Improving scholarly journals — Part 2b

by Lee Sigelman on April 1, 2009 · 5 comments

in Political science

In response to my post, “Improving scholarly journals—Part 2a” and to the earlier posts linked therein, Steve Yoder (APSA factotum and political science doctoral student at the University of Maryland) writes:

These (and the other comments from your previous posts) are all good, but I think the problem lurking at the center is a misunderstanding of the purpose of the peer-review process by (mostly) junior scholars. Most junior scholars I know have little knowledge of the journal submission process, let alone knowledge of what level of quality a paper should have when it is submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.
This speaks to a larger problem, and one that I believe has not been touched upon, that of the socialization of new scholars into and within the discipline. Having toiled both for the APSA and as a graduate student, I’ve come to realize that a sense of civic duty to the profession is rare in the Association’s members (who amongst you has attended an APSA business meeting, for example?), and I wonder if it is lacking in other political science associations as well. I’m not entirely convinced that this is a new phenomenon; perhaps lack of a broad and interested public has plagued political science associations across generations, but leaders have always arisen regardless. The problem now may be one of sheer numbers. Have the number of scholars submitting to our journals outgrown the number of willing reviewers?
In relation to socialization into the discipline, I’m not sure that most graduate students nor most junior faculty are necessarily to blame; I just don’t know that they received any training in what was expected from them in terms of professional service from their departments or from the associations. Graduate students are urged to publish, but given very few insights into what that might entail, and they are urged to review, but given no examples of what a helpful review looks like. It is little wonder that Lee must serve as grand wizard in debunking junior faculties’ publishing misconceptions at APSA’s publishing workshops every annual meeting. Sadly, this missive serves as notice rather than solution. What means beyond the sink-or-swim method inculcated these professional duties into previous generations of scholars?

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