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The why's, how's and where's of (non-traditional) publishing as a politics ECR
"Early career political scientists face the conundrum of balancing pressures to ‘publish or perish’ with time constraints and job insecurity pressures. Whilst research papers and monographs are rightly the most desirous publishing venues for politics ECR’s, in this blog we highlight four important other types of academic publication venue: the book review, the review article, early results and the short article, that should be considered as part of an ECRs strategic publication plan. Each of these offer publication opportunities that will help establish an ECR’s track record, establish their brand within their chosen academic community, and offer a first engagement with the journals that they aspire towards. Our message to ECR’s – publish early and strategically!"
One of the most persistent pressures that haunts the lives and experiences of early career political science researchers (ECR) is the narrative of ‘publish or perish’. This narrative tells ECRs that the only way to advance in an academic political science career is to publish – publish early, publish widely, and make sure everyone knows about it! Though often exaggerated, there is some fundamental truth here: publishing is fundamental to developing a unique academic identity, building a brand within your specialist area of political science, and constructing a narrative of the contribution and impact of your research. New PhD members may have seen the PSA ECN’s welcome pack on publishing as an ECR, but here we highlight more ways for ECR’s to meet these demands in a number of manageable formats other than the peer reviewed research articles.
Fitting publication into already busy schedules is a challenging endeavour for ECRs. Peer reviewed publication in high impact journals can feel impossible, considering early stage research portfolios and competing pressures on time and money. We argue it is wise to adopt a strategic approach to publishing through a publication plan tailored to your sub-discipline, which balances publication output against the time and effort realistically available at this stage of your career. Undoubtedly, monographs and research papers remain the foundational output required for building an academic career, but these are likely to be plotted late in the timeline as they take significant learning, experience, time and energy to produce (not to mention – data and results). Instead, ECRs adopting a strategic and incremental approach might consider gaining critical experiences about the publication process whilst also building their publications list through engagement with other published formats.
The rest of this blog highlights four alternative formats offered by academic political science journals that offer publishing opportunities for politics ECR’s. We discuss each of these in turn and make suggestions for specific journals that use these formats. We hope this will stimulate thinking about what and where ECRs might try and publish in non-traditional formats.
First, the book review is perhaps the most well-known type of the alternative formats. These allow ECRs (and other scholars) the opportunity to read and review new and important publications in their field. They are expected to offer critical consideration on the value and import of the contribution, and suggest any deficits or opportunities for research that might come from it. The book review editors in journals will often pay for a copy of the text for you, and will in many cases offer to read and review your work before publication. These are not peer reviewed, and often only comprise word counts of 500-1000 words making them relatively easy to engage with. However, they can be a good opportunity for getting a first publication, for making early comments on a text that you want to use in your own research, and for introducing yourself to the editorial team at major journals that you aspire towards. Journals such as Environmental Politics, The Journal of Politics, and Perspectives on Politics all offer opportunities for conducting book reviews.
Second, the review article types can be excellent opportunities for publishing the literature review of your PhD. Although review article types are less commonplace than they used to be, they can still offer ECRs opportunities to publish quickly and with the relatively low effort of transforming their literature review chapter into paper format. These tend to have relatively short word counts and should be framed as summarising a literature towards identifying gaps for major research. This publishing type has the added value of offering an early opportunity for ECRs to, to test their ideas and gain validation of their work through peer-reviewed publication. Good examples of this type can be seen in Regulation and Governance, Political Geography, or the British Journal of Political Science.
Thirdly, the early results style of publication offers an opportunity for rapid publication of promising empirical findings of interest to a particular academic community. These often do not need protracted theoretical set up or literature reviews, with expedited publication through single blind peer review. These early results types can be built out of PhD results and analysis, which can later be used in substantive research papers: see for example the journal Political Studies Review.
Fourthly, the ECR-geared short article type offers opportunities for politics ECRs to produce shorter peer reviewed publications around their research. These can be distinguished from regular peer-reviewed research articles by their shorter word counts, and in some cases, such as with the British Politics journal, they also offer single blind peer review to expedite the peer review process. These tend to have many similarities with the quasi-conference paper styled ‘symposia’ article types published by journals such as European Political Science.
It is also worth noting that many important journals, networks, and conferences have a strong online presence (e.g. blogs) alongside their regular journals. Often the contributions in these are short, less formally written, and conversational with debate in the field. Contacting blog editors and submitting a short, research informed contribution could be an important networking tool as well as providing concrete evidence of writing for your CV. In addition to the PSA blog series this can include The Conversation, The Religion Factor, Knowledge, Politics, and Policies and many others.
Each of these formats offer different benefits, but also challenges in terms of time and energy costs. The different combinations that you might employ (ahead of your first peer reviewed journal article) will depend on your subject and topic, however every format has something to recommend it. In summary, our message to our fellow ECRs is that time is short: so, have a publication plan, and take any opportunities to discuss it with colleagues, academic leads or mentors. Ensure this plan matches your aspirations and the dynamics of your doctoral research, and consider how these alternative formats can help you build a track record and trajectory of publication towards your first substantive research papers. Fundamentally, the work required for each of these should be complementary to your overall research agenda and stay within its focus. The golden rule of writing is to begin! A key benefit of any of these methods is getting you into the habit of putting pen to paper. The final three routes also offer some limited feedback, which can be extremely valuable for developing the clarity and focus of your work. Every single route offers the chance for you to make connections with journal editors and senior academics, which will stand you in good stead for later projects. Finally, as you build connections with editors and journals don’t forget to offer your services as a peer reviewer – send a brief bio with areas of expertise and if you are approached give a diligent, constructive and positive review to pay it forward for when your work is under review!