On academic writing

Chernobyl article in the Journal of Eurasian studies

I have just published an academic article about Chernobyl in the Journal of Eurasian Studies. You can view the paper here.

I have been working on the ideas in this paper for some years, first sketching some initial thoughts while sitting in a flat in north Kyiv, Ukraine. The view from the balcony of that apartment can be seen in a ‘lomo’ panorama photograph below. It’s nice to see these ideas put through the academic grinding mill of peer review and finally end up in a paper.

Being new to academia I am still amazed how it takes so long to publish an academic article. And I don’t just mean the final stages of publication like dealing with the editor’s final comments, reformatting citation bibliographies and re-checking ‘uncorrected proofs’. I mean the whole thing: collecting the data; making sense of it; sketching out ideas; drafting; re-drafting and writing the damn thing; sending it off for peer review; and then the long months of waiting before the inevitable and sometimes frustrating reviewers’ comments.

I’m sure the whole process gets quicker with experience, but nevertheless, when I think back to the first drafts of my academic outputs it seems an age ago.

Academic Capital?

Academics don’t get paid to publish, in a direct way at least. That kind of encouragement would be superfluous. They’re like amateur photographers or part time models: promised ‘exposure’ in exchange for free work. Instead their publications become notches on their academic bedposts, to be spun out on loquacious CVs and dropped into departmental conversation. Perhaps these notches will be read by other academics, and cited in their publications. The more citations the better! And perhaps they could use these highly cited papers to get a promotion, secure research funding, or move to a more prestigious department.

Like any business, academia is an incredibly competitive industry. This explains why publishers don’t need to pay academics to write articles, even ones that take years to create. Academics are chomping at the bit – they need to publish, they have to: ‘Publish or perish‘ goes the saying, and its true. Papers are academic capital.

And so, in a tentative step towards joining in, I’ve published another article.

Thom was paid in no way for publishing this blog post.

(You can view my very modest academic contributions here.)


The view from my flat in Kyiv

The view from my flat in Kyiv


Wednesday 21st January 2015
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