Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Theology Journal Surveys?

I used to post a good bit about academic journals, often with an eye to how theology as a discipline could improve its review and publishing practices. The topic hasn't come up in a while (I haven't been posting much at all, really), but Leiter's recent link to a discussion on slow review processes, some current frustrations of my own on the matter, and some I've heard voiced from others made me wonder again whether theological studies could benefit from something like Andrew Cullison's journal survey for philosophy.

I don't think that the quantitative ranking and over-professionalization of humanities fields is all that helpful... or rather, any help it offers is accompanied by some real drawbacks... but some compiled information on basic issues that do lend themselves to quantitative monitoring seems like it would be a big help to theologians at all points in their career. In assessing religion departments, pertinent information would probably be job placement rates and tuition/financial aid info; for journals I'd want to see the sort of information on Cullison's survey - acceptance and R&R rates, prevalence and helpfulness of referee comments, etc. This information would not be intended to mark certain venues as better or worse, but simply so we have an idea of what to expect when submitting a paper somewhere.

Another benefit of such information would be to goad referees on to quicker turn-around times. Theology needn't hold itself to the sorts of time schedules common in the hard sciences - quite the opposite, I think humanities fields benefit from their somewhat slower pace, and closer and slower scrutiny is probably necessary for the sorts of arguments that publications in the humanities make. But this shouldn't be confused with the delays that are sometimes present in review work for our discipline; often enough referees would probably benefit from feeling more pressed to complete reader reports. And I think the biggest issue in theology is that there doesn't seem to be a very extensive public conversation about what expectations we take to be reasonable or normal for this work. I know my own experience with publishing has been sort of haphazard, and I've largely just figured it out on my own as I went.

Would it make sense to set up something like this survey for theology journals? Would people be interested in filling out survey information from their review experiences? Do journal editors or reviewers have thoughts on the benefit or drawbacks of this?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Evan, I think this could be quite helpful information, especially for the journals themselves. I have an old professor that is a consulting editor for SJT, and he mentioned to me a year or so ago about the ridiculous amount of time that it takes for a submission to be reviewed. He said you'd be extremely lucky to hear back in 6 months. I understand that review takes time, but 6-12 months is a bit long