Publishing in Asian Studies Journals - Transcript

Intro [00:00:07]

This is the. Nordic Asia podcast.

Duncan McCargo [00:00:15]

Welcome to the Nordic Asian Podcast, a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region. I'm Duncan McCargo, director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and a professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen. So it's my great pleasure today to introduce a podcast based on an event that we held at this last year in February 2021, about getting published in Asian studies journals. All of us working in the field of. Asian studies are very interested in this topic because we need to get our articles published and what are the arcane mysteries of doing that? So thought it would be great to invite a couple of really great editors who have been centrally involved in this business for the past few years, both of whom have been fielding many submissions. Some of you on this call may have submitted things to their journals in the past. Who knows? I certainly have submitted things to both of their journals in the past. Let me introduce our two speakers now. So Julie Yu-Wen Chen is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki, which means that she's one of our Nordic council partners and board member at NIAS and very, very actively involved in all sorts of stuff that we do. So Julie is like me, a political scientist by training and is working on such a wide range of issues. If you look at her list of publications, but many of them cluster around something to do with minorities in China and then international relations, BRI and things like that. So Julie has been editing Asian ethnicity until very recently, and she's now a co-editor of the Chinese Journal of Political Science. Yeah. Yes. So she's very experienced in this field. And then Huyng-Gu Lynn is a veteran editor of the legendary Pacific Affairs, which is a journal that's been around for an awful long time. And he's been editing it since Think 2008. And he is a professor at University of British Columbia working in the field of Korean studies and Japanese studies. Think you're actually a historian by training, isn't that right? Yes, But you actually range extremely widely in your intellectual interests. So this is a great opportunity to have you here. And you're famous for your very detailed responses to some of the people who submit articles to your right, pages and pages of incredibly detailed comments telling them what to do to straighten their articles out. So that's something that we might want to get into. If you're willing to talk about the mysteries of how the process of responding to articles, it would be fantastic to hear a little bit from each of you before we get into some questions. And then I'm going to ask some what I call deliberately idiotic questions to get the ball rolling and then we can open up to audience participation. So maybe we should start with you, Julie. Perhaps you want to tell us about your experiences of being a journal editor and what's your message to the world about how to get published in Asian studies journals? In a nutshell.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:03:05]

Hello everyone. I'm Julie Chen. Duncan has mentioned I was involved with two journal and not only one so counted that have worked for Asian ethnicity for nearly nine years. And I just stepped down literally one month ago and I was the chief editor and I would say Asian ethnicity is an Asian study journal. And so there are a lot of interdisciplinary authors who will submit to Asian ethnicity ranging from anthropology, people, scientists, geographers, historians to sometimes even literary people. And as long as they are papers related to ethnicity of Asia. So that was very interdisciplinary. And Asian ethnicity is with Taylor and Francis. It's not a journal, so not in the social Science citation index yet, but it has been in Scopus and also this emerging social science index for several years. So that was Asian as my longest involvement and with Journal of Chinese Political Science. It's an journal and I'm still one of the editors. Our editor is based in America, in China. So I will say this journal is a very political science oriented and led love quantitative kind of paper. So I have been involved with really two different kinds of journal and they have different orientation and interest. So maybe later I can compare a bit and share my experience because it really depends on what kind of paper you are producing. And they usually think which kind of journal would be more suitable for you? Is that okay, Duncan.

Duncan McCargo [00:04:38]

Whatever you want to share with us, yes, we will want to draw you out on that what's happening with this quantitative turn and so on, because this is happening to other journals that we could mention. I'm on the editorial board of one Asian survey, which seems to have moved in a much more quantitative direction over the past year or two, and that creates opportunities and challenges for those of us in Asian studies. So that's a very interesting question in its own right. Thanks a lot, Julie. Yeah, Hyung-Gu, you want to share with us your words of wisdom.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:05:03]

So a lot of this information is available on the website. But just very quickly, I'll go over the profile of the journal, the subject coverage, the organization, and some personal observations. So first, the Journal, as professor mentioned, has been around since 1928 and it's a quarterly, so it publishes four times a year. So this works out to about 20 articles or 150 book reviews per year. And there's usually 1 or 2 special issues per year. But unlike most journals, the editor, that is to say me remains involved for every stage. So it's not a subcontracting arrangement. We maintain final decision rights. So second, in terms of coverage, we are multidisciplinary across disciplines. Social Sciences Journal focused on contemporary Asia and the Pacific and the Pacific is metaphorical. So if you're covering India, the question is whether Indian Ocean is part of the Pacific, but whether it links to Asia and the Pacific are largely qualitative. But since 2010, I would say we've been increasingly receiving and publishing quantitative approaches. And this is in part because although I'm a historian, I work for three years at an economics institute in the 1990s in Japan, and quantitative approaches actually triggered me a nostalgic wave for the 90s. So this is part of the explanation. There are larger systemic issues, of course, behind this. Now the organization that there's one editor, there's one managing editor who oversees the business arrangements and there's an editorial assistant and seven associate editors, a larger executive committee and a larger editorial board. So Duncan is part of the larger editorial board of the journal. We have a rejection rate of about 90%, which sounds more daunting than it actually is. So one of the benefits of this is that there's no backlog. So we're a journal that if your paper is accepted, your articles out within 3 to 6 months, not 12, 24 months, we are and have been or our index from its inception. Now, finally, for a few opening personal observations, as Duncan mentioned, I've been editor since 2008. I joined the Journal in 2002 as an associate editor when we were rebooting the entire organization. I think the short of it is intellectually rewarding in ways that are hard to describe, but also exhausting in ways that are hard to imagine. So if you've seen Blade Runner, you can imagine the Rutger Hauer character at the end launching this speech about a shoulder of Orion on fire. This kind of thing. It's not quite as dramatic, however, I've been engaged with and exposed to a wider range of subjects, disciplines, methodology, theories, complaints, assumptions, presumptions, assertions, and languages then think might be humanly advisable. At the same time, I think it does keep me more curious and engaged. And I could have imagined when I was initially starting out in academia. So I'm thankful and yet at the same time enslaved to the Journal.

Duncan McCargo [00:07:53]

Thanks very much for those remarks. Yes, thanks for those introductory comments. So let me ask my deliberately idiotic questions and see how you can help us. How do you decide which journal to submit to? If you're an author in Asian studies, how would you go about making that decision?

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:08:09]

I would ask myself the main contribution of my paper. Does it speak to Asian study, kind of general journal audience or to a more political science kind of audience? So it depends on my research question and the contribution. Then I will then decide whether to go for a political science kind of journal or a general Asian study journal.

Duncan McCargo [00:08:31]

We had all these questions at the University of Leeds, where used to be the research assessment exercise and believe that in the previous round my colleague, who was in charge of selecting articles to be nominated, deleted anything on the list with the word either Asia or Pacific in the title. So I was not at all happy on the grounds that these were area studies journals and were therefore not going to cut the mustard. In the Politics and International Studies Research Excellence Framework exercise, which I violently disagreed with. But you can imagine the conversations that resulted from that. But that's always one of our dilemmas. Are we going for a disciplinary journal or a journal with the word Asia or Pacific or China or something else in its title?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:09:10]

I Think Duncan, the reaction that your colleague had to the word Asia Pacific and the title reflects a larger systemic issue with decline or even the death of literacy. So why bother to actually read an article? Right? And while I should say I promised not to list four things for every single question, I do again have four items I would list. So say the overarching terms. I think the choice should be determined by the contents of the journal within the last five years. If you look at it or if you read an article, do you enjoy the contents? Does it speak to you? Does it intersect with your intellectual interest, whether it's disciplinary or an area studies focused journal? The secondary criteria, I think, is biometrics. Now we can talk about impact factors. If there are additional questions about this, it's a useful, extremely limited tool. So I think it's an inescapable reality that given the death of literacy, people just look at the impact factor number or whether journalist index. I happen to disagree with the approach we. Whether Pacific Affairs rankings high or not. But think if you're on the job market, you can assume most people will not read what you've published. So that impact factor does have to enter into your calculations or tenure for that matter. And then I would just point out here that the five year impact factor think has more intellectual meaning than the two year impact factor in social sciences. The third or tertiary level is issues of reach. Now this is actually even more complicated and impact factor, but who is going to read the journal? So there are large corporations that are oligopolies within the market and they do have extremely effective reach and distribution. Pacific offers an independent standalone. So regardless of whether the article is actually noticeably more robust or not, sometimes we're simply not in a journals or libraries list because they're not paying for subscription access. So you have to think as a tertiary factor. You want to think about reach, for example, let's say a graduate student and one of your close friends is running a student journal. This actually raises some dilemmas. You put in a very good paper to student journal when you know that it's not going to get read that much. So these are actually, I think, the visual ethical choice and it operates at different levels. So, for example, I happen to actually enjoy reading Asian ethnicity. Thank you for all your hard work on this. And you can imagine a large number of population in academia not bothering to read a journal simply because it's not index. And again, it's not the actual quality of the material. It's the depth of literacy driving certain behavioral patterns, which then forces individuals to make choices along these lines. So reach is an issue. And then as a fourth supplementary level, I would actually encourage looking at publisher resources for how to choose journals. So almost every major publisher actually has web pages dedicated to the process, the logic protocols involved in choosing a journal. So I can point to something like Routledge, Elsevier, Cambridge, Oxford. These are for the biggest players in the market. They each have these guys for aspiring author or even experienced authors.

Duncan McCargo [00:12:20]

Yeah, those are a really good points for me. If I actually want people to read my articles, I need to pitch them in these journals that are in the space between Political science and Asian studies. What are you looking for in a journal submission? I mean, when I was associate editor of JHS, I was reading doing an initial read on 50 articles a year. It's probably gone up now. Those were just the more plausible submissions on Southeast Asia that was getting in an average year back about ten years ago. How do you pick them out of the pile? The interesting ones from the, shall we say, the less interesting ones, just putting it diplomatically.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:12:56]

Sure start. I recall when the pandemic situation started to receive triple numbers of submissions and that was overwhelming. And then you have to really go through all these papers and make initial filtering before it is sent to peer review. I will say I haven't changed too much in terms of this. I always want to see that there is a new perspective presented or a new method. But think in Asian studies you really see a really groundbreaking method use So that I would say it's still more important. It's really a new perspective. I noticed there are a lot of authors submitting papers related to India, to Asian ethnicity points, a lot of Indian papers, and a lot of them use very similar approach. Looking at a history of one of these tribal conflicts or ethnic conflicts. And so that's just not enough. There are just too many similar papers, too many similar arguments. I need to see something that is innovative. Even a controversial standpoint would be even more interesting than just repeating what other people have said. So for me, innovation, that's the key word.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:14:05]

I would just say that Duncan has kindly sent some questions to guide our discussions. And then when I looked at the, my reaction was that essentially we're going to be toggling from acceptable, outstanding to problematic in terms of paper. So I'm going to stick with the acceptable for now what is acceptable, right? So I should say that most journals have something called a desk or pre review. So the calculus is whether the papers were sending out to double blind external reviewers for doing essentially pro bono work. So is it worth imposing on their time? Although it is a service element which is supposed to be essential to academia. But leaving that aside, there's different review stages and we can get into details later. But as an editor, essentially I'm looking for certain characteristics to see whether it's worth sending out for review and whether something might be plausible as a publication candidate. So the first area is, is there a clear question or puzzle or argument? Does the author seem to know what they're doing or saying beyond identifying a lacuna? So identifying lacuna is obviously important, but is there something? Else plus Alpha. The second is, does the author actually understand the methods, theories and empirical sources they're using in history? You just interviewed people that are still alive who remember the event. If you're doing quantitative studies and if it's under a thousand, but we'll say under 100, it's the methodology is problematic. If you're an anthropology, you can actually do very engaged research, just just 1 or 2 people. It's just that you have to be able to explain to skeptics while studying 1 or 2 people is meaningful. So it's command of the method to my mind, not one methodology being superior to another. Can you explain yourself? The third area is ideally, again, new information innovation, but it's increasingly hard to do so because, let's say previously 50 years ago, there's three people who knew who Thailand was, for example. Now there's 300 people working on related topics. So think it's less new empirical information per se than if there is obviously some element of diligence or command of the material. And I think the fourth and final element is whether they've cited, according to the Journal Style guide, and you can say this seems rather mechanical and petty, but it's actually reflective of the seriousness which the author takes to journals guidelines. So, for example, in our case, we actually do accommodate in-text and Chicago style at the initial stage. But I actually prefer if someone makes an attempt to follow Chicago. Now, most authors actually don't quite follow Chicago, but that's very minor. It's the attempt that matters.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:16:45]

Maybe can add a bit about the standard format. No, they are mechanical, very important. But at least for the two journals involved, I think we were not very strict with the format in the beginning. And no, some journal even indicate on their website you don't need to follow a format in the beginning, but at the end, if it's accepted, you have to turn your paper into a format. So guess it's depending on different journals. Policy and ethnicity has a really terrible style that they use in notes, and most journal papers don't use endnotes, so thought it wouldn't be nice to ask the author already to turn their paper according to our format. And then if their paper are rejected they have to change it again for another journal. So try to show some mercy here. Yeah.

Duncan McCargo [00:17:29]

Well, I think I shared with both of you that when I was with Jess, I would always ask the same two questions which some of my editorial colleagues didn't agree with. I would always say, Did I learn anything? And where's the research? And the second question relates to my increasing frustration that so many journal articles are glorified literature reviews which my master's students here in Copenhagen can do brilliantly, but keep waiting to get to the point, and I'm counting on what page are they going to start getting into some substantive either new argument or new material? Then I always ask, where's the research is actually my bottom line question. Is it just me who thinks that?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:18:01]

Yeah, where's the research question is, I think, increasingly important when there's an emphasis on volume of production in an acceptable strata of journals. So people tend to engage in what's called salami publishing. We can discuss this more detail if there's some interest, but the short of is that there's too much regurgitation of newspaper articles. So usually if I want to read The New York Times, The Guardian and any number of newspapers do, I don't need someone to summarize these things for me. So for us, the research I think, is an important question. But of course, especially in these pandemic times, it's harder to do ethnographic research, for example. So you have to form teams and you have to trust that your teammates have sound methodology and know how to read, interview, interaction, so on and so forth. So it's a challenge, which is why I say it's less new empirical information per se than some command of the materials. So if there is use of media articles, there's a deliberate understanding of why they're using a media article rather than an academic article or an archival source, so on and so forth. So what happens? Sometimes the authors use an interview to substantiate a point that is about, let's say, market share of a company when all they have to do is look at a government report on different market shares or different companies for the sector. So think command of the material. Definitely. The other question, the first part of your two part question, did I learn anything? I think this is a bit trickier because one of the issues with reviewers is that too many reviewers actually don't read anything or haven't read anything in the last 20 years. So in that case, of course it's new for them. Now. All I have to do is look things up. All the digital tools that are disposal. We can find five articles or ten articles on the same subject within the last 20 years. And my policy is to generally try to read all of these in order to assess whether I am learning anything new. And this relates to another problem that's, I think, burgeoning in academia, which is the school that I called. Let's pretend no one else has ever written on the subject before, which means it's not engaging with an article that has the exact same subject, exact same argument. And I think we need to push ourselves as individuals regardless of the pressures we are under, so at least. Acknowledge, let's say, convergence or cancellations. And also if there is divergence, rather than avoiding acknowledging this divergence, politely saying, I happen to disagree, or maybe I'm extending the argument or qualifying, then at least we're clear about our position within the larger field or literature.

Duncan McCargo [00:20:31]

This is the thing was hinting at at the beginning. You're kind of well known for this. So you've alarmed various Indonesia specialists, for example, by going into the Indonesian literature and discovering ten articles that they hadn't referred to in Indonesian and coming back at them and saying, Well, I just found all this stuff and I'm actually not a specialist on Indonesia, but found ten articles in Indonesian you haven't mentioned. So you're claiming that this isn't there. You seem to take incredible pains to do this kind of thing, but you really demonstrate the sloppiness of some people's methods by doing that?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:21:01]

Well, I would say that it's less that I'm interested in revealing sloppiness, but actually urging more precision. So if you say, for example, there has not been anything in English on the subject, fine. If there are ten articles on Indonesian on different cities, on the same subject and think, well, there has to be some qualification. And also I should say that I'm very careful to note that not everything in one language is inherently good because of the language of publication. So you can imagine there's a range of quality in English or French. Same with Indonesian. If you actually read through the articles. And then there's plenty of cases. What could be called plagiarism probably is the easiest word. But yeah, there's some articles that are published in English that censor regurgitated in Indonesian. So this flow of illiteracy is global. There are inequalities in hierarchies, but I think we have to be careful with our own engagement with every body of literature.

Duncan McCargo [00:21:53]

There's a pretty good point. Yeah. Julie.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:21:55]

Just follow up a bit on the quality. I'm thinking I mentioned that I'm also involved with another journal which is more political science related, and it has a very different approach. I'm not so sure how many of our audience here have this kind of dilemma that maybe your your work is more related to certain social science disciplines. Our editor has a very harsh policy, and that is, I would say, if your paper does not really follow this kind of American style quantitative structure and methodology, you would be rejected immediately. This is nearly 99. We used to be more linear, so 90%. But since we become journal, our chief editor has asked us to be even more strict. So you could argue this is really not fair. This is some kind of bias towards certain kind of research methods, but certain journal does have that kind of stance and policy. So again, this is referring back. You really need to understand the journal and read it over and to see it. Does this fit with my kind of work and my belief? So you really have to ask yourself whether this is where you want to go and recall that. Duncan, you were talking about Asian survey that has this trees to quantitative turn. I recall, and you can check me because I published a quantitative paper in Asian survey a bit long time ago and there was a long mathematical formula. So in the end, we make a compromise because the Journal editor told us this doesn't really fit with our identity. So we make a compromise by putting that in the appendix in the end. So I'm not so sure about the new twist in Asian survey. Now, do they welcome mathematic formula in text or not?

Duncan McCargo [00:23:41]

Yeah, think that's the way it's going.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:23:43]

The issue came up about timing. The reason why I said earlier that you should probably look at articles within the last five years as initial check window is that editorial teams do change and do sometimes bring in new terms or policies or philosophies with them. So let's say a journal does have Asian survey publishes update articles at the end of the year and then there's a new editor, an editorial team in place. Then, of course, they may be more inclined to publish quantitative materials. It's ideally good idea to think about the last five years if you're going to submit to a journal rather than, let's say, 20 years ago or ten years ago. So.

Duncan McCargo [00:24:23]

Right. Yeah. And this was a problem we had at the Journal of Asian Studies too, because when I first joined the team, it had been edited by a historian of China for some years and people had the idea it was a history journal and it was a China journal and I was going around begging people to submit stuff on Southeast Asia and they'll never accept it in It's a Chinese history journal in all but name, and it took us years to overcome that kind of conception. So you're always struggling against on the one hand, you want to look at what people have submitted, but you also need to benchmark that against what the editors are signaling they want, because there can be a mismatch between the two things. The Journal becomes known for being a certain kind of journal and the editors are more captive than they might seem. They seem to have a lot of power. For those of us who are trying to get our articles published. But you can only publish the articles you get right? So you need to have the right submissions in order to change the style of the journal. That wasn't a. Question I gave you in advance, but does anybody have a thought about that?

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:25:15]

Yeah. For instance, now stepped on from Asian ethnicity. And in the past, I would say for three generations of Asian initiative, we always have China kind of experts who are running the journal originated in Australia that was a China expert and then etcetera, etcetera. But it is the first time now the Asian ethnicity is run by a new team and they are experts of Southeast Asia. So I think the direction is going to change and the readership will change. No, it's good to expand the scope of the Journal.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:25:45]

And I would just say that while a lot of the conversation will naturally focus on authors, editors probably are in relative terms, undertrained as well. So what happens is that there's a tendency to follow industry or discipline standard without much thought because they need to rise in the billion metric tables. There's sometimes a tendency to embrace eclecticism without thought. So why do you have variety? What's the benefit? What kind of conversations are trying to spark? I do think the tendency of most editorial teams to burn out between 3 to 5 years undermines long term vision, continuity and also informed challenges to industry or discipline norms. And I should say I completely understand why editors want to step down after 3 to 5 years. It's just I haven't. But I sympathetic to editors burning out. But having said that, as a collective, we do need to be understanding critical junctures. We can promote diversity that's meaningful rather than simply following the trend of the norm.

Duncan McCargo [00:26:48]

We all need journal editors. But yeah, it's a bit like being department chair, which I was in Leeds twice. I'm very happy to have done it and I'm very happy someone else is doing it now and I'm very happy. I'm not doing it at the moment. You know, we need good people in these jobs. But the answer can't always be that we do them ourselves because we also have to get on with other things. So various other questions, some of which are kind of interrelated about one of them is what makes a really outstanding article. And maybe you've hinted at the answers to that already in the answers to the last question Does anyone want to say anything more about that?

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:27:18]

HM Outstanding nowadays is really not that easy, but things have been written out and you might provide 1 or 2 different new perspective, but how does that count as outstanding? Of course, one tricky ways you look at the citation and how many people have really downloaded. That's how I looked at it. I don't even know if that's really fair. We do have some popular others perhaps because their paper will open assets because they pay for this code and so they have like thousands of downloads. And I don't know, I haven't really seen something that would say, yes, yes, yes, maybe because Asian was not even a journal. So it does have a different story.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:28:04]

So the simple I suppose, metric for outstanding is that we do have like many other journals, an outstanding article of the year award. It's called the William Holden Prize for Longest Serving Past. Editor. Now, I should say that I don't participate in the voting. What happens is associate editors come up with a shortlist. We usually discuss in person, and then the shortlist is circulated to a larger editorial board for voting. Now, I should say that the reason why I don't participate is I've seen all the papers in different incarnations. So to quote Dali, perfection should not be feared because it's not attainable. Meaning there's no such thing as a perfect article. But I have seen it. Some articles that are encased in very polished, beautiful prose, and I think that does tend to carry with many readers or the novelty of a subject. I happen to actually think that those are two important elements novelty of a subject and polished, logically flowing prose. But sometimes what you see is the articles have great writing but rather precarious logical structures. So I tend to look for all the issues or the characters to be talked about, but also not just writing as a cover, but writing as a supplement to a buttress for the logic. So it could be accused of legal centrism, but it's not a certain method. I'm interested. I'm interested in internal consistency, logical consistency and also contextualization differentiation. So I would say that most outstanding, quote unquote articles do have a level of English writing that carries the argument beyond a certain specific disciplinary audience. So that is, I think, a common trait also. Sorry, I just saw a question on the chat. It's a question. I'm just going to read it very quickly. How do you choose reviewers? And this is actually a very good question because there's lots of issues with reviewers. But generally speaking, I actually read what the possible reviewer has published, if I'm recommended reviewer, if the person has written on five really exciting subjects and I read them and I think they're actually glorified op eds, there's a place for glorified op eds, mind you. But then. Is this the right person or particular manuscript? The second important element is availability. So essentially the whole system is based on pro bono work that is monetized by large publishers or in Pacifica first case, just by us to maintain operations. But think availability is an issue. So for authors who haven't reviewed, it's very easy to get, I think, human to be upset by certain kinds of reviews, but it's very difficult to find qualified reviewers who can deliver on time because everyone's essentially overtaxed. And also there's very little training in how to review something that comes up occasionally. People are not aware that you should not submit the same paper to two journals at the same time, so it can be a serial submitter, the same paper, but shouldn't submit the same purpose. Several different tools at the same time because it's based on this unwritten rule that's rarely taught in graduate seminars, at least in North America, which is that each journal is investing human resources into reviewing your paper. They're giving you feedback in ways that maybe your advisor never would or could because they're kind of there to support you, believe it or not. Yes. Right. So that's something that should be clarified in almost every single seminar. And then there is essentially a lingua franca in all of academia. So we can call it vaguely cultural or maybe explicitly cultural imperialist or not, but it's unavoidable. Right now it is English. So if you have been speaking in English to Icelanders, it's lingua franca. So are certain people with more dexterity and precision their syntax added advantage?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:31:40]

Yes. What can we do? Well, we can complain about it, but what we can do is simply improve our writing regardless of the language. So let's say you want to write an Indonesian in English. I think it's up to us to try to improve our writing in those two languages. It's very difficult, I should say. I'm very sympathetic to typos. By the way, as someone with climbing eyesight, I claim typos are unavoidable. It's not the type of it's basic logical flow and command of syntax. I think that's key. So hope that answers the questions. Yeah.

Duncan McCargo [00:32:07]

We can take a few more questions from the chat in a minute. Let me just ask you because you brought this up about the writing thing. So a couple of years ago I tried an article out about the persistence of military coups on two political science journals. I didn't send it to an Asian studies journal because it was more comparative and from both of them got desk rejections, immediate desk rejections, and one of them explicitly said, this is not an article but an essay. I would actually like to write essays because I would like to write things that people like to read. And it's almost as though and this is what I try to do and I have to confess that I started off as a student of English literature and I really want to be a writer, and I ended up becoming an academic by mistake, which is something I'm not supposed to admit as a political scientist. But it's almost like if you write something too readable, you're going to be viewed with suspicion. Am I right about this?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:32:52]

Yes. Yeah, right. I should say not by me. Not by me personally. But I think there are discipline norms that are normalized, that unquestioned and unchallenged, that we regurgitate with great enthusiasm. Let's say when I gave a talk, this is in the 90s in a history forum, people said there are too many numbers. When I gave the same talk at an economics forum, they said they're not enough numbers and too many names. So there are these ingrained knee jerk reactions. And I think in political science, for example, even if there's more variety in Europe and the UK than North America, I'd like to think the North American norm is that you need a clear dependent variable, independent variables and ideally intervening variables and regressions display command of all the coding methods, including Hidden Markov and so on and so forth. Yes. So if you don't speak that language, then immediately there's a knee jerk reaction against it rather than the reaction by editors should be, What is this essay trying to tell me, regardless of the jargon? So I just want to say something that does come up even in area studies. So within Asian studies, we take it for granted. Let's say we're writing a paper in Singapore, then we would specify it's electoral politics in Singapore. But if you look at a lot of the articles on, let's say, China and Africa, I would encourage you to check how many of the Africa countries actually are based on single case studies and there's no discussion of representativeness. So the Mozambique economy is not the same as Equatorial Guinea. They speak different languages, but Portuguese versus Spanish legacies. So we can actually do better in area studies, however that's defined. But in disciplines, there's also this hidden problem with representativeness. So for example, there's an assertion of a universal model of populism. If you look at the empirical core, it's a survey of 20 people. And I'm just thinking of this example off the top of my head. Leuven in northern Netherlands, right, this kind of thing. So the actual core is small. There's an encouragement to make a universal grand claim out of it and think we want to push all disciplines to be careful and precise in positioning.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:34:57]

Yeah, I actually want to kind of continue our discussion about writing and language. This is something that hasn't really been agreed upon, even among editors in Asian ethnicity until today. And you notice also in today our. Is a lot of them are not native English speakers. Of course, it is important to have well written academic paper and however a lot of others they might face this kind of difficult. Maybe students in Nordic countries don't have that much difficulty, but you can imagine a lot of Asian scholars. So how straight are you in terms of this English writing in Asian ethnicity? We have a lot of debates about this. Actually. Some of our editors who are prestigious scholars, they think it is not important to write in beautiful English. What is important is really the case that you are presenting, and they show also sympathy to others from Mongolia, Indonesia, who might lack the capacity to present themselves well in English. So some of our editors really fight against this idea. But we are in this, like you said, this is a lingua franca of the world. Like me, I would insist you really have to present certain level of English fluency, but wonder how you make your decisions in Asian Pacific affairs or other journals.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:36:13]

I think we're reasonably flexible, but we want, let's say, 80% accuracy in grammar. So let's say a paper has more than 20% grammatical errors in nearly every sentence, then it's a problem. We have different copy editors and proofreaders. There are different stages in the process. Reviewers, of course, associate editors and the editor. But let's say the cutoff point is 80% or so for grammatical errors. The actual beauty of the prose I think, is a very subjective aspect, so don't actually take that into account too much. If I like it, it helps, of course, if I happen to enjoy reading a paper. Well, very rare, but it does happen then it's a plus. If you think about novels, for example, if you read the Fitzgerald novel, the plot has almost zero progress. But the beauty and the prose of describing rather mundane things I think is undeniable. But then if your article has no progress in the process, beautiful. Is that going to help you publish? I would say no. So obviously there's a balance required, right?

Duncan McCargo [00:37:12]

Yeah, we can have a lot of fu with this conversation and we could go on a long time. I'm going to ask one more question and then we'll invite questions from the audience. So if anybody else wants to start posing anything, please pose your questions in the Q&A rather than the chat, because then that's easier for us to see it all in one place. And let me ask just one last question, which may be in the minds of many people tuning in here. We've all had these I mentioned my mortifying double desk rejection of my brilliant essay about why military coups are still happening. What do you do when you get these crushing rejections? Or worse still, people who don't seem to have understood what the point of your paper was, which applies to a significant proportion of reviewer reports and then editors who I kind of expect that, you know, the best editors I've worked with have taken these reviews, reports and kind of summarize them and said, basically what you really need to do is take notice of reviewer B, and you don't say reviewer A is out to lunch, but you say, I would place most of your emphasis on responding to reviewer B's. But some editors don't do that. They just send you these things and they say, I'm not interested. Or they say revise and resubmit without giving you the slightest clue which of these completely contradictory points in these in one case, five reviews. I've got the article published in the end, but five reviews all telling me different things that needed to do with the paper and didn't get from the editor. I'm broadly more sympathetic to reviewers one, two and three and forget about four and five. So how should people handle these things and how are you, as editors try to massage these difficult messages in the best possible way, whether you're going for an R&R or just the rejection?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:38:48]

The first issue, I think, is whether reviewers are competent or not and think we have to start with the acknowledgement that a significant proportion of editors have no idea what they're doing and say this all due respect, or they're interested in doing something that is rational but think problematic in the long run, which is minimize the investment of their time and maximize their personal return. So I think both are problematic. Now, this is not to say that for every single decision I make, I provide guidance. I think Duncan mentioned I write long letters, so the average is 5 to 7 pages. So I stopped myself a ten single spaced pages. It's not that I write letters for every single one, but then my shortcut around problematic reviews, which are actually a significant proportion of the total, is to actually read the paper myself and read the reviews and do research on each subject. Now, is this draining when you're dealing with multiple disciplines and languages and areas? Yes. Is it good for my curiosity? Yes. So there's only one way to really push the quality of a journals contents upwards, and it's for the editor to be engaged with each plausible paper. Not every single paper. It's not possible with the volume of submission. So that way you control for, I think, problematically short reviews. Now what do you do when you get problematic with short reviews? The first issue is to start with the realization that for any well-run journal, that the editor should explain. They retain all final control. So you see on Twitter, Oh, I had to revise and resubmit from the reviewers and editor rejected it. Well, as long as the editor is able to explain why they rejected the paper, its editors write. Similarly, when you get a bad or negative review, that's literally two sentences. That is, the editors write to say, Let's throw out this useless review. We're going to blacklist this person. I see some potential for reasons ABC, but within the two sentences there is some utility, that kind of thing. And then in the larger scale of things, the first thing you can do is never react immediately to any rejection or negative review. It's human to be annoyed at readers who are clearly not familiar with your subject, but pretend to. There are also cases where they haven't read the paper. Clearly, it's unprofessional and unethical to do these kinds of reviews, but we're clogged. The system is clogged with these things. So what do you do? I'll never react in anger. Never accused the Journal of being ideologically biased. It could be that they are or methodologically ossified and blinkered. It could be they are. But I think it's important to, I think nurture your anger, but channel it and productive way. So there's certain options. Okay. So if it's a revised and resubmit, it's a revised and resubmit. So read the letter carefully. Never respond within 24 hours and say these are rubbish reviews, even if that's right. Okay. If you're going to respond, wait until your column and then take the comments and try to strengthen your paper. This is really the most useful point, is that even if the comment is really silly, you can say, well, this person didn't explain the methodology and you explained it, but in page ten, you might think not about increasing the font size 24, but no moving the section up front, maybe using signposting that allows readers with limited attention spans or energy to actually latch on to the signpost. Right? So there are ways to use even almost useless reviews in useful ways to improve your paper. So what you don't want to do is take your paper. You got rejected, submit the exact same thing to another journal. Right? Because all this does is create more labor for yourself, more psychological damage, more labor for the journals. You want to think about the ways the process can help you strengthen your profile as a scholar in terms of skills, not just publications. There are also multiple resources, mainly for sciences, on how to handle rejections. So I have to confess, especially in the pandemic year, I've had to encourage some authors to look and read these resources. So understand frustration. It's human.

Duncan McCargo [00:42:48]

Thanks so much. There's some really, really good points you made there. Yeah.

Duncan McCargo [00:42:52]

Julie Well.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:42:54]

Kind of follow up. And I also think we have a lot of students here. I want to use the example. One of my doctoral students, she submitted her paper to a very good journal. It has been under review, I think, for at least two years. And she has been asked to revise this five times. So she got very frustrated each time coming back to me and say, Can I fight back? Say no. It's very nice that they are still reviewing your paper and giving you those comments. So just follow them and answer each of these questions and critiques and explain why you can change or you cannot change. So it is still going on, but I think she has learned a lot in this process and also to refine her thinking and her work. So we should really not panic. When you receive really harsh criticism or rejection later, they are opportunities for you to improve.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:43:45]

The maximum number of review. It should be around 2 or 3 and the editors should get involved when they get above four. I think you're inviting a certain level of randomness that becomes unmanageable. So I'm just surprised that's the way some journals.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:43:59]

Yeah, I'm really surprised too. And I was thinking, well, we have to respect that was the editor's decision. I didn't get involved, but I know as an editor, I have even gotten letters from the supervisors of the author complaining why we make certain editorial decisions concerning the student's paper. Submit it to our journal.

Duncan McCargo [00:44:17]

Yeah, I was happy that I've been through that brutal process in the end, but it did seem a little bit unnecessary to me. Okay, we've got lots of questions coming in. Next question relates to some of the discussion that we just been having about English recent research about published authors in certain journals, including Asian studies of white English speakers, following what Professor Chen was saying. Do you think English writing skill is a factor in that?

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:44:39]

Not that important anymore? I think nowadays if we are at this stage, most people can write reasonably okay. English paper.

Duncan McCargo [00:44:47]

Do you think it's still the case in Asian studies that the predominance of published authors who were native English speakers?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:44:53]

Yeah, I would just encourage each person who has this question to look at the contents of the journal. I can't speak for every journal, but for Pacific Affairs it's a non-issue. The editorial board is diverse, deliberately so, and towards the author base. Actually, I would say we publish from more authors based in Asian quote unquote. Christians than North American ones for various reasons. It's. It's in part to do with biblical metrics and the imperial spread of research assessment exercise like entities. So it's not an issue.

Duncan McCargo [00:45:24]

Okay. It's interesting to hear a discussion in this about the NIS, the market experience from the editors. Which market do you want to target are What kind of readership are we targeting? For example, Scandinavian readers, Chinese readers, Asian readers, different regions have different implicit rules and assumptions.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:45:39]

Well, Asian ethnicity, I think the readers are from everywhere. Journal of Chinese Political Science is also everywhere, but has a target on political scientists think that's clear. So they are international minded. Journal You know, one is run by Raleigh, another is run by Springer.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:45:54]

Yeah. So when I talk about the market, it's about publishing for specific journals. I would say the readership, as Julia said, is international and multi-discipline in most cases. So let's say for Pacific Affairs, we get about 350,000 accesses per year, 350,000. We don't track individual, but you can track things through SNS markers and so on and so forth. Okay. But the number of subscriptions we have is only 500. So 350,000 accesses 500 paying subscribers. Okay. What's the problem? People are reading things. But after a two year window, because we have a two year essentially freeze for people who are not paying, which affects our impact factor. And this is in part not because of the quantity or quality, I would say, but it's because we're not affiliated with a major publisher, Rutledge and Springer, just two of a larger ocean of major players. The Cambridge and Oxford have two university presses that have market size clout and essentially mirroring with variations strategies that are being implemented by something like a Rutledge or Elsevier, so on and so forth. So Pacific Affairs is essentially a microbe in a world of whales in terms of market size, in terms of quality, I'd like to think it has much bigger reach. As indicated by the 350,000 access every single year. Okay. Now, who actually reads it? Well, it's hard to know. We've done surveys in the past. We sometimes ask our editorial board to spread the news or informal survey or conversation with their graduate students. But I have to say it's very difficult to know who reads it because the number of inappropriate submissions indicates that we do actually catch inappropriate in terms of subject matter, a wider range of readers than I can even begin to imagine. So if someone says, I would like to submit a paper on Ethiopia Eritrea conflict, I have to ask myself, how do they come across Pacific affairs? Why did they express interest? Although we don't cover the northeastern Africa conflicts? Right? So hard to say, right?

Duncan McCargo [00:47:54]

I mean, when I'm writing an article about protests in Thailand, my main audience is in Thailand. So I'm British and I'm sitting here in Denmark heading a Nordic institute. My audience is in North America, Australia, Southeast Asia, the Nordic region, Europe. I mean, we see it with events like this. Afterwards. We check the participant list and see where people come from. It's quite extraordinary. So think I no longer have an idea of targeting articles to a particular national or regional audience. It's obsolete in my own thinking. The only audience am very deliberately aware of is the Thai audience because they're going to be the biggest audience for anything on Thailand. And that's most of what I write. But I certainly don't have the idea that the primary audience is in any particular part of the world. I don't know what Julie here.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:48:41]

In fact, Ted and Francis and Springer, these kind of big companies, they have a very in-depth analysis of where people download their paper and subscribe to their journal. And I received this kind of confidential report every year. So let me just summarize for Asian ethnicity, because this was originated in Australia. So I think until today, Australia is still the main country where people don't subscribe to the journal and download the paper and some Singaporean university. So it's quite Asia focused. But again, I think there are readers from all over the world just mentioned Australia and Singapore's these two really super clear market. But definitely the company strategy is international.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:49:21]

So think Rutledge Although we're not affiliated with the publisher, be in conversation with multiple publishers, so have seen some of these reports. And one thing that does not surprise me in any way is that Rutledge has identified Indonesia and Vietnam and to a lesser extent Thailand as high growth markets for the future. So, for example, if you do publish an article in Indonesia, the SAS activity on Indonesian based feeds is I think exponentially larger than anything in North America. So I think geographic audiences are less bound, even if there's clear patterns than we might imagine. I think this audiences are still a main issue. So who are we trying to speak with? Who's the conversation with? But I think that the question of, let's say, spatial audiences. This might have more salience for something like I happened to review for this journal. It's called Scandinavian Journal of History. So is then most of the audience in Scandinavia or if there's a students journal, then who's the audience? This kind of thing. So I think there are different journals that are not necessarily listed in the indexes or with the large publisher, Scandinavian Journal of History, as I affiliated with a large publisher, by the way. But there are some journals that have to ask themselves a question like How do we grow? So that's a different matter, I think mainly for editors to deal with, right?

Duncan McCargo [00:50:43]

It is all very interesting. It's not always exactly how we'd imagine when we do get this detailed break down, but what's definitely happening across Southeast Asia is if a new article is published on a topical subject that has a bit of a larger audience than the immediate academic fraternity, like some election or protest movement or whatever, it's going out on social media and people are not learning about it from academic sources at all. Maybe we don't even know because those people are downloading it and then sharing those PDFs and what have you in ways that we can't even imagine. So it's possible that we're not even beginning to track a lot of what is going on through these various social media platforms. And the same thing happens with an event. So no, we did a Burma coup event and people in Burma were watching it who were not registered for our event. It was somehow it was being channeled from somewhere and reposted on Facebook Live by means that I don't understand. So even though the publishers can give you all this data, I don't think it's any longer really telling us who's reading the stuff.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:51:41]

I'm just looking at our audience and thinking who they are and what they might be interested in.

Duncan McCargo [00:51:46]

Well, if you were a grad student wanting to get an article published, should they be shooting for journals like yours or should they be looking at these sort of student journals? Or what would your advice be to them?

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:51:58]

I think they can try Asian ethnicity, this kind of journal, which is not a journal yet, so it's not that difficult, but it is still challenging. After all, it is still an international academic journal, but trying a student journal, I would say that you really limit your leadership and it wouldn't be counted or something too significant on your CV, unfortunately.

Duncan McCargo [00:52:20]

Right. I feel torn between encouraging people to go for the best that they can and not wanting to bombard the likes of you with more and more submissions that are not too likely to be accepted. But, um, it's a dilemma, isn't it?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:52:32]

This is actually a very intriguing question because what Julie outlined is what I call the incremental approach Build up your confidence and your experience, right? But if you think about academic careers, there's pros and cons to each stage. So let's say you're a PhD student who's finished their fieldwork. It's quite possible that you have access to more in-depth, recent empirical information than someone who's been in the office virtually or physically for the last 20 years, we'll say, as a rough number. So when people look at the contents of the specific affairs and say, Oh, there are many PhD students who've published the usual lines, to think that I have an agenda to promote these student publishing, I'm sorry, but I do not have an agenda. Interest in promoting publishing regardless of the identity of the author. So I have rejected papers at the desk stage by some people who publish multiple articles and books on the subject. It just couldn't see why they would submit this particular paper to us. Syllabi. Right. And the reason why these students were published in Pacific Affairs is not because they're pasty students. I'm sorry, identity is not a major factor. Well, if you're from a very underrepresented country, possibly it's because there was a strength in the paper that allowed it to survive a rigorous review process. So how do you strategize, go from the top and trickle down? Let's say you aim for the top index journals, you get rejected. You can always move down if you feel psychologically prepared to deal with a whole range of reviews. Well, I have to say, probably rejections are hard for anybody, regardless of the experience. So I'm not sure. I mean, it really depends on your approach and personality, the role of student journals or regional journals or the journal that your best friend or your family members editing, if it's not indexed for circulating at all, is actually trickier because I have to say, I've generally gone for the irrational choice student journals, as long as they know what they're doing should be supported. Start up journals, as long as they know what they're doing should be supported. Even if there's no name. It's not just a platform for the editors, self-promotion and all these other things. It suggests consulting with your advisors, but thinking also on your own.

Duncan McCargo [00:54:45]

These are all really good points, and it's the same reason why I never favor having so-called young scholars panels in conferences, because usually the PhD students are the ones who have the good work and that we go to and we see people like me chairing panels and commenting and other people's papers because we haven't got any new work to present. And giving grad students a hard time who've actually done some really interesting work. So I often feel like the PhD students have better papers than the senior professors.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:55:10]

Well, think. Also that professors, advisors have a role to play in this and that sometimes a really good paper by an MBA student or an undergrad and they'll just say, You should publish. I'm sorry, but that's not sufficient. You have to help prepare students who are entirely unfamiliar with this world on how to publish.

Duncan McCargo [00:55:29]

Yeah, we need guidance. Okay, we have another question. Came in. Everybody wants this coveted status. How do you maintain it? Is there any risk that status can be taken away once you've got it?

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:55:40]

So the simple answer is that, yes, status can be taken away. Basically, it's a corporation that monetizes rankings. So if you look at any ranking, the first reaction should be what could be potentially useful? But as a heuristic, it's usually a monetizing strategy. But with all due respect to think tanks, of course, if you have a think tank, you want to raise a profile, maybe monetize content so you have a ranking global ranking of this or that. So Clavet is a small company affiliated with Thomson Reuters. They run the system. There's alternative systems. You can lose it if they allegedly find evidence of gaming the system, promoting, enforcing self citations, this kind of thing. Now, the reality is that the check is so thorough that it's almost meaningless. So the journals are bottom of the ranks tend to sometimes fall in. And now it's like I had to be reductionist. It's like football, soccer, Premier League, first Division, Bundesliga. It's obviously not that simple. But what happens is lower teams tend to get targeted more for these checks. So I have to say, Pacific Affairs has never even been remotely in danger of losing it, but also don't actually encourage self citation as a matter of practice. If there's a conversation meaningful one then of course would encourage citation, but not because it's going to help our two year or five year impact factor. And the impact factor is just two years model imported from the sciences where the turnover and the volume of publishing is incomparably larger than social sciences. So the SSI, I think can be useful as a tool not for measuring the quality, but perhaps distribution of a journal just means that people are conditioned to cite it or that they're simply studying because it's available to them and also as a marker for what the worst publishable paper might be of a lower standard than the journals that are index. So can you find brilliant articles on Asian ethnicity? The answer is yes. Of course. The Journal does not have to be indexed at the top tier to produce high quality. Now is the weakest article in a non index journal at the same level as the weakest article in the index journal. And the answer I have to say it's probably not. So the difference is in the bottom tier, not the top. If you're interested in Biblio metrics, of course there's a lot of literature on this and the journal is devoted to analyzing scholarly communication and publishing so you can actually read about different approaches to parsing impact factors.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [00:58:11]

I'm just wondering because now we're talking about these index factors, maybe we can share with our audience here what is a good impact factor. I notice that Pacific Affairs at 1.2 something. So how do we read that number? I think this is quite possibly for our PhD students.

Duncan McCargo [00:58:30]

I can't say I understand it very well. So anyone who can explain that to me be delighted.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [00:58:35]

So the simple answer is that the absolute numbers are meaningless. So if you're in psychology or economics, all political scientists have negligible impact factors. If you're in medicine, psychology is negligible. So there's essentially two large fields science, technology, engineering, medicine, stem fields and the social science and humanities. So in general, the sciences, the STEM fields will have higher impact factors. And then you get psychology, economics and political science is quite a drop off sociology and then anthropology, interdisciplinary studies, so on and so forth. So the absolute numbers don't mean that much. Now do the relative rankings within each field matter? I have to say again, to be honest, no, you still have to actually read the articles. And what happens is that many journal editors do in fact promote self citation. So you cite an article from your own pages within the last two years and it automatically pushes up the impact factor rating. And given that the number of citations compared to sciences is small and we'll say area studies, what this means is that you enforce self citations on maybe five cases immediately, move up about seven ranks in relative league tables. So we're talking about very small numbers, I have to say, for area studies or most social sciences. So the impact factor itself is not something you need to worry about. What you might want to do is look for the five year impact factor. So an impact factor essentially measures the number of times the Journal itself and other journals or publications have cited articles published in the Journal within the last two years. Only last two years, a five year. Fact Factor covers the number of citations to publications in that journal within the last five years. So if you think about a reasonably good quality article having longer half lives than it seems to me, given the turnaround times in social sciences, a five year impact factor actually has a little bit more meaning than to your impact factor.

Duncan McCargo [01:00:32]

That's really useful. I've suddenly understood why not that long ago, a certain journal editor asked me to cite an article from the same journal from a couple of years previously, which seemed a little bit random, but now I get it. There was a real logic to that. We're approaching the end of our discussion. Most say the time has flown because we've been having so much fun talking about all this stuff. It's been a really, really fascinating conversation, which I hope we can continue and indeed that we can host both of you who are separately or together back in Copenhagen before too long and continue these discussions about these and other matters. But this has been a really fantastic. So thanks so much for both of our speakers. We can tell that you're really just the kind of editors we'd like to be dealing with as opposed to those other kind of editors that we won't talk about who don't seem to be really interested in us and don't seem to see things from our point of view as authors. A lot of humanity and a lot of empathy comes across in your comments and responses, which I think is really, really great to hear because sometimes we feel as though we're struggling against machine when we try to advance ourselves academically. And actually there are real people who care about what they're doing and and are really very, very interested in as authors and in the work that we're producing. So this has been fantastic to hear. Cliff, thanks very, very much indeed. We look forward to continuing the conversation.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen [01:01:47]

Thank you.

Hyung-Gu Lynn [01:01:48]

Yes, thank you.

Duncan McCargo [01:01:49]

I'm Duncan Cargo, director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. And I've been talking to two Asian Studies Journal editors, Julie Chen, until recently the editor of Asian Ethnicity, and Hyung Lin, the long serving editor of Pacific Affairs. Thank you for joining the Nordic Asian podcast showcasing Nordic collaboration in studying Asia. You have been listening to the Nordic Asia podcast