Interview with Miranda Richardson, Editor, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
What are the common mistakes that ECR’s make when they submit a manuscript to your journal?
Today’s ECRs are generally tech savvy and at ease with the full range of tricks available in their word-processing packages. They are likely to be practised at producing the snazzy documents necessary for grant or job applications. If your journal submission is accepted, however, the first thing the copy editor will do is strip out all the styling. This may happen even before it goes to peer review! Some fussy referees will ask for documents to be sent in their preferred format. It is a waste of your precious time, therefore, to make your submission pretty! Keep style to a minimum, don’t try to copy your chosen journal’s print style, but do check its formatting guidelines. Use the time you have gained to perfect the content, to spellcheck (using the right language for the journal), to make sure your reference list is tidy and complete, and to improve the SEO score of your title, abstract and keywords (https://authorservices.wiley.com/author-resources/Journal-Authors/Prepare/writing-for-seo.html). Quality content and clean copy will always impress referees more than fancy formatting.
I also warn ECRs about lengthy Acknowledgements. While there are ethical considerations concerning who you must name because they helped in your research (see CoPE guidelines, https://publicationethics.org/), thanking people for nothing more than a chat over coffee at a conference may appear to add clout, but may not be in your best interest. Most journal editors cannot choose a referee named in the Acknowledgements, so a long list will restrict the range of the referees at their disposal.
“It is a waste of your precious time…to make your submission pretty! Keep style to a minimum, don’t try to copy your chosen journal’s print style, but do check its formatting guidelines.”
What strengths do ECR’s bring to the writing or editing process?
As the editor of an international journal, I want my publication to be held in the highest esteem. I know, however, that a good reputation can act as a brake, causing ECRs to hesitate to submit their work fearing the acceptance bar will be set too high. Be assured, it is usually a joy to receive manuscripts from ECRs for two reasons. Firstly, nervous first-timers will have read and stuck to the guidelines, something many established academics sometimes seem to feel is unnecessary! ECRs are very likely to provide all the information as requested, making the whole process so much easier. Secondly, ECRs will have their work read by their supervisors or mentors before submission, and a good supervisor will ensure that nothing is submitted that reflects badly on the standards of their department—so manuscripts from ECRs have effectively survived a preliminary round of review before I see them.
“If your article doesn’t make it through peer review ….you will have gained valuable experience of the publication process, and received comments … that will help to improve your research. It may seem daunting, but if you don’t submit a manuscript, it can’t be published!”
What are the particular challenges for an editor when working with an ECR?
I don’t think there are particular challenges when working with ECRs. Perhaps they may have a tendency to try to pack an entire Masters or too much of a PhD thesis into a journal article, rather than thinking which parts would be most valuable to other researchers in their community. On the same lines, a thesis probably includes a bibliography designed to prove that you have read absolutely everything on your subject, but a journal article in contrast should include a concise reference list of cited publications relevant to the precise argument being made.
Peer review can be tough and sometimes frustrating for ECRs, and it can take a while to grow a thick enough skin! Referees are asked to give their honest opinions of how an article can be improved and sometimes this is hard to hear. It may help to know that in more than five years as a journal editor less than a handful of articles have been published without some content revision, including from authors at the top of the academic ladder. Take a deep breath and remember that the referees have been chosen to improve the standard of all articles published in the journal, not to discourage you. If the referee has not understood the point you were trying to make, think about how to explain it more clearly. If your manuscript comes back covered in detailed comments, you can feel pleased that your busy peer referee considered your work worth the investment of their time.
What advice would you give an ECR who is in the early stages of their research?
Build publication into your research plan from the beginning. If you can split your research into publishable sections, writing a final thesis will be much less of a chore. If you wait until you have finished your studies, and hopefully moved on to gainful employment, you might find publication goes on the back burner as new projects emerge. A strong publication record is a necessity if you want to continue research, and publishing an article allows you to promote both your work (see Wiley’s Author Promotional Toolkit, https://authorservices.wiley.com/author-resources/Journal-Authors/Promotion/promotional-toolkit.html)… and yourself.