We’re happy to be back to the BILD blog. It has been a year since we wrote our last post (Q&A with J-BILD Editorial Team). That was as J-BILD, the open source, collaborative peer mentoring journal that we are managing together, was just getting off the ground. Here we are a year later, with two solid issues under our belt. Take a look! We thought we’d end this academic year of BILD blog posts with some reflections on the journal processes—what has worked well; some challenges we’ve encountered; and our hopes for the future of J-BILD.
One of the successes we’re most proud of is the reach that J-BILD has already had and the community we’re continuing to build, both in terms of readers, but also in terms of authors and editorial team members. The BILD blog was a very important part of the beginnings of J-BILD. There is already a well-established and international BILD community of readers and guest bloggers, and this gave us a network to reach out to for editorial team members (copy editors and peer mentors), as well as authors. We were surprised and thrilled to receive submissions from authors in countries across oceans and to receive requests to be a peer mentor from scholars well beyond our own (or BILD’s) network. It has been inspiring to hear positive feedback from members of the J-BILD team.
This brings us the second success we’d like to share; that is, the positive feedback we’ve had from authors and peer mentors on J-BILD’s collaborative peer mentoring model. Here’s a small sampling of the comments we’ve received:
“The peer mentor approach is unique and worthwhile. I hope others will follow your lead.”
“I would like to commend you on what seems like a positive and exciting direction for academic publication in the area of Language, Identity and Belonging. Like many academics, I have been frustrated with current peer-review practices, which do little to support the integrity of academic research, and to read about your seemingly egalitarian approach gives me great hope for early-career academics in this field.”
[From a Peer Mentor to an author] “I am so happy that we are going to work on the manuscript and get it ready to be published in J-BILD. I am pretty much sure that it will be a great learning experiences for both of us.”
“Thank you for the opportunity of publishing a paper in J-BILD. It would be a pleasure for me to be a peer mentor for the journal. You can add me to the list.”
“If the goal is to lend support to writers as they strengthen their article (rather than the adversarial “prosecuting lawyer cross-examining a witness” approach often encountered in the academic publishing process), this goal was, in my view, fully met! What a great experience!”
When we first launched J-BILD, we were not sure if people would put their trust in a new journal with a new (unfamiliar) peer review model. But they did. Over the last year, we are proud to have successfully published two complete issues. From our first call for papers, we received 10 submissions. We published six articles (five English, one French) in our first issue, which included three research studies, two critical literature reviews, and one research proposal. From our second call for papers, we received 15 submissions. From those submissions, we published eight articles (seven English, one French) in our second issue, which included five research studies and three critical literature reviews. This success has been possible thanks to the extremely dedicated and committed members of the mentoring and editorial team.
With two issues now behind us, we have learned a lot. There have been some bumps along the way, but by staying true to the core values that drive the journal (open scholarship, collaboration, and mentorship with new and established scholars), we are finding ways to smooth the bumps.
One of the biggest challenges has been the tool we are using to manage documents for the journal—Google docs. Most scholars are used to using Word and track changes for editing documents. We wanted to avoid emailing documents back and forth, as well and try to keep track of the multiple versions of manuscripts that emailing can result in. Google docs is new to some people, so we expected to be guiding authors and mentors through technical learning curves. However, where we’ve found some resistance is from some people who have felt uncomfortable or uneasy with editing and mentoring “in the open”; with Google docs, all parties involved (author, peer mentor, copy editor, etc.) can see changes and suggestions made on the manuscript immediately. That said, the concept of editing in the open reflects our core value of collaboration and open scholarship. We see our role as Managing Editors, in part, is to act as mentors to J-BILD authors and editorial team members. We offer a lot of support and quick responses to questions and issues as they come up. Over time, our goal is to have an established community of technologically-primed scholars who can leverage the full potential that Google docs allows (for instance, flagging us in comments when there are issues that need our attention; the ability to work offline), as well as join us in the practice of scholarship in the open.
Another challenge that we have faced is administrative and related to managing such a tight publication timeline. We were intentionally ambitious with our publication timeline, aiming to publish most of the submissions that we accept within the same publication cycle as they are received. This means, for example, that a manuscript that is submitted on or before our July 31 deadline would ideally be published in the November issue of the same year. There are a few reasons for such a tight turnaround; first, we wanted to be able to publish twice a year without having to juggle two issues concurrently–our current timeline allows us to finish one issue entirely without overlap with the submission deadline for the next. Secondly, and more importantly, our tight publication turnaround reflects an important part of J-BILD’s values–that knowledge should be free and scholarship open and accessible. This ties back to our beginnings with BILD, which was founded, in part, so that scholars in our community could engage in open scholarly dialogue outside of the ivory tower of traditional publishing. Speedy publishing allows us to support authors in getting their ideas out to the academic community fast enough that they can engage in and respond to conversations about their research. We should mention that working to quickly to publish manuscripts does not lower our expectations of rigour and quality. To manage this tight timeline, we are learning to adjust our expectations that all manuscripts under peer mentoring will be ready in time for the issue in the same cycle. At the same time, we are still determined to continue offering a quick turnaround time as an option.
Hopes for the Future
As the J-BILD community continues to grow, we hope to be able to work on a Special Issue of J-BILD where we invite authors to explore a specific topic, theme, or question. Our ideas are still taking shape, and we would love to hear from the community of BILD readers and followers: what topics, themes, or questions would you be interested in seeing J-BILD explore in a special issue?
As a purely online journal, we want this to mean that we do more than publish words. We hope to see authors leverage technological allowances and include multimedia in their manuscripts. We envision the inclusion of sound clips, video, or drawings as relevant and valuable ways of sharing data and research.
We also would love to see readers take advantage of the option to leave comments on publications. We think this is a really exciting step in the world of open scholarship as it encourages collaboration and public dialogue on public research. We hope to keep finding other ways to break down the walls of anonymity that characterize traditional publication models.
On behalf of the J-BILD editorial team, we wish the entire BILD community a healthy, restorative, and happy summer.
Alison and Lauren (firstname.lastname@example.org)