Posts Tagged 'journals'

Peer review: part of the job? #RecognizeReview #PeerRevWk16

As you are no doubt aware it’s Peer Review week (19 – 25 September 2016) this week. Peer reviewing is something that is so important to us at Policy Press both in terms of helping us in commissioning and shaping our books and our journal content and ensuring that we continue to meet the highest possible standards in publishing quality research.

In today’s guest blog Evidence and Policy Associate Editor Kathryn Oliver shares her thoughts on the importance of peer review and why being a peer reviewer is central to her practice as an academic…

Kathryn Oliver

Kathryn Oliver

I’ve been part of an academic community for 15 years now – and in that time have learned from many hundreds, if not thousands of colleagues, both in person and in print.

Reading and writing together is how most scholars interact, and what helps science of all kinds advance. Writing and publishing papers is what supports academic and research careers – and it’s all totally dependent on peer review.

Much has been written about academic publishing models. Some call for open source publishing; others for post-publication review; still others for journal boycotts, especially after corruption scandals. But the quality of our work is best assessed by our peers – like democracy, it’s the least worst system.

“I’ve often fantasised about a system where academic journals pay peer reviewers for the work they do…”

I’ve peer reviewed grants applications, REF submissions, PhD applications and papers. I was lucky enough to receive a thorough training in critical appraisal which meant I had the skills to assess the quality of work through a relatively structured process. I’ve often fantasised about a system where academic journals pay peer reviewers for the work they do, but for now, all this work is, apparently, unpaid. It is true it’s not in my job description.

So why do peer review?

I choose to see peer review as part of my scholarly duties. And more than duties – it’s a way of keeping in touch with my academic community, and giving something back to all those editors, readers and reviewers who have helped me learn how to write more succinctly, more accurately, less boringly.

We all know the pain of getting back the dreaded peer review comments, and of course there are good and bad reviewers out there, but a good review helps you develop as a writer and as a researcher; points you to literature which is relevant and useful; saves you from unnecessary duplication of work and introduces you to new method and theories.

At its most positive, peer review is a constant learning process, not a battle. At the very least, reviewers help to maintain high scholarly standards, and advance academic debates in your field.

These days I review about a paper a month – it takes me an hour or so to read the paper, make notes, and a few minutes to write up my report for the editors and the authors. Some colleagues do more, some do less.

“…apart from building up your brownie points, I often find it an interesting and positive experience myself”

There’s no doubt that it is another task for already busy academics, and many simply don’t respond to requests (despite still publishing themselves). But the recent suggestion to rank reviewers by a journal seems a little extreme. I think the Carrot of Good Karma is incentive enough.

I now sit on the editorial board of Evidence and Policy, and am responsible for co-ordinating peer review requests, and making editorial decisions based on reviewer recommendations. Every time I invite a reviewer I wish we had some way of rewarding their time – but for now, gratitude will have to do. And, as I say, we all rely on others to review our work – apart from building up your brownie points, I often find it an interesting and positive experience myself.

Dos and don’ts

  • 1) If you’ve never done a peer review before, get in touch with editors or register online with journals – you can be often be selected through your personal keywords. Ask more experienced colleagues or supervisors if they will pass on the next relevant request they get to you. The first few I did took 6, 8 hours – I’ve learned what to look for now. Practice helps!
  • 2) Always read the journal scope and guidelines – remember that while you are making ((hopefully constructive) comments for the author(s), you are also mainly helping an editor to make a decision about whether a paper should be published in that particular journal. I usually write a 2-3 sentence note to the editor explaining my recommendation, and raising the key editorial decisions to be made. We can’t all be experts in every journal, but making it clear to the editor what needs to be judged is a big help.
  • 3) If you have questions about the paper, or the process, or if you just want an extension – get in touch with the editor. Most would much rather have a brief email exchange than wait for weeks for you to respond with a half-hearted effort
  • 4) Be firm, be fair, and imagine you’re on the receiving end. It’s a process, not a judgement.
  • 5) Finally, don’t accept all requests. I take the most relevant where I think I really have something to say. Pass the others on, or tell the editor where to look – we’re always grateful for anyone who saves us a few minutes googling for alternatives.

If you enjoyed this you may also like…..


#RecognizeReview #PeerRevWk16

If you want to find out more about Peer Review week including this year’s theme, Recognition for Review, check out the Peer Review website here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

It’s Open Access Week!

Policy Press has been offering authors the chance to make their articles Open Access for a number of years now. Our journals are all hybrid, which means authors can pay to have their articles made free under a CCBY licence of their choosing, but they don’t have to. Most of our authors choose not to (that probably says something about funding into social science research…), but we are seeing increases year on year.

You can see all our Open Access articles at

padlock-146537_1280The Open Access movement has shifted considerably in the last ten years, with governmental mandates coming into force around the world supporting the notion that publicly funded research should be free to read. Most if not all publishers now offer Open Access in some form, whether its hybrid (like us), or making journals completely Open Access. Most of the wholly Open Access journals are within the scientific, technical and medical (STM) disciplines, as this tends to be where the majority of funding resides. There remains lots of controversy about almost every aspect of Open Access, with strong arguments on all sides.

Policy Press offers two Open Access options, either Gold or Green. Gold is the one you pay for, and makes the version of record free at point of use. Green is where the article remains behind a paywall, but the author can post a version on a subject or institutional repository after a short embargo period. Green is free, and all our authors can take advantage of this option. You can find more information on our Open Access policies at

We’re also delighted to announce we’re now able to publish monographs on an Open Access basis. Costs are determined on a case by case basis, so if you’re interested in finding out more please email our Assistant Director Julia Mortimer (

To find out more about our journals, check out our website here and why not look at the individual journal pages to find out more about our institutional free trials…

Are you skilled in the dark art of Social Media?

In this blog post, Kim Eggleton, our Journals Executive, explains why she believes social media is the researcher’s new best friend

Kim Eggleton, Journals Executive

Kim Eggleton, Journals Executive

Whenever I talk to researchers about using social media, the most common “objection” I hear is that it’s self-promotion, and nothing more than vanity.

The second most common protest is that good research should stand on its own merits, and if it’s good enough, people will find it. I can understand where both these opinions come from, but I think the world has moved on considerably and neither of these concerns are valid any longer.


What’s Social Media all about

…in 2012, over 1.8 million articles were published in 28,000 journals.

With the inevitable overload of information that came with Internet for the masses, it has become harder and harder to make good work stand out. It is estimated that in 2012, over 1.8 million articles were published in 28,000 journals. In 2010 in the US alone, it is estimated that over 320,000 books were published. Continue reading ‘Are you skilled in the dark art of Social Media?’

Happy 10th birthday Evidence & Policy journal!

Our Evidence and Policy journal is celebrating ten years. To mark the occasion we asked Evidence & Policy journal editor Annette Boaz to trace the history of the journal’s development and give us a sneak preview of the birthday based activities coming up…

Annette Boaz, Evidence & Policy journal editor

Annette Boaz, Evidence & Policy journal editor

It seems like only yesterday that we sat around a table in the ESRC Centre for Evidence Based Policy at Queen Mary University discussing with Ali Shaw from Policy Press how great it would be if there was a home for those who wanted to write and read about the relationship between evidence, policy and practice.

Ali and Ken Young, the Centre Director, share a gift for making things happen and before I knew it we were looking at cover designs and receiving copy for a brand new journal!

From the start the aim was to be more than an academic journal. The practice section was designed to provide space for those engaged in the practice of promoting research use. Whereas the research and debate sections immediately attracted attention, it took a while to get the practice section going but it has definitely proved worth the effort. The popular Sources and Resources section has always offered an open access digest of new papers, books and reports and includes short articles on relevant conferences, events and initiatives.

Stellar achievements

The first few years of a journal are hard work. I remember standing on a platform at a Scandinavian conference with the Editor of the Psychological Bulletin. He listed the stellar achievements of his journal and the holy grail that was getting something published in one of its volumes! I remember thinking we had all that distance to travel as well as our additional ambitions to reach out to policy and practice audiences and contributors.

That we achieved an ISI impact rating at our first application was therefore a great moment; we are however just as proud of the thriving practice section. The current impact factor is 1.222 and it is ranked 18 out of 92 journals in Social Sciences interdisciplinary.

What makes a journal work is the people who engage with it:, the contributors, the reviewers, the editorial team and the advisory board. As the contributions have increased, David Gough and I have been very grateful to our Associate Editors who continue to offer the diverse expertise needed to handle the multi-disciplinary, contributions that address the challenges of evidence and policy in different countries and contexts.

“What makes a journal work is the people who engage with it…”

Holding it all together is our Editorial Officer, Sylvia Potter. Last, but definitely not least, from the start we have had fantastic support from Sandra Nutley who will sadly be stepping down this year. I would like to thank her for her contribution – as critical to the first ten years of the journal as to the field more widely.

We have lots of plans to celebrate our tenth birthday starting with getting you to help us put together a top ten highlights from Evidence & Policy that will be open access for the year. Please do vote for your favourite papers via Twitter (@EvidencePolicy) or via e-mail (

With the support of the family of Carol Weiss, who sadly died, we plan to launch a new prize to be awarded for the best paper by an early career researcher. We also want to look forward and will bring together leading individuals in the field to help us take the journal forward into the next decade. And, of course, we will be hosting celebratory drinks at at least one conference this year, so please join us if you see the invitation in a conference programme!

Do keep an eye out via email and twitter for all our birthday celebration activities and thank you for all your support and involvement in our first decade….onwards!

EvP 2013 [FC]More information on the Evidence and Policy Journal is available on our website here. You can read the journal, including the latest ‘most read’ articles, subscribe or make a submission to the journal through the website or sign up for our quarterly newsletter here.

Is there more to the life of an academic journal than the ISI impact factor?

Kim Eggleton, Journals Executive, Policy Press

There was quite some excitement emanating from our journals desk last week when the latest ISI impact factors were announced. Our Journals Executive, Kim Eggleton, explains to the uninitiated what all the fuss is about and queries the future of any measurement system…

If you follow us on Twitter you’ll have seen we got quite excited last week about the latest ISI impact factors. Two of our journals are included on the prestigious ISI list (also known as Social Science Citation Index, or SSCI), and this year we’ve seen them both improve. Policy & Politics now has an impact factor of 1.302 (an increase of 72%!), and Evidence and Policy has an impact factor of 1.222. But why does this matter?

The impact factor is based on a calculation of citations divided by number of papers published.

Impact factor

As such, a journal with more citations has a higher impact factor. The higher the impact factor, the better the journal (in theory). A high impact factor suggests more researchers are reading this journal and finding its content useful in their work. And it does ring true in many cases – the journals we tend to think of as prestigious do have high impact factors.


A high impact factor leads to an improved reputation, and many journals will see an increase in submissions, subscriptions and downloads as a result of an improved impact factor. This is why Publishers, Editors and authors all get very excited when it’s good news.

However, many people agree that measuring citations alone should not be the only indicator of content quality. The very many ranking systems and lists throughout the world (major examples include the ABS list in the UK and the now abandoned ARC list in Australia) still follow the citation rankings avidly, and down the chain researchers are pressured to publish in these high ranking journals.

“Researchers can only publish in top ranked journals, and the number of top ranked journals is limited. What’s a researcher to do?!”


This creates a catch-22 situation for many publishers and researchers, all unhappy with the current system but trapped in its legacy. Researchers can only publish in top ranked journals, and the number of top ranked journals is limited. What’s a researcher to do?!


There’s more than one way to measure quality – but which way is best?

There’s no one answer, and the dynamics of Open Access compound the issue further. But what is clear is that there’s more than one way to measure quality. Quality is about utility – after all, many people got into academia to make a difference. How many people are reading your work? How many of them are policy makers or practitioners? Has your work changed society in some way?

There are many alternatives coming onto the market now, ready to shake up this age-old system. Altmetrics scours social media sites, newspapers, government policy documents and other sources for mentions of scholarly articles, creating metrics at article level rather than journal (after all, a good journal can have a bad paper, and vice versa!). Kudos, a service we’re proud to have just partnered with, helps authors promote their work to these important audiences. COUNTER is developing the Journal Usage Factor, designed to measure a journal’s reach through downloads.

So while we’re delighted with our latest results and know this is testament to some serious hard work on the part of the editorial boards (thank you!), we know there’s more to it and that the impact factor only reflects utility in academic circles. That’s why we go to extra lengths to get our content to a variety of audiences – we regularly make articles free, our journals have twitter accounts and blogs and facebook pages, and we make space in our titles for content relevant to these audiences. We do think there’s more to life than the impact factor, and ultimately we want our content to make a difference in the wider world too.

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