JHU Press Blog

Generous, Generative Peer Review

by eea | Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 12:00 PM

My opening proposition: Peer review at its finest is an act of extraordinary generosity and is capable of engendering generosity in its wake.

Before I go further, though, let me acknowledge that I have, like all academic authors, been on the receiving end of the “reviewer 2” treatment: the review that seems pointlessly contrary, personally motivated, or otherwise determined to destroy the author’s confidence. I’m afraid that I’ve also likely been reviewer 2 at some point, frustrated by a piece of writing that seems to me to overlook something obvious and frankly a bit short-tempered about it.

Peer review can be done badly, or in the wrong spirit, but when done well it is an act of attention to the work of another that makes a powerful contribution to the development of both the field and its community of practice. Peer review at its best fosters not competition but connection, operating not in an economy of scarcity but in a space of collaborative abundance.

But creating the conditions under which peer reviews, and peer reviewers, can be their best — can be collaborative rather than competitive — is not always simple. What might we do in...Read More

On the Occasion of Peer Review Week

by eea | Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - 12:00 PM

I have to admit that I’m new to the celebration of Peer Review Week, now in its fifth year, but not new to peer review or the concept of Quality that’s the focus of this year’s observance. I have always held great respect for the process of peer review and those who give of their time to examine a colleague’s publication. Peer review is an honored tradition, an effective method to objectively reflect on and evaluate another’s work in the interest of improvement. The process offers a constructive exchange and the opportunity to think critically about our work, from a relatively unbiased source. It’s not perfect, but it does work.

I view and value the peer review process from three perspectives: as a professional – a physician seeking continued education, as an author seeking respect and affirmation from colleagues, and as a clinician advising, guiding and educating patients, including recommending books. While there are other sound sources of information, it takes more time and effort on the reader’s (my) part to make that determination and analyze the methods, data, results and conclusions in a published non-peer-reviewed work. And in an era where anything can be posted online or self-published,...Read More

Research and the Rites of Passage: Peer Review as part of the Process

by eea | Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - 12:00 PM

If you wish to send a chill through an audience of graduate students and young scholars, just mention the custom among academic tribes known as “Publish or Perish.” Horror stories of punitive departmental and campus review committees often extend to the infamy of harsh editorial boards at journals and university presses. The stakes are high and, often, so are the publication acceptance standards. Less clear is whether consideration of manuscripts, whether for journal articles, conference podium presentations, or book publication, are fair.

I welcome an opportunity to write about this because my credentials are bona fide. Namely, I probably have more rejection letters from editors and publishers than most readers of this forum. Worth keeping in mind is that in scholarly writing for publication, batting averages do not count as the whole story. And, speaking of stories, if you happen to have a good story to tell via your research, whether in history or sociology or literature or zoology, quality and commitment ultimately matter a lot.

I like the concept and commitment of peer review in scholarly publication and research grants applications. It is not infallible, but I think it is a good and certainly well-intentioned practice to...Read More

Peer Review Week: Singing the Unsung

by eea | Monday, September 16, 2019 - 12:00 PM

“Do not publish this book!”

This is the shortest peer review I’ve ever received, and by far, the most direct. In five short words, it spoke volumes. I can’t tell you who wrote it—that would violate a trust—but I can tell you the book never saw the light of day. Most peer reviews are more constructive, but this one stands out in my mind for its, well, minimalism.

Most peer reviews are less declarative and less decisive. Some run ten pages or more describing the book’s ideas and improvements the author could make. The reviewer who takes her charge seriously—to provide constructive feedback about the potential book—creates something that the book’s author will find useful. It’s also terrifically flattering. What, after all, is more satisfying than knowing that someone has read your work, thought about it, and responded to it?

University presses vary greatly in their size and scope, but the one aspect that unites them is their reliance on peer review. We use peer review to help decide what we publish. Since editors can’t be an expert in every field in which they acquire, they use other scholars who are “peers” of the author to help...Read More

The Importance of Book Reviews

by bjs | Monday, September 16, 2019 - 10:00 AM

The age-old academic adage of "publish or perish" still exists. Publishing a book can play a critical role in the future of any academic. However, one piece of that important puzzle plays an important role in the journals published by the JHU Press.

Book reviews.

Many of our 90 journals include reviews of important scholarship in each issue. These essays might not always get the attention of the other articles published by our journals, but the reviews play many critical roles in academic life.

We interviewed Book Review Editors from three of our journals to learn about the importance of the work they do.

Audio titled The Importance of Book Reviews

The age-old academic adage of "publish or perish" still exists. Publishing a book can play a critical role in the future of any academic. However, one piece of that important puzzle plays an important role in the journals published by the JHU Press.

Book reviews.

Many of our 90 journals include reviews of important scholarship in each issue. These essays might not always get the attention of the other articles published by our journals, but the reviews play many critical roles in academic...Read More

Water Resources: Science and Society

by eea | Friday, September 13, 2019 - 3:00 PM

Water scarcity affects four of 10 people around the globe. Ninety percent of all natural disasters are water-related. The year is 2019, and we live in a highly connected world with endless technology at our fingertips, yet more than two billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. The result: hundreds of thousands of children under five die every year from diarrheal diseases. Our water challenges are not restricted to household use. Energy production often requires large amounts of water, and agriculture accounts for 70% of global water withdrawals. Energy and food production are highly dependent on the withdrawal and consumption of water—more often than not, the withdrawal and consumption of the same water vital to sustaining our ecosystems.

Yet, it is not all doom and gloom. There is room for optimism, but to move us toward sustainable development, we need to understand how much water there is on earth, and how it is distributed over space and time. We need to understand how much water humans need, and how much water the environment needs. In the face of a changing climate, understanding the foundations of water supply and demand is a critical first step to moving...Read More

Travel Agent to the (Literary) Stars

by eea | Thursday, September 12, 2019 - 12:00 PM

Somehow, without quite meaning to, I’ve become a sort of de facto travel agent to the (literary) stars. It all began in 2010 with my sixth book, Lighting Out for the Territory: How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain , which concerned the transformative half-decade that Twain spent in the mining camps, boomtowns and newspaper offices of the American West, learning to become the writer we know and love today. My follow-up book on Twain’s peripatetic career, American Vandal: Mark Twain Abroad (2015), dealt with the 12 years that Twain and his long-suffering family passed abroad, mostly in Europe but also on the globe-spanning tour of the Pacific that gave birth to his two-volume travel book, Following the Equator . As I noted then, “For a man who enjoyed being called the American, Mark Twain spent a surprising amount of time living and traveling abroad.” He was Huckleberry Finn with a valid passport.

Between my two Twain books I wrote Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America , an account of Wilde’s antic 1882 tour of Canada and the United States. No one can spend time in Oscar’s company without laughing out loud at...Read More

Separated: Q&A with author William D. Lopez

by eea | Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 2:00 PM

Why did you write Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid ?

I decided to write Separated because the stories I was told deserved more depth, empathy, and richness than other formats would permit. The lives of the women and families at the core of the book are filled with trauma and pain, but also with resiliency, creativity, and the bravery needed to keep families together. I needed a format that allowed me to honor a larger range of human experiences, that allowed the reader to journey with those who lived through a home raid to understand at a visceral level what it means to be a target of immigration enforcement or connected to someone who is.

I can’t really say that I “decided” to write this book. Rather, I felt as though I couldn’t not write this book. I had been trusted with the most intimate parts of people’s lives, and I owed it to those who shared them with me to, in turn, share them with a larger audience in hopes of policy change.

What was the most surprising thing you...Read More

The Future of the Past

by bjs | Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 10:09 AM

As the American Journal of Philology wraps up its 140th year of publishing, a new name stands at the top of the masthead. Joseph Farrell from the University of Pennsylvania took over as Editor earlier this year. He joined us on our podcast to talk about the transition as well as the critical issues facing the journal right now.

Audio titled Joseph Farrell, American Journal of Philology

As the American Journal of Philology wraps up its 140th year of publishing, a new name stands at the top of the masthead. Joseph Farrell from the University of Pennsylvania took over as Editor earlier this year. He joined us on our podcast to talk about the transition as well as the critical issues facing the journal right now.

Read More

Renewable Energy Ecology: The Next Frontier in Conservation Science

by eea | Monday, September 9, 2019 - 12:00 PM

During this period of unprecedented energy expansion, land scarcity, and global change, renewable energy presents both opportunities and challenges for our sustainable energy future. The fossil fuel era will inevitably come to end, and the world is transitioning to a renewable energy future. As the human population increases exponentially, we must find ways to provide more energy to more people while sustaining natural resources for future generations. Renewable energy ecology provides a means by which to inform a sustainable energy future on Earth and conserve wildlife in light of rapid and expansive renewable energy development.

Renewable energy has obvious benefits, not the least of which is mitigating climate change through the substitution of greenhouse-gas emitting fossil fuels for electricity production, yet the “greenness” of renewable energy comes in many shades. Energy generation affects wildlife in complex and fascinating ways. The interface between renewable energy development and wildlife conservation is rich with stimulating scientific questions and interesting research stories. Ultimately, our actions at the nexus of renewable energy development and wildlife conservation must be directed by current, science-based information related to ecological effects of renewable energy development.

We proposed the idea for Renewable Energy and...Read More