22 SES 06 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
This paper presents findings from a study of the extent to which and the ways in which academic journal editors exercise power within their academic communities through their enactment of their editorial roles and responsibilities (their professionalism). The project examined the editor role and the nature of editorial practice, and the impact of this on academia – particularly on those trying to or succeeding in being published: exploring the ripple effect of editorial power and influence. Such issues resonate with many European researchers who, as non-native English speakers wanting to disseminate their work in leading English language journals, are disadvantaged as they negotiate the realities of academic literacies (Lillis & Curry, 2010), where English is the lingua franca.
The study’s objectives were: 1. to examine the nature of journal editors’ professionalism; 2. to identify within that professionalism the potential for exercising power; 3. to identify and examine specific examples of actual (as opposed to potential) editorial power – revealing its nature; and, 4. to examine the impact on individuals of editorial power.
Collectively, journal editors currently constitute an immense and largely unrivalled power base within the international research community. They are effectively the gatekeepers of what is the increasingly competitive and select world inhabited by prolific academics who have succeeded in playing ‘this game’ (Peters & Ceci, 1982; Colman, 1982; Crandall, 1982). They are, to all intents and purposes, the ‘kingmakers’ of the European - and wider international - academic community, for although they typically rely on advice, it is they who ultimately decide whom to publish and whom to reject. Not only do editors, collectively - within a discipline/subject, or more widely within academia – indirectly determine the fate of individuals’ careers, but through their visions for their own journals and through their publishing policies, they also have the capacity to set the epistemic, methodological, paradigmatic and substantive parameters of their fields, to shape the dominant discourses, and to set research agendas on an international scale. Their professionalism as editors is therefore highly significant.
Adopting Evans’s (2011) definition of professionalism, essentially editorial professionalism relates to what editors do (in the context of their editorial roles), how they do it, why they do it, and what attitudes they hold. Power is one of the most elusive notions in the social sciences (Navarro, 2006). Carter’s (1992) and Whitmeyer’s (1997) interpretations of power as ‘the ability to affect the probability that others will perform some behaviour’ (Whitmeyer, 1997) – correspond with my interpretation. I share Foucault’s (1991) recognition that power is not necessarily a negative form of agency, so my examination of journal editors’ perceived power avoids being values-laden. Moreover, as Whitmeyer (1997) observes, power is a relational thing, so in order to understand it it is necessary to examine the perspectives not only of those considered to exercise power, but also those on the receiving end of, and affected by, it. Accordingly my study examined the perspectives of two constituencies: journal editors, and academics who are aspiring authors (those trying to be published) or successful authors. It addressed the following research questions:
1. What is the nature of editorial practice?
2. What are the bases of editors’ decisions?
3. What motivates people to become/remain journal editors and what influences their motivation, morale and satisfaction?
4. What are the key issues and challenges associated with editorial work, and how do these impact upon the editorial role?
5. What perceptions of the editor role, responsibilities and professionalism - and of how these translate into power - are held by: a) editors themselves, and b) authors?
6. What defines a proficient journal editor?
Carter, A. (1992) A ‘counterfactualist’ four-dimensional theory of power. The Heythrop Journal, 33 (2), 192–203. Colman, A. (1982) Manuscript evaluation by journal referees and editors: Randomness or bias? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 5(2), 205-206. Crandall, R. (1982) Editorial responsibilities in manuscript review. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 5(2), 207-208. Evans, L. (2011) The ‘shape’ of teacher professionalism in England: professional standards, performance management, professional development, and the changes proposed in the 2010 White Paper. British Educational Research Journal, 37 (5), 851-870. Foucault, M. (1991) Discipline and punish: the birth of a prison. London: Penguin. Lillis, T. & Curry, M. J. (2010) Academic writing in a global context: The politics and practices of publishing in English. Abingdon: Routledge. Navarro, Z. (2006) In search of a cultural interpretation of power: the contribution of Pierre Bourdieu. IDS Bulletin, 37 (6), 11–22. Peters, D. P., & Ceci, S. J. (1982). Peer-review practices of psychological journals: The fate of published articles, submitted again. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 5(2), 187–255. Whitmeyer, J. M. (1997) Mann's theory of power - a (sympathetic) critique. The British Journal of Sociology, 48 (2), 210-225.
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