Publishing jam creates RAE fears

September 28, 2007

Academic claims delay could cause her to lose vital support for research. Melanie Newman reports.

An academic has spoken out over her fears that she will be excluded from next year's research assessment exercise because a publishing log jam has delayed her latest book.

Westminster University lecturer Eugenie Shinkle said her book would come out at least 15 months after she submitted it. She hit out amid concerns that a national rush to get research published in time for the RAE deadline is creating 11th-hour delays that could damage some academics' research profiles.

Dr Shinkle, a senior lecturer in photographic theory and criticism, submitted her manuscript in November on the understanding that it would be published within a year. But in June she was informed by the publisher that it would not be out until 2008 - after the December 2007 RAE deadline for published research.

"The publisher has had a flood of manuscripts, and there are issues of layout and design with my book so it will take longer to publish than expected," she said.

Dr Shinkle's book on fashion photography is her "prize outcome", which she hoped to submit for assessment in the RAE.

"I have other pieces of research, but they are not all admissible," she said. If she does not produce four research "outcomes", she can not be entered for the RAE. "It will appear that I've done nothing for the past three years," she said. In the worst case, she said, she could lose all support for her research.

One head of department at a post-92 university in London said the problem appeared to be "quite widespread".

"We're fairly sure that book publishers and journal publishers have been inundated and have had to delay some publications. The lead times for academic journals are ludicrously long anyway. In normal times, it's often a year after acceptance that the thing actually gets published.

"The fact is that some people [who are] eligible to be entered now can't be, because they would have been relying on publishers."

She said it was a particular concern for those with books due out because books carried "more weight" than journal articles in arts and humanities disciplines so it was "a real disaster" if they did not appear in time for the RAE.

Peter Gilroy, director of research at Manchester Metropolitan University and editor of The International Journal of Education for Teaching , which is published by Routledge, said that at a recent meeting the publisher's representative said there was a problem with a glut of submissions as a result of the RAE.

Professor Gilroy has dedicated an entire issue of his journal to UK researchers to help ease the pressure. But he said it was unlikely that the backlog would lead to academics being excluded from the RAE altogether: "I would look askance at an experienced academic who in three years could not produce four outputs."

Graham Hobbs, publishing director for journals at Routledge, said the company had taken several initiatives to help it cope with the glut and get research published in time. "We increased the number of pages in some journals to get articles in."

Many journals were also publishing electronically before the December deadline, he added, even if hard copies were not due out until 2008.

Some research panels have decided to accept online publications.

Ian Rowlands, director of research at University College London's Centre for Publishing, said the RAE publishing rush was "a major headache for journal publishers", although he said he had "no data, just anecdote".

But Mike Cruise, the pro vice-chancellor for research at Birmingham University, said: "Given that staff have had six years to plan their research outputs for the RAE, I am not sure I have much sympathy for them. We have been discussing outputs at some level with our staff since 2003."


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