Persistence in Academic Publishing

As we close out 2019, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the fact that it’s been ten years since I earned my Ph.D. Things are good for me. I’m lucky and privileged to be a full professor with tenure. This journey, however, wasn’t easy. Academia is like a series of races, where you’re often crawling past a finish line dehydrated and glad it’s over. Take for instance publishing. I just had an article come out that took five years to get published. I also had another recent article that took six years. This means rejection after rejection, a lot of negative feedback from reviewers, as well as the purgatory of several revise and resubmits. Sure, I have a writing strategy. However, there’s no way to really anticipate or plan for the inevitable heartbreak of being rejected after a third round of R&Rs. My point in bringing this up is to emphasize that writing, especially academic writing, is difficult. It’s hard practically, intellectually, as well as emotionally.

So here are some thoughts:

  1. As people have started doing on Twitter, we should normalize rejection. There are two parts to his. The first is we need to demystify the process of academic writing and publishing. This means openly talking about the journey from the data, the field, or wherever, to the article or book. The second part is honestly talking about the stumbles, so we have a culture that reinforces the idea that rejection is not the same as failure.
  2. Another part of this involves understanding that there are different audiences out there for different work. Unfortunately, this might mean that you end up with a reviewer (or editor) who simply disagrees with your approach. So, the rejection isn’t about you or your work. Real story: I once had minor R&R. However, when I resubmitted it, it went to an incoming editor who disagreed with my approach and desk-rejected it.
  3. Yet, that doesn’t mean that your work is perfect. Really, no one’s work is perfect. This means one has to understand the difference between constructive criticism, and someone being a jerk. For a great discussion of this, check out his episode of the SocAnnex podcast on “Academic Hazing.”

Wrapping this post up (and closing out the decade), it will be interesting to see how academic work changes in the next ten years.