By Kirsten J. Barnes, Center for Community-Based Partnerships
During the Editor's Panel held at the 13th Annual National Outreach Scholarship Conference, several editors for various research journals discussed the types of articles they are interested in publishing and what writers should do to better prepare their manuscripts for publication.
"We're creating not just scholarly work, we're creating a culture and an environment for engaged scholarly work," said Dr. Nancy Franz, editor of the Journal of Extension and Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach to Family and 4-H Youth Development within the Iowa State University College of Human Sciences.
The editors talked about their plight to bring more recognition to engaged scholarship, while defending and championing its academic merits.
"If I don't think the article can survive a peer review, I automatically reject it," said Dr. Hiram E. Fitzgerald, associate provost for University Outreach and Engagement at Michigan State University and editor of Infant Mental Health Journal. "I really don't feel it helps authors to go through a lengthy peer review process when the outcome is evident."
However, he said in some instances the feedback on a rejected article can be helpful if the article can be salvaged but simply needs more work. Yet, he had a special note for students who speak English as a second language to employ the insight of a person who is more familiar with the English language before submission.
"You don't want a reviewer to read a manuscript and be biased by the English," Fitzgerald said.
Another theme from the panel discussion was the acceptance of engaged scholarship journals. Although Fitzgerald is editor of a traditional journal, other editors represented newer journals, which focus solely on engaged scholarship.
Dr. Cassandra Simon, associate professor of social work at The University of Alabama and editor of the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, along with Dr. Ed Mullins, former dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences and production editor for JCES, discussed the journal's emphasis on community partnership and the inclusion of student and community voices on its pages.
Founded in 2007 as the brainchild of UA Vice President of Community Affairs Samory Pruitt, JCES actively seeks to incorporate more community partners and younger scholars into its format. Although it is available in print and online, JCES incorporates graphics and photos to make the work easier to understand by laypeople and more attractive to readers in general.
Simon said the challenge for JCES has been to establish itself as a scholarly journal that defines community scholarship from inception to dissemination, yet still presents research that is accepted as scientifically and scholarly valuable and includes community and student voices.
However, she welcomes young authors, but cautions them against expecting the editors to do the work for them.
"If they are a young author, we will work with them," Simon said. "But if it's a seasoned researcher, they should know how to write."
Franz echoed that sentiment.
"We're not here to do your work for you," Franz said, adding that the authors need to know what type of style the journal uses before submitting documents.
Because JOE started as a journal about extension services and community outreach, she said the publication changed its name to reflect the broader reach of the journal. Yet she said her journal still struggles with attracting alternative voices to its pages.
JCES incorporates additional voices by adding sidebars and additional authors to manuscripts with university scholars.
"Even though we're not getting a lot of submission from students or community partners, within every edition there is an article that has authors who are students or community partners along with a university author," Mullins said. "For example, we published a sidebar from a community partner that gave a different perspective on the research."
Each of the editors advised writers to do research on the journals to which they submit articles by finding out what types of manuscripts the journal usually prints. They also cautioned them against manuscript shopping, or submitting the same article to multiple journals.
"Just because it is a disciplinary journal, don't rule it out," Fitzgerald said. "Look to see what types of methodology they are open to. Find out if they're looking for rigor regardless of the approach. But don't think you can't publish in a disciplinary journal just because you're doing engaged work."
The University of Georgia prints the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement. However, the editors recently stopped printing. It is now only available online, but officials say subscription rates are up.