HET forum 1: Publishing process from the perspective of editors

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Photo by Sigmund, Unsplash

HET research group organised HET forum 1 on 3 November 2022. The forum focused on publishing procedures and practices: What does the publishing process look like from the perspective of editors?

Aimed at creating space for open conversation between researchers in the field of higher education research, HET forum 1 was organised in a hybrid format (online & onsite) with approximately 20 participants. Three HET researchers – Johanna Annala, Jyri Lindén, and Vesa Korhonen – gave short presentations that were followed by general discussion and sharing experiences from submission processes to different journals where higher education-related studies are published.

Johanna Annala shared her experience as an associate editor in Studies in Higher Education (JUFO 3), an internationally leading journal in the field. Johanna gave an overview of the publication process in the journal, including the technical review, two editorial reviews and the peer review phase. The actual acceptance rate is quite small so to get the publication through, Johanna had some tips for the writer to focus on: 

  • Title and the abstract – is this something new, interesting? (Also, to attract reviewers) + key concepts 
  • References – publishing year, literature from the field of HE studies 
  • Speaking from the local to global 
  • Introduction to the gap – is there one? 
  • Methods – scientific rigour
  • Results – discussing the literature/theory 

According to Johanna, it is essential for the text to participate in the recent discussions of the subject at hand. To get the manuscript forward in the publishing process, it is useful to first carefully consider the aims and scope of a journal: What is this journal about and is this the best journal for your text? It is also important to remember that the acceptance is not about the writer’s academic career phase but rather about the quality of the manuscript. In addition, even though the quality of the language is not the key issue, the technical or style formatting might affect the readability and clarity of the text. 

Jyri Lindén, editorial board member in Kasvatus (JUFO 2), talked about the publishing process from the perspective of this Finnish journal. The editors can be quite strict with the language and formatting but that does not necessarily lead to a direct rejection. Comments about the language are often given after the review process because it is the potential that the reviewer sees in the text that affects the accept/reject decision, rather than the quality of the language. Jyri’s presentation raised a discussion on the expected level of Finnish language in the text, especially in those situations where the writer’s first language is not Finnish. In other words, how much ‘bad Finnish’ can be excused. Proof-reading the text was mentioned as a common practice that could be useful in these situations as well.

Vesa Korhonen, editorial board member of Yliopistopedagogiikka (JUFO 1), presented the perspective of this journal that has a rather streamlined publishing procedure. The editorial board of Yliopistopedagogiikka consists of representatives from different Finnish universities that jointly fund this Open Access journal.  Since there are fewer Finnish journals in the field of higher education, this journal is an important publication forum that offers a possibility to publish articles related to both research and educational practice. 

After these presentations, there was discussion about the number of submitted manuscripts in different journals. While some journals may have seen an increase in submissions in the past few years, others like, for example Kasvatus journal, has been receiving a stable number of manuscripts during the last 10 years. Participants noted that there seem to be an increasing pressure to publish in journals with higher JUFO classification and to publish in international journals in English. It was observed that these pressures may increase the quality of manuscripts written by Finnish researchers. On the other hand, the presenters agreed that in their experience, the quality of published articles by Finnish academics is quite high. 

Thank you to all participants for great discussions! HET group plans to continue these forums during the spring semester 2023, more details will be announced closer to date. 


Text: Meri Mäkinen & Vesna Holubek