Eyal Weizman at the RGS-IBG

The Eyal Weizman lecture for Society and Space was fascinating and well received. It was videoed and is available here.

Much of the material in the talk drew on Eyal’s books Mengele’s Skull and The Least of All Possible Evils, but we are discussing a contribution from him for the print journal.

Sincere thanks to Eyal for accepting the invitation and to Pion for their support of the event.

For those that missed him but able to get to London, he  is discussing these books on July 12th. Details at the Verso blog.

List/index of supplementary material

You can find an updated list/index of the supplementary material on this site here. Includes virtual theme issues, discussions, reviews, commentaries, interviews, and other material including a couple of audio recordings. A number of other pieces are under discussion, but we are certainly open to other ideas.

Thom Brooks – Guidelines on How to Referee

Thom Brooks is editor of the Journal of Moral Philosophy, and offers some useful advice here. It is in part intended for early career people, but a lot of this is useful whatever stage of career you are.

Environment and Planning newsletter

Pion have produced a brief newsletter on the four Environment and Planning journals, which you can find here (needs a recent version of Acrobat reader to read).

In praise of referees

I’ve just finished writing the editorial to run in Volume 30 No 1. The editorial mentions a number of things happening with the journal, including this site and its aim. It ends with thanks to the referees who have done work for the journal in 2011, and will be followed by a long list of names. In the journal he edits, Journal of Historical Geography, long-time Society and Space editorial board member Felix Driver does something similar. The editorial is available open access here. Felix’s piece says rather more than I do about the role of referees in the effective running of a journal.

Felix suggests that despite the changes in publishing, “the humble reviewer remains at the heart of the project”.

The nature of the process may change, as indeed may the definition of expertise, depending on the field: but it is difficult to imagine how research activity could function effectively without some kind of effort at collective evaluation on behalf of the communities of interest which define fields like ours. Which is a longwinded way of saying that, in our view, peer review has been one of the great inventions of modern science; that its adoption and extension across the social sciences and humanities has been, broadly speaking, beneficial; and that at a time when ‘rule by metrics’ appears to be encroaching as never before onto the terrain of academic life, its values are our values.

It is easy to be critical of reviewers, and there are, of course, bad reports and bad referees. Getting reports on a paper, getting those reports on time, and good reports, is one of the biggest challenges for journal editors and managers. But the idea is one that is difficult to envision being abandoned. It is increasingly fashionable to complain about the review, production and editing process of journals, and to praise open access publishing and blogs as means of disseminating information. While there can be very good editorial standards in open access journals – in related fields, see, for example Surveillance and Society and Acme: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies - these are never ‘free’. They exist on the good will of editors, voluntary labour from others, and of course, on referees. If you think that the refereeing, editorial and publisher production process adds little, consider a journal that includes the next ten papers submitted to it, inappropriate or not, rough and ready, unedited and simply in the form they arrive, and compare that to the finished next issue of that journal. I can guarantee you are more likely to read the latter. Refereeing is an essential part of that process.

In his editorial, Felix makes the important, obvious-but-often-forgotten, point about peer review. Those who referee are themselves refereed, and the process is an exchange. Here’s Felix making the point:

The distinction between referees and authors is, of course, contingent rather than essential: indeed, that is one of the system’s great strengths. The person who holds the referee’s whistle at one point may in turn become a player, and vice-versa. In the discussions and debates over the future of peer review which periodically surface in academic, government, media and policy circles, this aspect of the process is rarely commented on. Yet it is surely what gives the system its legitimacy, and participants some of their reward: that sense of being part of a community, sharing the same values in principle.

When I wrote about informal exchange economy in Society and Space in the past (here), it was a plea to cooperate, for those who we request to write reports to actually do so. I firmly believe the default position should be to review, with exceptional circumstances dictating that you say ‘no’. In my over five years as an editor it has become clear that the reverse is actually the case – most people’s default is to say ‘no’. Yet we all feel aggrieved when the review process takes longer than it should; if the reviewers that end up delivering reports are perhaps not the ideal reviewers; or if reviews are obviously dashed off quickly or thoughtlessly. The same logic – those who referee are also refereed – means that there are some important guidelines for how to review fairly (see here for a recent example).

Just as you can learn as much from a bad seminar presentation or lecture as a good one, reviewing is an important learning process for reviewer as well as author. As Journal of Historical Geography and Society and Space pay tribute to those who have contributed their time and expertise to the finished output of the journals, it is worth dwelling on the words of a recently retired Professor. After spending some time a few years back discussing one of my papers over coffee, I thanked him for his time. His response was simple: “Commenting on other people’s work is the most important thing academics do”.

30th Anniversary of Political Geography

Political Geography celebrates its 30th anniversary with an editorial, a selection of open access papers and an interesting interview with founding editor Peter Taylor, conducted by James Sidaway. You can find it all here. The interview ends with some thoughts for aspiring authors.

BJS links on the Occupy Movement

The Berkeley Journal of Sociology has a useful list of links (including our own forum) on the Occupy Movement.

Ian Cook comment on Occupy and ‘Follow the Thing: Money’

Ian Cook of Exeter University posted this as a comment to an earlier post, but I’m reposting here so more people can see it.

I’m running my ‘Geographies of material culture’ undergraduate class at the Occupy Exeter Tent University this Friday, trying to encourage students to bring together arguments published two days ago in Brett Christophers’ ‘Follow the thing: money’ paper (plus responses, plus work by Shaun French and others on the financial crisis) and work on materiality, culture jamming and public pedagogy.

Tara’s Monopoly blog illustrates a lot of these arguments at once, and is one of a number of resources I’ve put together on the module blog here: http://materialculture2011.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/week-7-new-work-doreen-massey-david-harvey-occupylsx/

I’m posting this here as others may find this interesting/useful, and may wish to contribute to the discussions in our course. These aren’t reflections, they’re materials to think with at the moment. Wish I could be more coherent. Hope it’s OK to throw them in here.


The life of the ‘theory’ journal

Interesting piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education on ‘The brief, wondrous life of the theory journal’, by Jeffrey J. Williams. The focus is especially on literary theory journals – Diacritics, New German Critique, Yale French Studies, Social Text, etc – but the point is wider. One of the key issues concerns the institutional backing of such journals when founded. It concludes with a fairly dismal view of the future:

The question of the future is the question of material backing. Today it’s clear that we have entered a different moment in the history of higher education; we’ve passed from the welfare-state university to the post-welfare-state university, determined by the protocols of privatization. Under its terms, the theory journal is becoming a residual form, like the philological journals.

Without the capacious financing for higher education, I predict that journals will return to being philanthropic projects, like the early little magazines, subject to private support, and thus the tastes and vicissitudes of that support. And they will become more rarefied as their readership shrinks—as the number of full-time faculty, who might publish in them and read them, becomes a yet smaller fraction of those who profess.

Eileen Joy responds forcefully at In The Middle, suggesting that the analysis is lacking a grasp of what has been happening in the last ten years or so, especially in the realm of open-access publishing. As well as some comments, she adds a letter she sent to The Chronicle which includes a long list of interesting, web-based journals that have been launched recently and relatively recently. As someone who has been involved in such ventures, Joy is well-placed to reject the idea that such ventures are ‘free’, noting that “immense amounts of human labor have to be donated every minute of the day to keep online journals going, for example”. But the possibilities are promising, and so Joy concludes by suggesting that:

In my eyes, the future for academic publishing looks bright, indeed, with more, and not less, of the professoriate and their students, as well as intellectuals and artists outside of the academy proper, joining together to create a more robust and diverse library among the “clouds” of the virtual and more material bookstores and libraries emerging alongside us today.

Both pieces are well worth a read for anyone interesting in the past, present and future of publishing.

The Antipode Graduate Student Scholarship 2012-2013

Posted on behalf of the Antipode editors:

Supporting a new generation of radical geographers… 

Graduate students in radical geography are invited to apply for this year-long award of US$2,500 and a complimentary three year subscription to Antipode. These funds are intended to provide resources to:

- attend an international conference;

- cover additional research expenses.

The successful applicant will be a current doctoral student working in any field of radical geographical scholarship. Applications are especially encouraged from the developing world and/or from those traditionally marginalised in the academy.

The competition runs every year and is announced in issues five and one of Antipode. The closing date for the 2012-2013 scholarship applications is 31 March 2012.

Application forms are available from the editorial office manager, Andrew Kent (antipode@live.co.uk). A decision will be made by Antipode’s international advisory board in April and all applicants will be notified of the result in May.


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