On sketchy publishing and publishing sketches

Since I’m only two months into my PhD, I don’t have to worry about publishing – yet. So much the better, because I’ve been told that publishing is a scam and overrated. For now, I’m happy to discuss my ideas in seminars, reading groups, 1-to-1 discussions with my supervisors and other (junior and senior) researchers. Those are all relatively ‘safe’ and open habitats, which is nice becasue I mostly dislike what I’ve written after submitting it, sometimes making me put off hitting the submit/send button until the last moment. This seems to be quite common in academia, but I think I could use some exercise in handling it better. Especially as my work will conceivably progress and mature, and needs to step outside the ‘safe’ habitats and weather the storm on its own at some point.

Surely, somewhere amidst the sketchy publishing business, I’m bound to find a relevant journal or two that’s willing to publish some of such ‘matured’ writings one day – and will do so in Open Access. I’m happy to say that my research is largely funded by NWO, which requires that “all publications emerging from research it funds must be made available in Open Access immediately upon publication”. Less sketchy then, I hope.

Nudging my writings through a journal’s peer review process seems like a good idea for a number of reasons: first, to get some feedback on my ideas; second, as feedforward on (and outside ‘validation’ of) my dissertation; third, as another way to further acquaint myself with the peer review processes that are the subject of my research after all.

Such feedback will come in very slowly, however. From what I’ve gathered, it will take many months from submitting a paper to a journal, to getting some (pre-print) feedback on my work. In addition to being slow, possibly expensive, and part of a sketchy practice, it’s usually anonymous. Anonymity is the wrong kind of peer reviewer incentive in a field already prone to unhelpful adversariality, so it’s not something I look forward to.

In sum, common practice doesn’t exactly look like one that’s conducive to the type of feedback I’m currently looking for. What I would like is a space to develop ideas; to get them out after careful consideration, but before getting lost in an unproductive cycle of rewriting and procrastinating and fretting. And, surely, to get some feedback.

The solution to all this seems to be obvious. In sixteen years of teaching media design, I’ve endlessly told my students that the best way to overcome reluctance and worries about your work is to start sketching and sharing such sketches with your peers. Finding myself in a similar situation, I’d better follow my own advice and start sharing a few sketches of my own. And keep on sketching and sharing, of course. Welcome to my blog; may some of it catch your attention sometime and elicit some (onymous) feedback!

Next up: how I ended up doing empirical philosophy of science. Stay tuned!

Thanks to Philosophy Groningen colleague Martin Lenz for his encouragement to start blogging – check out his wonderful blog Handling Ideas.

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