"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Is Academic Publishing So Slow?

OK, that's a rhetorical question. I'm not expecting you to answer.

Why am I posing this rhetorical question then? Well, the organizer of the conference panel from which I have just gracefully excused myself (see Monday's post) is putting together an edited collection on the same subject as the panel. Ze'd asked me to contribute to this, too, months ago, but I had forgotten. When I told hir I wasn't coming to the conference, ze asked if I still wanted to contribute. Cool, I said. Sure! Why not? How firm is the publisher's commitment and when do you need the paper?

I was expecting ze would say April ... May, maybe. Even June, to give people a chance to finish up their semesters and flesh out the conference versions of their papers.

Nope. Ze doesn't need it until December! Holy crap. It would likely be several months for the review process to happen after that and another six months to a year before the book came out. And that is if the publisher remains interested. My last experience with an edited collection dragged out for two and a half years and was eventually dropped by the publisher (but that's another story and hopefully not to be repeated).

Jeezusfucke!! Oh, the tyranny of procrastination! Do you know how much crap gets pumped out here at Think Tank, just in this office of Think Tank, in any given WEEK? I mean, it's not academic writing. A fair amount of it is recycled and revised versions of earlier material. It's not complex the way academic writing is or as heavily sourced, but some of it is actually researched. And, while people here don't teach, they do have other responsibilities besides writing. Like going to meetings and planning events and raising money. And yet shit gets done. Maybe it's the money. If people don't research and write here, whatever you may think of the content or quality, they don't get paid. Donors want to see evidence you're doing something with their money, so you produce articles and op-eds and reports. And then you write proposals for more funding. In academe, the same correlation between what you produce and when and what you get paid does not exist. So, people take their time. Hell, if you're on the tenure track, you have 5-7 years to turn your dissertation into a book. And that's just to get it accepted by a publisher -- add a few more months to a year before you can send Grandma a copy.

Academe's glacial publication pace does not give me hope for systemic reform. Not in my lifetime.

I will do the paper, though. There are no travel costs, and if the edited collection falls through, there are a few journals I could send it to. It would get picked up by one of them. Not that doing this does anything for me career-wise, academic or otherwise. It's just an idea I want to follow through with for a bit, take for a ride and see where it goes.



  1. I heard of one that took EIGHT years to even get through the review process...

  2. Yes! I submitted an essay seven years ago and still haven't heard back! Luckily, I don't care about the paper (it probably reads like juvenilia) but still...7 years and no reply!

  3. ....yep, sounds familiar. :-( Seven year Currer Bell!! Wow. I'd write them and see what was up. Mind you, I wrote an article that took 8 years from the time that I'd submitted it to when I saw it in print. I had completely forgotten about it when it did finally appear in the mail (back in the pre-pdf era).

    1. Hahaha! Yep, Anthea, I did try and get in touch with the journal. I think I checked in after 8 months, again after 1 year, and again at 2 years. After that I just gave up. The first two times they said it was still "under review"...in this case, I take that to mean "sitting in a file cabinet somewhere." The last time, I received no reply.

      Two weeks ago, I was asked to peer review a submission for a journal. Knowing how much I HATE waiting for feedback on a piece, I read and reviewed the essay the day I received it. The editor almost had a coronary--apparently, it's simply unheard of to get feedback in an even remotely timely fashion. A very low bar, no?

  4. Insanity. Publishing is supposed to be so important, but how much do people really prioritize it or do the things that need to get done in order for the finished product to come to fruition? The edited collection I mentioned that kept me waiting two and a half years (apparently speedy compared to some of your experiences!) and then fell through? They weren't even going to tell me. I got tired of waiting and emailed the guy who'd told me my paper would be included. It had never even gone through the review process because the publisher backed out before that happened. And I wouldn't have even known this had I not asked! Jeez, how's a person supposed to move on and submit their work somewhere else before they hit retirement?