Research and Politics: A New Open Access Political Science Journal

by Erik Voeten on August 29, 2013 · 5 comments

in Academia,Education,Journal Collaboration

ResearchandPolitics4I am delighted to announce the launch of a new journal, Research and Politics, of which I am one of the general editors together with Catherine de Vries and Bernard Steunenberg. Sage will publish the new journal.R&P is going to be quite different from most existing academic publications. The journal provides a venue for scholars to communicate rapidly and succinctly important new insights to the broadest possible audience while maintaining the highest standards of quality control. We will do so by publishing short (up to 4,000 word) articles that are published on-line on an open access basis. Quality control is assured through peer review and a large team of associate editors which consists of esteemed political scientists across the subfields. We strive for speedy publication through a quick review process and continuous publication (i.e. no need to wait for the next issue), although we will uphold limits to how many articles we publish.

We expect to attract a wide range of articles. We will surely publish articles that look very much like regular research articles, only shorter. But we also expect and hope to attract articles that are less easily placed in regular peer-reviewed journals. Indeed, we suspect that some articles that would contain valuable knowledge are currently not being written because they do not fit neatly in the straight jacket of what most journals expect or can deliver.

For example, the time lags in the regular publishing process may be a real obstacle for those who wish to publish predictions or cutting edge analyses of current events or policy debates. Open access should be crucial to these types of analyses, as one would wish to reach the broadest audience possible. A strict replication policy, peer review, and the active involvement of academic specialists differentiates this journal from public affairs journals. By adopting the norms and standards of academia and thus appealing to the incentives of academics, we hope to get more academics involved in public debates without sacrificing rigor.

We also expect to publish articles that are more directly aimed at academic audiences. For example, “null-findings” may not warrant an 8,000 word article given the low likelihood of publication. But a 2,000-4,000 word paper may well be do-able and a valuable addition to knowledge in our discipline. There may be interesting papers that are mostly descriptive or raise interesting theoretical or empirical puzzles. Again those are difficult to publish in regular research journals but often very valuable. We are also open to critiques or replications of existing articles, meta-analyses, syntheses of a body of work, and many more things that I have not listed or have not yet imagined. Our criteria are whether the analysis meets rigorous standards, yields novel insights, and aids our understanding of political phenomena. Rigor here is not a code word for quantitative analysis: we explicitly invite qualitative contributions and have considerable methodological diversity among our associate editors in the various subfields.

An open access model always creates the fear of high author fees especially if you are working with a commercial publisher.  Let me say that Sage has been a terrific partner so far. There are substantial benefits to working with a team of professionals who understand the publication process. We are keeping costs low by only publishing on-line and relying on the free labor of a large team of academics (including ourselves). Thanks to substantial upfront investments by Sage and some support from Georgetown and Leiden Universities, there will be no fees in the first two years.  Eventually, the journal will need some income. In much of Europe, there is a strong trend towards governments requiring that research produced with public funds is published open access. Those research grants usually budget publication fees. This is much less common in the U.S., where public funding for political science research is, let’s say, “iffy.” Some universities have created funds for open access funding but it is not yet clear whether this trend will broaden.

We will obviously have to figure out how much we can ask based on the circumstances of the researcher. Indeed, we have already developed a policy that fees will be waived for several categories of researchers. We are also actively exploring alternative funding sources to limit fees. Needless to say, we are well aware that this journal will not succeed if we start asking authors to pay several thousand dollars out of very small individual research funds. Given the relatively low production cost we are optimistic that we will make it work. Hopefully, making relevant political science research easily available to policy makers, journalists, and the public will eventually also create more funding opportunities for political scientists.

We are excited about this new venture, which combines the rigor of peer review with the speed and accessibility of the internet. Similar initiatives are under way in Sociology, Philosophy, and other disciplines. The on-line submission system will start operating in mid-September and we expect to publish our first articles in early 2014. We await your manuscripts.


Greg Weeks August 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Great idea for a journal. A big question, especially for those at schools that don’t provide research accounts, is how much will it cost after two years? Many qualified authors who can’t get a waiver could get priced out.

Dani K. Nedal August 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Awesome initiative.

John September 2, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I agree with Greg here. I love the idea of open access, but I have major concerns about a bias towards those who have the institutional support to pay the required fees. For the first two years it’s great, but what happens to the great research done by those who aren’t at R1′s who don’t have the funds to pay necessary fees?

Erik Voeten September 2, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Any journal needs to be paid for somehow. Currently it is libraries who do that through subscriptions. If you move to open access, the income has to come from elsewhere. We are keeping expenses very low and we hope to rely on fees from authors with external support (I.e. reducing or eliminating fees for others, check out the commitments we have already made to this effect on our website). In addition we are working on a variety of other funding options but this is all unchartered terrain so we can’t make promises yet.

Dani Reiter September 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I have faith that two years will be enough time to solve the fees question, one way or another. It’s not the end of the world if submitting authors had to pay a submission fee. Journal of Politics used to do this, and many economics and statistics journals still do it. I am excited to watch this new initiative develop.

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