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Publications Day: Focus on Publishing with E-Journals

Jan Stahl, English

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Publishing in an online venue often draws more readers to an academic article than a traditional print journal does. BMCC’s Publications Day at the CETLS explored this possibility and others for online publishing, not to mention the potential disadvantages.   

E-publications are growing. Many are peer-reviewed and therefore comprise an acceptable venue for publication. What is “the number one question” that BMCC’s college-wide Personnel and Budget Committee asks about the publication of a faculty member seeking tenure and promotion? In the words of Dean Michael Gillespie: “Is it peer-reviewed?”

The April 7, 2011 event, organized by CETLS Director Dr. Victoria Mondelli, began with a display of faculty and staff publications. Colleagues viewed each others’ work and informally discussed their projects. The display included scholarly articles in peer-reviewed print and e-journals, encyclopedia entries, book chapters, and fiction and poetry collections.  

“Comparing E-Publishing with Traditional Publishing,” moderated by Prof. Rachel Theilheimer, Chair of Teacher Education was the featured panel. Presenters discussed tips and strategies for publishing in e-journals as well as printed venues. Dean Michael Gillespie provided opening remarks. He thanked the panelists and reminded the audience that publishing “is a very important activity.”

A Story of Success

The first panelist, Prof. Diane Simmons, English, offered the audience advice about publishing fiction. Prof. Simmons, whose recent short story collection Little America (Ohio State University Press) won the 2010 Ohio State University award for fiction, revealed the strategies she used to get her fiction published.  

Research, organization, and volume are central to getting published, according to Prof. Simmons. She advised researching the literary marketplace and attending writers’ conferences. She advised keeping organized records. Prof. Simmons kept strict records of where she sent each of her stories, and which places rejected them. Additionally, she sent each story to at least fifteen places. “By sheer volume, I began to get published,” Prof. Simmons admitted.

She claimed that she learned much from rejection and advised “being thick-skinned.” Prof. Simmons is currently promoting Little America at independent book-stores, which she believes are often more advantageous to authors of books published with university presses than the chain book-stores.

Prof. Simmons offered a word of caution to potential authors: think twice before making your fiction available on websites. Several of her stories had been published online prior to her receiving a book contract and this led to some difficulties with her publisher.  

No Barriers

The second panelist, Prof. Phyllis Niles, Library, spoke about the advantages of publishing in an open access e-journal. These journals are usually peer-reviewed. Since there are no financial barriers to access them, these journals are available to a wider audience than traditional print journals. Readers can access them anywhere and at anytime. Many of these journals have embedded links to other websites.

To find e-journals, Prof. Niles recommended searching the DOAJ site (Directory of Open Access Journals).

The Goal is to get Read

The third panelist, Prof. George Otte, University Director of Academic Technology, CUNY, said “what matters most” in scholarly publishing is not whether an article appears in a print or e-journal, but that the journal is “refereed and reputable.” According to Dr. Otte, the advantage of publishing in an e-journal is that e-journals, with their easy accessibility and lack of cost, attract more readers than journals that need to be bought by subscription or read in a library. As Dr. Otte acknowledged, our goal as scholars is “to get read.”      

Quality Assurance Needed

Concurring with this view was the fourth panelist, Phil Pecorino, Professor of Philosophy and Sub-committee Member of the Standards and Practices on Academic Technology, Queensborough Community College. According to Prof. Pecorino, e-publishing is more egalitarian and democratic than traditional publishing. It allows for a wide audience and immediate responses.

Before publishing with an e-journal, it is important to be assured of its quality, according to Prof. Pecorino. The journal should have a blind peer review process, and indicate its editorial board members. It is also helpful to know the percentage of admissions that are accepted.

For faculty interested in publishing with open access journals, Prof. Pecorino recommended becoming familiar with the DOAJ site (Directory of Open Access Journals) and SPARC site (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).

Prof. Pecorino published six textbooks on the CUNY website for Queensborough Community College. This allows his students to read his books without incurring any cost. Prof. Pecorino does not advise untenured faculty to make their books available in this way since there is no standard process for such books to be reviewed. 

Considering Media

The final panelist, Ms. Lisa White, Media Center, told the audience that if they are making a video they need to be aware of the copyright laws for using an image or song. She added that when submitting a video to film festivals, know their rules and regulations. Some festivals will not accept media that has already been available online in too many places.  

For those who make their videos available online, Ms. White cautioned, “People will appropriate your stuff. Be ready.”