The invisible labour and visible satisfaction of editing a journal

Editing a journal, even with a large team, undoubtedly is a lot of work, but is more than compensated for by being able to see what researchers are studying across the discipline

Sarah Armstrong, Michele Burman, Laura Piacentini

(Co-editors-in-Chief, Criminology and Criminal Justice)

CCJ image

Criminology and Criminal Justice, the official journal of the BSC, will be 20 years old in 2019. Over these two decades the journal has published, and continues to publish, empirical, methodological and theoretical work from around the world and in areas as diverse as the discipline of criminology itself. We have led a Scotland-based Editorial Team for two years (our first issue in which we edited content was in 2016) and have been invited to contribute to the BSC blog to reflect on the journal and our vision for it.

In applying for the Editorship of CCJ, we set out three aims:

  • To achieve wide international recognition and influence;
  • To publish and promote the highest quality work, particularly building on the journal’s existing reputation for strength in (a) offering a critical analysis of the crucial issues of our times, (b) areas of applied and policy related research, and (c) methodological diversity and rigour; and,
  • To embody a supportive and welcoming ethos that recognizes the values of collegiality, equality and diversity in the development and dissemination of world changing ideas.

We treat these aims as equally important and mutually constitutive. Of course all journals will be seeking to publish the best quality work and most also will be aiming for international impact. However, it was our belief after being involved in journals for many years as authors, reviewers and on editorial boards that inclusivity, collegiality and work-life balance are crucial to realising the first two aims. This has meant we share equally the role of Editor-in-Chief, and operate on a rotating on call basis, where one of the three of us takes the lead each month working with the Editorial Officer Dr Caitlin Gormley and the Associate Editors to manage that month’s workload of new paper submissions, revised submissions, queries from authors and reviewers and other business.

We strive towards collegiality and inclusivity not only in our interactions within the Board, which is composed of a range of scholars at different stage of career and institutions, but also by encouraging as much as possible, and very occasionally exercising discretion to moderate, positive and constructive feedback to authors. But it has been our pleasure to notice that in general the gratuitously harsh and biting review has become increasingly rare. On the other hand, being in a position to see all the papers that go through a journal brings home an understanding of how much free labour goes into academic publishing. The work of reviewers, and often editors as well, is invisible in university workload models but amounts to thousands of hours per year. And given how much we rely on colleagues’ good will, it continually amazes us how considerate and thorough reviewers are. And this applies to the most senior, well-established academics as to career scholars. We are looking at ways to acknowledge the work of reviewers, and are considering publishing an end of year thanks and list of reviewer names as some other journals do. We welcome feedback on this and other means of recognising this effort.

Metrics aren’t everything, but nevertheless can tell us how the journal is faring over time, and we are seeing great success in this. The journal’s impact factor is on the rise, increasing substantially, to 1.088 in 2016 (from 0.75 in 2015). This is attributable as much to the work of the prior, Leeds-based Editorial Team (led by Adam Crawford) as to our tenure, but of course, is ultimately a function of the quality and interest of work submitted to us. Manuscript submissions are up, increasing 35% between 2015 and 2016, with further rises in 2017 submissions (through October). Our acceptance rate for 2017 (thru October) is 25%. Downloads of CCJ articles have been growing in each year from 2015 to 2017. The most downloaded article in 2017 was by Kath Murray (issue 5), entitled ‘“Why have we funded this research?”: On politics, research and newsmaking criminology’ (over 3,600 times!) and the second most downloaded was by Esther FJC van Ginneken and David Hayes writing on ‘“Just” punishment? Offenders’ views on the meaning and severity of punishment’. These are only two examples of a range of stellar work published over the year.

In terms of international range and quality of work, we have put in place a new International Advisory Board consisting of scholars whose work as both authors and colleagues we admire. We look to the international board to act not only as reviewers, but as ambassadors for the journal, putting us in touch with potential authors and reviewers in their regions and fields. We have excellent representation from the UK, Europe, Asia, North America and Australia and New Zealand, and are seeking to deepen and develop our links to colleagues in African and Latin American countries. On this front, we have some exciting work from these regions that has already come out or will soon be published from a study of police officers in Ghana to a forthcoming study of restorative justice in Chile.

The first Special Issue under our Editorship is hot off the press (February 2018) and is on the theme of Coercive Control. It is guest edited by Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Sandra Walklate and Jude McCulloch and features papers from Canada, New Zealand, England, Scotland and Australia. This is an especially timely topic as countries in many parts of the world currently are considering whether to enact laws incorporating this concept. The articles share experiences from diverse jurisdictions and do not shy from critically considering the implications and need for new legislation. Keep an eye out for a blog on the issue on the journal’s webpage.

Editing a journal, even with a large team, undoubtedly is a lot of work, but is more than compensated for by being able to see what researchers are studying across the discipline, and to work with authors developing a paper for publication. We hope BSC members will consider publishing with CCJ as British Criminology has a longstanding and deserved reputation around the world for producing critical, reflexive and rigorous work.

Dr Sarah Armstrong, University of Glasgow, UK
Professor Michele Burman, University of Glasgow, UK
Professor Laura Piacentini, University of Strathclyde, UK

Photo copyright free – Stack of CCJs – Taken by Sarah Armstrong