Category Archives: General

Originally posted on Thinking culture:

Antipode have announced that from now on their book reviews will be open access on their website, rather than being in the journal. The journal Society and Space also has a similar arrangement. This seems to be working well. Society and Space publish regular and timely reviews. I’m sure the same will happen with Antipode. The move seems to be based on the general feeling that book reviews can be more responsive and reach a larger audience if the are published on open access sites rather than I the subscription journal. It would seem the reviewers are happy with this arrangement.

It has been just under a year since I took over as reviews editor for Information, Communication & Society. Its been great fun finding interesting books and commissioning reviews. I’ve found that if I curate the books, then people are often keen to review books that they might…

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Environment and Planning A issue on Neogeography

Environment and Planning A, one of the other journals in the Environment and Planning group, has published a theme issue on Neogeography, edited by Matthew W. Wilson and Mark Graham. Several authors of Society and Space papers are part of the issue.


Regular Society and Space contributor Andy Merrifield on the future of urban studies at the cities@manchester blog.

Originally posted on cities@manchester:

via flickr by luketelliott

via flickr by luketelliott

by Andy Merrifield, Leverhulme Visiting Professor, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester

In talking about urban studies I can only talk from and for the perspective I know best: the critical urban tradition that developed out of Marxism in the 1970s, as pioneered by the likes of Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey and Manuel Castells. I tried to document and contribute toward this tradition in my book Metromarxism, where I claimed some of the best urban studies has been done by certain Marxists, and some the best Marxism has been done by certain urban theorists.

If we look back at the debates that raged in the 1970s, one of the biggest was about the nature of the urban. Just what is the urban anyway? What is a city? Why should it command such interest for critical scholars? The obvious rejoinder is that the city…

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Peer Review Guide

A short guide to peer review is available to download here. Much of this is Science-focused, but there is a lot useful across disciplines. Some good discussion of the limitations and benefits of the process.

Eyal Weizman – Society and Space 30th anniversary lecture

This is the video of Eyal Weizman’s lecture – Forensic Architecture –  at the Royal Geographical Society – Institute of British Geographer’s Annual Conference in July 2012, celebrating the journal’s 30th anniversary.

Many thanks to Eduardo Serafin for filming this and linking the talk to the slides; and Jane M. Jacobs for her assistance.

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”.


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