all the other chapters, has a useful set of references to explore issues in greater depth.
In the second part of the book, established authors provide useful accounts of their journeys into and through the publishing process. This includes an account of the editors' research interviews with six scholars in chapter 4, 'Voices of experience'. Barbara Grant provides a very practical account of writing a journal article in chapter 5, 'Getting my Work out There', from 'having an idea/something to say' to receiving reviewers' feedback and not giving up. This chapter contains essential advice on choosing a journal, revising, editing, proofing and responding to reviewers' comments. In chapter 6, 'Understanding the peer review process', Tony Bush details important issues to be aware of before submitting your work, in order to minimise its chances of rejection. For those who are yet to be persuaded of the usefulness of blogging in academia, or the use of other online tools, Pat Thomson, in chapter 7, 'Text work/identity work online', makes a strong case for academics to change their opinions by illustrating the importance of communicating with a wider audience within and outwith academia. In chapter 8, 'In praise of knowledge bureaucracies: speaking to international audiences', Slawomir Magala provides a different tone and style to the previous chapters with a more, dare I say it, academic piece on bureaucracies of knowledge and how they can be challenged.
Of particular interest, I believe, will be the chapter on how to publish journal articles from a PhD thesis (chapter 9, 'From a doctoral dissertation to journal articles' by Sefika Mertkan). While in some disciplines a monograph is the preferred publication to be produced from a doctoral thesis, many of the points made in this chapter would hold true whatever the chosen output. Simon McGrath's 'Playing the game' (chapter 10) addresses the advantages that academics working in developed countries have, in terms of being published, and what can be done to rectify this. Finally, the editors conclude in chapter 11 by returning to the issues covered in the book, including the dilemma of being overly strategic in our writing and publishing attempts.
What can sometimes be a drawback of an edited book, namely multiple and differing perspectives, some readers may find disconcerting or even frustrating. However, I feel these 'multi-versal' voices are an advantage in a book like this. By having a varied collection of authors from different fields, with particular, and not always compatible, perspectives, and differing writing styles, the editors illustrate that there are many ways to think about writing, just as there are many ways to approach writing and there are various, sometimes intertwining, paths into the published world.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone who wishes to challenge their own thinking and approach to being published, no matter how long their own list of publications.
Cite as: Review by Rachel Shanks (2017) 'PUBLISHING AND THE ACADEMIC WORLD. PASSION, PURPOSE AND POSSIBLE FUTURES'. Research in Teacher Education. Vol 7 (No.2).