Journals blame RAE for shortage of young editors

March 17, 2006

Collections of academic work are under threat as young academics shun editing roles in favour of publishing papers because of pressures generated by the 2008 research assessment exercise, it has been claimed.

Senior editors of academic collections in the humanities say they are being forced to look abroad for section editors.

Stephen Parkinson, an Oxford University lecturer and editor of T he Year's Work in Modern Language Studies , said that young academics are missing out on expanding their knowledge as a result of RAE pressure.

He said: "People are concerned that support work is less highly rated. It's critical work, but getting RAE co-ordinators and panels to appreciate that is difficult. It's a very important synthesis of information for academics, and particularly for young academics. It allows them to take stock of a larger area than they might have appreciated previously."

John Batchelor, editor of Modern Language Review (English and American literature) and the Yearbook of English Studies , said he had a surplus of unsolicited essays and a dearth of editors.

"Quite a lot of people are seeking to get published before the RAE deadline," he said. "(But) goodwill is now highly taxed. It's an indirect and deplorable consequence of the RAE. Everybody says they need to be published in peer-reviewed journals, but without the work we do, peer-reviewed articles would not exist."

Dr Parkinson said: "We are moving quite fast to a time where editorial functions will be done by paid employees and not by academics as part of their general academic work. These works are critically important to the academic community.

Malcolm Cook, chair of the Modern Humanities Research Association and professor of 18th-century French studies at Exeter University, said: "It's very hard to get individuals in Britain to take ownership of a section (even though) it is the lifeblood of what we do."

The editors say that young academics are focusing on publishing research papers because they are likely to affect more directly ratings and future grants awarded on the back of RAE results.

Ed Hughes, RAE manager, said that academic referees on the assessment panels in the humanities were "sensitive to the issue". He said that RAE criteria in those subject areas explicitly recognised a range ofJediting work as legitimate research output.

Mr Hughes said thatJpanels had made dispensations for early-career researchersJso that the number of citedJresearch outputs might be fewer than that expectedJofJmore experienced academics.

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