Insights into Publishing

The URPP Asia and Europe and the Graduate School of East Asian Studies (GEAS) at the Free University of Berlin held a joint “Publication Workshop” (December 14–15, 2015) at the University of Zurich. The event aimed to provide PhD students with an insight into the peer review and publication process to enable them to increase their research manuscripts’ chances of journal acceptance, as well as to promote academic exchange between fellows from GEAS and the University of Zurich.

Nora Gilgen

Organized by David Chiavacci (University of Zurich) and Verena Blechinger-Talcott (Free University of Berlin), the workshop was designed to give five advanced doctoral students the opportunity to discuss a draft paper intended for publication in a peer reviewed journal with senior scholars, journal editors and fellow PhD candidates. The papers selected for discussion were circulated among all participants for close reading prior to the workshop.

Increasing the chances of acceptance

During a welcome dinner, the participants had the opportunity to discuss the papers as well as their broader research projects in an informal, relaxed setting. Before long, many were engaged in lively debates across research fields. The workshop was formally opened the following morning with a short speech by David Chiavacci and the introduction of the other experts, namely Verena Blechinger-Talcott, Flemming Christiansen (University of Duisburg-Essen), Brooks Jessup (Free University of Berlin, written comment), Katrin Gengenbach (Free Universiy of Berlin), Christopher Gerteis (SOAS, London), Simona Grano (University of Zurich), and Jieun Kim (Free University of Berlin), each of whom provided comments on drafts of one or two papers during the workshop. The papers were then discussed in separate sessions, during which the commentators pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of each draft and offered suggestions on how its chances of acceptance in the review process may be increased.

The research presented in this workshop covered a broad range of academic fields such as political science, religious studies, and linguistics, and investigated a wide variety of topics. The PhD candidates from GEAS composed papers exploring online civic engagement and the anti-domestic violence movement in China (Angela Leggett), environmentalism in Taiwanese popular religion (Jacob Tischer), and the term “comrade“ as a form of address in the Chinese Communist Party (Paul J. Kohlenberg), while the candidates from the University of Zurich contributed papers on the activism of a national mother’s network in Japan after the Fukushima incident (Ayaka Löschke) and the visual representation of Kazakh eagle hunting, power relations, and tourism in Mongolia (Linda Tubach). The commentators’ detailed explanations and the open discussion that closed each session not only provided the authors themselves with ample hints on how they might proceed with the writing process, but also gave participants valuable information on how to improve their own academic writing skills and chances of publication.

First-hand insights

In the final session, the participants learned even more about what to keep in mind when trying to publish successfully. Flemming Christiansen, a member of the editorial board of China Information, and Christopher Gerteis, a co-editor of Japan Focus, offered comprehensive first-hand insights into the selection and peer-review process used by scientific journals. Both urged participants to carefully study the journals stylesheets before submitting a paper, since not meeting the formal criteria or poor readability may cause papers to drop out of the selection process without their content even being considered. They also pointed out that carefully aiming a paper at an appropriate journal and strictly adhering to the concept of “one idea, one paper” could significantly increase the chances of being published.

A glance “behind the scenes”

Despite—or because—of there being significant varieties in research interests and methods as well as in regional specialization, all participants profited greatly from this workshop. It provided young researchers with the opportunity to cast a glance “behind the scenes” of academic journals and to learn about how papers are evaluated in the selection and review process. Plans are already underway for the next joint workshop, where fellows from GEAS and the University of Zurich will meet in Berlin to discuss new topics and further strengthen their academic network.

(Asia & Europe Bulletin, 5/2016, p. 30)