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I feel compelled to enter the discussion about a new journal. Maybe some of
my sense of obligation stems from the fact that Berube's office is 10 feet
from mine, and I'm bound to hear lots about this idea anyway. I think Berube
is correct about the need for publication outlets. I want to extend his
reasoning a bit and respond to some threads initiated by Trapp and others.
1. The quality of articles on debate is already low.
This lack of quality might be a symptom of the inadequate outlets for
debate-related scholarship. I think that if graduate students and faculty
see reliably (i.e., on schedule) published, high-profile outlets for their
work, this problem could self-correct. Scholarly journals can and often do
emerge as responses to an oversupply of high quality scholarship. But
journals can serve a different function: to generate the production of more
and better scholarship. There is a good chance that the supply of
scholarship will improve in both quality and quantity when the demand is
increased and the standards are raised.
As things stand, what motives do researchers have for revising their
conference papers or carefully proofing their work? Granted, many of us do
that as a matter of pride. But increasing the competition in the publication
game might have an interesting effect of raising standards for debate-related
scholarship across the board. If I know, for example, that standards are
low, I might not do those extra revisions and citation checks. If a new
journal could raise our expectations for what we would see as reviewers and
what we would produce as scholars, the effort would be worthwhile.
2. The journal should be affiliated with a national organization.
I'm not sure what the basis for this objection might be. Do we see a
demonstrable difference in quality between SCA-affiliated journals (e.g.,
QJS, Comm. Monographs, etc.) and independent journals (e.g., Philosophy &
Rhetoric, published out of Penn. State)? I think that, given the disturbing
atmosphere of fragmentation in debate, the best idea would be to have an
independent journal that is not assumed to be the mouthpiece for any one
organization (CEDA, NDT, NDA, etc.). We need a forum for issues regarding
debate per se, where advocates of many different styles and philosophies can
engage in intellectual dialogue.
Clearly, the quality of a publication is not causally related to its
(in)dependece. In my "home" discipline of philosophy, most of the journals
are private ventures. The quality of the publication stems from the quality
of the articles submitted and the care taken by reviewers to offer
constructive comments and exercise sound professional judgment.
3. Electronic Format
While a Cyber Journal sounds like a great idea, in reality it would do little
to provide an acceptable outlet for scholarship. It might be acceptable from
a personal standpoint, but promotion and tenure (P&T) committees still want
hard copy in scholarly journals and books. The durability of online
resources just isn't adequate to meet the standards of any tenure review
committee I've ever been associated with. This standard of durability or
permanence is why
P&T committees give less weight to material on ERIC or comparable sources
that they do to articles in journals. Let's face it, how would we document
electronic "publication" in tenure files? A printout from my printer at home
would not measure up to a reprint from a journal.
Electronic forums remain too ephemeral for the context of academic tenure
Clearly, there's nothing wrong with online forums or even electronic
journals. It's just that if we're going to advocate debate scholarship as
being on the same level as scholarship in other humanities or social sciences
fields, we should adapt and take the safest academic route. By "safest," I
mean that we should publish our work in forums that are universally
recognized by academics in other fields as "legitimate." When the standards
change--or when we change those standards--we can change the format. Until
then, an electronic format might give the impression (especially to many
administrators and to those unsympathetic to debate) that forensic
scholarship cannot hold its own in the world of academic outlets for
publication. I don't see any reason not to conform to academic tradition by
having a journal, especially if the online contributions would be
4. Other Issues
This would be a minor problem. In fact, Tuna has gone a long way toward
solving the whole issue by becoming a veritable online thesaurus of potential
titles. Frankly, we could call it _Cheese Grits_ as long as the quality of
the scholarship is high and the production work is professional.
4.2. Reviewers and editors
This issue, in my opinion, lies at the heart of any publication venture. The
choice of the reviewers and editors determines not only the quality but the
"flavor" of a publication. For instance, when Dale Leathers was editor of
Southern, the journal took a decidedly more quantitative, social scientific
turn. These variations are to be expected and encouraged, but we should bear
in mind that WHAT we want to see is intimately related to WHO is involved.
To some extent, quality could be controlled by manipulating the format. The
_Journal of Communication_ uses thematic issues to give the publication some
direction. That might be a thought. Or feature at least one "invited"
article from a prominent researcher/theorist per issue to attract
submissions. Journals do not exist in a vacuum. They must generate a desire
to submit, just like any business must attract clients.
As you can see, I'm optimistic about the prospects for a new journal and
would be willing to offer my services as a reviewer, etc. I believe the
opponents of a journal make a legitimate point about information overload and
encouraging quantity at the expense of quality. But these objections miss
the point. Journals create a rhetorical environment that can encourage
scholarship. They are not passive responses to articles lying in wait for a
publisher. Let's take a proactive stand on scholarship, doing something to
improve the climate for academic discussion instead of lamenting the decline
of forensic research.
Dr. Roy Schwartzman
University of South Carolina
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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