JCES Conference Call Notes 2/23/2011

March 4, 2011

Staff members in attendance

Samory T. Pruitt, Ph.D., Publisher
Cassandra Simon, Ph.D., Editor
Edward Mullins, Ph.D., Production Editor
Heather Pleasants, Ph.D., Book Review Editor
Jessica Averitt Taylor, M.S.W., Assistant to the Editor

Board members in attendance

Marsha Adams, D.S.N., The University of Alabama
Theodore Alter, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University
Robert Bardon, Ph.D., North Carolina State University
Anna Sims Bartel, PhD, Private Consultant
Delicia Carey, Ph.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Hiram Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Philip Greasley, Ph.D., University of Kentucky
Susan Jakes, Ph.D., North Carolina State University
Philip Johnson, Ph.D., The University of Alabama
Jay Lamar, Director, Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities, Auburn University
Jacob Oluwoye, Ph.D., Alabama A&M University
Michael Orok, Ph.D., Alabama A&M University
Nick Sanyal, Ph.D., University of Idaho
John Wheat, M.D., The University of Alabama




The meeting was opened by Dr. Pruitt, who expressed deep appreciation to the board members for their time and dedication. Dr. Simon also thanked the board for their work with the journal.

Dr. Oluwoye stated that he had taken his copy of JCES to conferences, and suggested that board members attending international conferences might take along copies of JCES to publicize the journal.

Dr. Fitzgerald said that his quote on our “Call for Manuscripts” flier conveyed his thoughts regarding JCES. He also described JCES as a “well-edited publication.”

Dr. Alter congratulated the editor and staff on getting JCES up and running, and said that he is impressed with the appearance and substance of the journal. Dr. Alter feels that JCES is invaluable to practitioners and includes interesting and insightful contributions. Furthermore, Dr. Alter has colleagues in Australia who might be interested in involvement with JCES.

Dr. Sanyal stated that JCES fills an important niche and motivates students.

Jay Lamar shared that Dr. Mullins’ recent visit to the Auburn campus was inspirational for students and faculty and instrumental in establishing connections. Dr. Alter pointed out the necessity of holding ourselves and our contributors to the highest standards of scholarship. On that note, Dr. Jakes noted that our rejection rate demonstrated our commitment to engaged scholarship scholars. However, she expressed concern about the length of time between acceptance of a manuscript and its publication date.

Dr. Simon stated that we are willing to work with our authors because this is a new area of scholarship. As JCES has become more established, and the field of engagement scholarship more founded, we have seen an increase in the quality of submissions, requiring less time on the production end to bring the manuscripts up to the quality we are looking for.

Our manuscript numbers were reviewed by Dr. Mullins.

Thus, with the final decision still pending on 21 submissions, our acceptance rate for the first three years was 50.8%.

Dr. Pruitt reviewed the many setting at which JCES has been represented Dr. Simon is very excited about our upcoming spring issue. Although not intentionally solicited/planned, we will present two international articles in the spring issue.

According to Dr. Mullins, the quality of manuscript submissions is steadily improving, including more accessible language, applicability beyond the traditional campus setting, and an increase in the number of relevant accompanying graphics. We intend to have video available on the JCES website www.jces.ua.edu over the next 18 months. Presented videos will be featured as enhancements to our manuscripts.

We have sent out a “Call for Manuscripts” in connection with the 2012 National Outreach Scholarship Conference (NOSC), to be hosted by The University of Alabama. The theme for NOSC 2012 is “Partner. Inspire. Change.” We hope to receive manuscripts that demonstrate all three commanding verbs in worthwhile projects, and will compile a special issue of JCES based on submission to the 2012 conference.

Dr. Greasley asked if we have a sense of the typical timeline for manuscript submissions to JCES, from receipt of the manuscript to time of publication (assuming acceptance). Dr. Simon replied that manuscripts in need of help tend to take longer (such as many of our earlier submissions), but more recent manuscript submissions have been increasingly impressive and enjoyed a turnaround time of about three months. We do have some residual (older/earlier) manuscripts that we have probably kept for too long due to the amount of effort required by the JCES team and editorial board. However, our more recent submissions are improving. Lately, we have noted that new submissions tend to require less work. This is related to the maturation of JCES and maturation within the field of community engagement and scholarship.

Dr. Pleasants provided an update on the book review section of JCES. Over the issues published so far, we included book reviews from four faculty members and five students. The reviews have tended to come from a variety of places, most notably with strong representation from universities with a stated engaged scholarship agenda. The books reviewed have mostly hailed from the humanities, arts, and social sciences; we would like to see reviews from business, law, engineering, health, medicine, and specific engagement scholarship texts. Dr. Pleasants encouraged the board members to have colleagues and students submit ideas for possible reviews, along with ideas for books to review.

Dr. Carey stated that she enjoys the journal and said “kudos to the team.” She is impressed with the cover and graphics, which are always quite appropriate to the topics therein. Dr. Pruitt noted that Dr. Mullins is responsible for the design and layout, as well as the website and web content.

Dr. Mullins is trying to establish an interactive section on the website so that people can respond to the content and participate in discussions. We have a plan for this and have identified a student to work on a blog and interactive commentary. Any ideas from board members regarding a model website are welcome.

Dr. Simon is very appreciative of the work completed by the JCES board. Members have demonstrated outstanding commitment and really helped to develop the journal.

There are a few minor bumps in the road related to reviews. Sometimes review requests and reminder emails are ignored. Please just let us know if you are unable to complete a review. We prefer to hear from you so that we can extend the deadline or locate another reviewer in a timely manner. We do not have an automated system to send reminder emails. Jessica sends reminder emails one week after missed review dates, and will start sending reminder emails one week in advance of requested review return dates.

Dr. Simon noted that as of November 2010 we began sharing masked reviews with both reviewers once each review has been returned to us. Dr. Jakes stated that she has received such masked reviews, and found it very helpful, especially as the journal progresses. Others agreed.

Dr. Simon said that we are in need of student pieces and commentary from the field (from community partners). We have a few of these in hand, and are very appreciative of those who have encouraged community partners and students to submit.

Dr. Mullins noted that we receive manuscripts from a diverse group of colleges and universities, many of them leaders in the field, but that we still need to hear from some of the biggest names in engaged scholarship.

Dr. Pruitt stated that we have received a recent question about the possibility of manuscripts being submitted by board members. Dr. Simon said that this is perfectly acceptable, and has in fact already happened. Our masked review process maintains integrity throughout the process. The board members expressed general agreement with this opinion.

Dr. Mullins pointed out that most of our student representation (in the regular manuscript section) occurs as students are listed as co-authors with senior scholars as the primary authors. We would like to see more student-authored regular manuscripts. Dr. Fitzgerald said that while he understood the intent of having different types of contributors to the journal, it is critically important to make sure these contributions reflect the highest scholarly standards.

Dr. Wheat said that in reviewing papers for JCES, some had great motive and intent but looked immature and unpolished. As a result, Dr. Wheat spent inordinate amounts of time “tutoring” in order to get the paper to the point of publication. The paper to which Dr. Wheat was able to devote such time was published, while another to which he was able to devote much less time has not made it into print.

Dr. Fitzgerald, who serves as editor for another journal, noted that he is currently essentially rewriting three articles submitted to his journal by international colleagues. The data and analyses are good, but the English is bad. Dr. Fitzgerald asserted that it is his decision as editor to devote large amounts of time to manuscripts with potential promise, and similar decisions must be made with JCES.

Dr. Simon noted that there may be some misunderstanding about our student papers in this discussion. We have two possibilities for student submissions. One possibility is a student essay, submitted for possible inclusion in the “Student Voices” section of JCES. These student essays are typically about 500 words and tend to center on reflections and experiences resulting from an engaged-scholarship project. The “Student Voices” section is completely different from a regular manuscript submitted by a student. A regular manuscript submission that simply happens to have been authored by a student is still subjected to the same rigorous review process and standards. Our reviewers are not aware that the author is a student, and the manuscript is reviewed just as all other regular manuscript submissions. Dr. Simon does not typically look at the author status when making decisions about publication except when she is trying to decide whether to commit her time to insertion of comments and revision requests. The general rule is that Dr. Simon is more willing to commit her time to work with less senior authors, but less willing to commit her time to lengthy revision and reworking of manuscripts by senior authors (associate or full professors). Dr. Simon stated that some board members have emailed her saying that particular manuscripts should not have been assigned out for review at all. She noted that she is typically not heavily involved with manuscripts before the review process. Manuscripts are submitted, acknowledged, assigned out for review based on expertise, and then sent to Dr. Simon along with the completed reviews. This system has been necessary due to time constraints, and manuscripts have been rejected without being sent out for review based on obvious flaws such as lack of literature review or findings. But it might be time to review that part of the review process that occurs before the manuscripts are sent out for review. The time our board devotes to JCES is truly invaluable, and we want to be sure that we respect your commitment.

There was general agreement in a number of comments by board members that the relative newness of the field was good reason to “go the extra mile” to help bring interesting, but unevenly constructed, manuscripts up to the level of quality necessary to be published.

At this point in the meeting, Dr. Simon stated that she is very appreciative of the accolades provided thus far but also seeks ideas about how we can improve Dr. Orok volunteered that he has been keeping up with the number of submissions by practitioners and does not get the feeling that many people outside of academia are submitting to JCES. We need more manuscripts from community engagement experts. Dr. Mullins noted that we have not had many submissions from practitioners apart from partnerships with academy members. We would like to see more manuscripts by community partners, which would of course still need to meet our standards.

An update on the upcoming 2011 NOSC was provided by Dr. Fitzgerald, who stated that this year will present a slightly longer conference than in the past. The emphasis this year will be on accountability and outcomes in our engagement. In addition, the conference will include a formal session for engagement journal editors. Dr. Fitzgerald said that there are now at least six in the field. For more information about NOSC 2011, please visit http://outreachscholarship.org/. As previously noted, The University of Alabama will host NOSC 2012.

Dr. Pruitt and Dr. Simon expressed hope that our board members will serve another two-year term. We have transitions approaching with the anticipated implementation of associate editors and a new editor in 2012 (or thereabouts). Associate editors by discipline will handle manuscripts and encourage new submissions. We are considering four to six associate editors, to be announced fall 2012. The position of editor is not a paid position, and at some point we will need to recruit another editor. It is likely that our associate editors, as well as our next editor, will be drawn from the editorial board.

Dr. Fitzgerald strongly urged Dr. Simon to give thought to staying in the position longer than she might be thinking of, despite the “pain and agony.” It is absolutely critical in the first five years of a journal, he said, to establish a perception and reputation of stability among the potential audience. The usual five-year term commitment provides sufficient time for this sense of stability, but JCES is too new to support a transition in the position of editor at the present time. Dr. Fitzgerald noted that the factors of being an editor are mostly sacrificial, and require time and passion for the content and the field. Dr. Fitzgerald currently has eight associate editors and has had opportunity over a five-year span to view their work and diversity. The five-year span has allowed Dr. Fitzgerald to make strong recommendations about the appointment of the next editor, based on his observations and interactions with the associate editors. Dr. Fitzgerald said, “Cassie, you are doing a great job!” Several of the board members joined in with cries of “hear, hear!”

As the meeting time drew to a close, Dr. Pruitt once again expressed his appreciation for the time and commitment of our board members.

Dr. Sanyal stated that he has enjoyed the process as JCES has grown and matured.

Dr. Pruitt informed the board that we will look at establishing an informal time to meet with everyone at the 2011 and 2012 National Outreach Scholarship Conferences.

Our next conference call is scheduled for Wednesday, September 21, 2011, at 2 p.m. CST.

Email Comments

Comments emailed by Dr. Greasley of the University of Kentucky as follows:

As one suggestion that might enhance your book review function, consider writing to major academic publishers dealing in works on university-community engagement and telling them that if they’ll send you complimentary copies of works on engagement, you’ll send them to the leading scholars in the field seeking book reviews on them. Doing so will allow you to solicit reviews on important engagement works by leading scholars and practitioners. And having those leading people doing the reviewing should enhance the overall prestige of the journal.

One more suggestion — while you want to provide venues for students, your first loyalty must be to the quality of the idea. If the idea is excellent, you can give assistance in cleaning it up and/or documentation. If the quality if the idea/concept/approach is not excellent, you need to shunt them off in another direction — perhaps to a website area open to student work that doesn’t meet the standards of publication in the journal itself.

End Note:

The editor welcomes additional comments about any matter of interest to any board member, including comments from those unable to join the conference call on the 23rd. Send your comments to jces@ua.edu. Page 5 reprints the call for manuscripts we sent out earlier. It is included here to remind you to let your colleagues know about the special edition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.