This year, 2016, is an interesting time to be taking over the editorship of an academic journal. The Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal is an open access on-line journal.
It is not funded by any organisation specifically, with the host university (University of Newcastle) absorbing the cost of any labour and hosting involved in its production. Nor is it a journal charging authors a fee for publishing.
Such models are emerging increasingly and such author-charges are being called anything from ‘handling fees’ and are even used to pay peer reviewers in some instances. Is this a model that this journal should move to? I think not. It seems to somehow cheapen the work of academics if one has to pay someone to publish the work. However, is the current model economically sustainable?
When all academics are under increased pressure to do more teaching and more research with less resources, where does the wherewithal to edit and publish a quality journal come from? We also need to ask the question: is the academic peer reviewed journal the best way to share our research findings and contribute to the measurement of the impact of our work.
The MIT Media Lab has launched a new kind of academic journal that embodies its antidisciplinary ethos but also has a new approach to getting out research and ideas much more quickly to interested academic and industry audiences. Instead of double blind peer review, their new process involves a process that is anything but anonymous and is called ‘peer-to-peer’.
An article in Wired magazine explains more about this idea and links through to the journal. Is this somewhere that the Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal should go? It is certainly food for thought.
In several countries across the world, the value of academic publishing as a measure of the worth of academic research is being questioned. In the 2016 Australian Research Council publication, “The Engagement and Impact Assessment Consultation Paper”, there have been calls for input into what defines impact and engagement with academic research.
It states that a narrow focus on limited engagement measures could create perverse outcomes where, for example, researchers and universities focus on boosting their reportable performance instead of pursuing genuine research engagement that translates into economic, social or other benefits. In addition, the use of a very limited range of metrics may not meet the parameters of the assessment—such as ensuring no discipline is disadvantaged by the assessment (p. 8).
The impact factor of many public relations academic journals is quite low. Does this mean that the research published in this journal since its inception has had no or little impact? How would we know? My article on the impact of new media on PR published in Issue 8 of this journal is my most cited to date, but what does that really mean in terms of impact and engagement? What would be a better way to present our research and assess its impact?
As editor I hope to see more work being submitted that examines these issues in our field, but to also have such mechanisms for increased engagement with the work published in this and other journals in our field.
One such such mechanism is the newly re-convened Asia Pacific Public Relations Research and Education Network headed by Dr Marianne Sison from RMIT University. Its uses may include calls for papers, chapter contributions, calls for research partners, conference announcements, suggestions or inquiries related to teaching materials and references and the like. I commend Marianne for this initiative and in our discussions we have agreed that this journal will work very closely with the Network.
Perhaps such a network could also evolve into a sharing of research impact or engagement news, for example, has some organization decided to give someone’s new model for crisis preparation a trial in practice? It would be fascinating to see some further ideas come forward for further utilizing this valuable network. I’ll certainly be using the network to share news about this journal, including future calls for papers and announcements of when our new issues are published.
That being said, I’d like to commend this issue’s articles to you as we again cover a wider range of territory both topically and geographically, as well as bringing you a book review of ‘The Routledge Handbook of Critical Public Relations’ (Routledge, 2016), edited by Jacquie L’Etang, David McKie, Nancy Snow and Jordi Xifra. The journal has an Asian Pacific focus but as always, welcomes and presents scholarly articles from across the globe.
Australian Research Council. (2016). The Engagement and Impact Assessment Consultation Paper.