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A Manifesto on Academic Integrity

Bryan S. GlassGeneral Editor

When we think of academic integrity the first issue that comes to mind is cheating.  But does cheating single-handedly define academic integrity?  What other types of behavior might fall under its auspices?  The time is right to define academic integrity.

Cheating is very straightforward.  From the time we enter primary school we’re taught that cheating is unacceptable.  Cheating entails, among other things, looking over the shoulder of a fellow classmate during a test, committing plagiarism, or paying someone else to write a paper or sit an exam for you.  For all of us, cheating deserves the harshest penalties.  Full stop.

Cheating, however, is just the most obvious, and most easily punishable, stain on academic integrity.  Another issue of academic integrity, and the focus of this manifesto, revolves around the academic publishing industry.  It is a time-honoured practice that when you submit a book proposal it must not be under consideration by any other publisher.  You submit to one publishing house at a time.  In order to prevent this from occurring, our Book Proposal Form, which all potential authors must fill out, states the following:  ‘if … the proposal is under consideration by another publisher … please do let us know.’  Upon learning of a dual submission we will refuse to review the proposal.  The reasons are straightforward:  loss of time and money.  Palgrave pays reviewers either in money or in books to review proposals once the editors have read through and approved the offered monograph as a fit.  The loss of time and money caused by the duplicity of authors who are trying to see who offers them better contract terms should not drive academic publishing.  After all, an author is always free to turn down a contract offer from a publisher and then submit elsewhere, but book submissions should never occur concurrently.  Authors should always submit to their first-choice publisher and wait to see what happens.  To submit concurrently angers the publisher and places the author in an ignominious position.  It is safe to say that the author will never be able to get published by the spurned publisher in the future.  The academic book publishing industry has a long memory.

But what should we think of the rule, imposed by journals, that you may only submit your article to one venue at a time?  This is a bit trickier than with book proposals.  If you need to get an article published within six months to save your career (especially in Britain) in the publish or perish atmosphere of academia and it takes nearly that long to get a response from your targeted journal, you could be in jeopardy of losing your job.  What if the journal wants you to revise and resubmit?  What happens if they simply turn you down?  Game over.  With our journal, Britain and the World, I am the first to admit that we haven’t always completed the peer-review process rapidly.  In fact, given our own track record, I do not believe that submitting an article to numerous journals simultaneously is an integrity problem.  It is a measure of desperation in the interests of self-preservation.  However, it is neither healthy nor productive for journal editors to spend a great deal of time determining whether an article should be sent for peer-review and then having it reviewed only to be told by the author that he/she has secured publication with another journal.  This makes editors angry and causes ill-will towards the author.  So I propose an alternative for journal submission acumen. First, journal articles must be reviewed within two months of receipt.  Under these strict time constraints, authors must adhere to the time-tested rule of submitting to one journal at a time.  Once the two months has passed without an answer, the author should feel free to send the article to another journal for publication consideration.  Under this strict two-month policy, the author will be able to submit the article to six different journals during the course of a year.  This model will provide the author with the peace of mind that an answer on their research is coming by a certain date and it should end the problem of concurrent submissions.  Concurrent submissions make authors look bad as editors question their academic integrity.  And rightfully so.  But journal editors must understand that part of the problem lies with them and only they can correct the turnaround times on submissions.  As a model, Britain and the World is implementing this policy from January 2012.  All articles submitted to us will be peer-reviewed and returned to the author within 60 days.  This system eliminates the perceived need to concurrently submit and upholds the academic integrity of pressured authors.  It is the right solution for our time.

So what, you may be asking, is the difference between book publishing and journal publishing?  Why are concurrent submissions of book proposals always condemned as immoral?  Books take a much longer time to publish than journal articles.  You don’t wake up one morning and say I need to get my book from proposal to published in six months.  Many academic monographs can take between five and ten years to complete.  There is a great deal of time built into the tenure and promotion (or self-preservation) system for the publication of a book if you keep to schedule.  This is not always the case with journal articles.  While dual submissions are never acceptable, it is more understandable when they happen with journal articles as opposed to monographs.

Academic integrity plays a major role in the lives of all academics.  No one wants to be tarred with the duplicity brush.  But it is necessary to establish ground rules to prevent academic dishonesty from taking hold in these trying times.

 

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