Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities_KnöchelmannWhat is the point of publishing in the humanities? This short book provides an answer to this question. It builds on a unique set of quantitative and qualitative data to understand why humanities scholars publish. It looks at both basic characteristics such as publication numbers, formats, and perceptions, and differences of national academic settings alongside the influences of the UK’s Research Excellence Framework and the German Exzellenzinitiative. The data involve a survey of more than 1,000 humanities scholars and social scientists in the UK and Germany, allowing for a comprehensive comparative study, and a series of qualitative interviews. The resulting critique provides scholars and policy makers with an accessible and critical work about the particularities of authorship and publishing in the humanities. And it gives an account of the problems and struggles of humanities scholars in their pursuit of contributing to discourse, and to be recognised with their intellectual work.

Published with Cambrdige University Press

The short book is published with Cambrdige University Press in the series Elements in Publishing and Book Culture in 2023. Find the HTML version or access the published PDF edition on Cambridge Core here. ISBN: 9781009223089

You can access the self-archived author manuscript here. Note that this version is free to view and download for personal use only. It is not revised; mistakes (in spelling and grammar) are not edited. There are also minor differences to the original published version in the content. Pagination does not conform to the published book.

For discussions on the content or talks, reach out to: [email protected]


Read Excerpts of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities

1. Understanding Authorship and Publishing

Extract of the first chapter of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities:

What exactly is the point of publishing? The humanities form a cluster of disciplines—a branch of learning—that fosters understanding what it means to be human. Humanities scholars consider writing and the careful, qualitative engagement with text of utmost importance. Being a scholar means being in dialogue with others by engaging with the complexity of their thought and offering accounts of understanding. Publishing, one may assume, facilitates this dialogue. To publish does not mean to put information out there; to publish means to enter a discourse community with the motivation to participate and learn, to argue, disagree, and build upon disagreement. Publishing is as much about readership as it is about authorship; author and reader merge in the recursive structure of dialogue. Publishing, in this sense, is borne by the motivation to contribute to discourse and to keep the dialogue about understanding what it means to be human alive. This is one answer to the question of what the point of publishing is.

This book gives a different answer. This answer claims that the point of publishing is not to be a voice in a dialogue but to yield formal authorship. This answer accounts for the ways authorship fares as a shortcut for productivity, and how this shortcut impacts the dissemination of scholarship in the humanities. Underlying this is a subtle shift of the means and ends of publishing. Publishing could be thought of as in the outline above. The motivation to publish is bound to the end of contributing to discourse; it grows out of dialogue and the intention to be a voice in it. The recognition of the work of a scholar is equally bound to this. There is no shortcut for this recognition; it requires engagement with dialogue. Authorship may fare as a reference, but it cannot assume the point of recognition itself. Readers might vouch for the quality of a voice, but only so in the specific context of its engagement. This is an ideal of authorship that has probably never been fully realised.

At the opposite of such an ideal, authorship fares not as a reference, but as the actual point of recognition. The formal reference of authorship translates to an assumed productivity. Many such formal references—for instance accumulated on a CV—mean the scholar is highly productive. She is a leader in her area if the formalities account for specific publishing brands. She is likely to be skilled if her authorship references refer to a wide range of specialist areas. In an academic setting that favours marketable output, such a list of formal authorship references is worth more than anything. She is visible and productive, and the institution she works at can benefit from this visibility and productivity. It is not the scholarship but the fact of it being out there and the way it is externalised that count. Publishing becomes a means to showcase visibility and productivity. The motivation to publish is bound to this end; dialogue and the intention to be a voice in it become secondary.

Continue reading: Find the HTML version of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities or access the published PDF edition on Cambridge Core here. You can access the self-archived author manuscript here.




2. How and How Much Scholars Publish: Basic Characteristics of Publishing

Extract of the second chapter of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities:

This chapter provides basic data about how much and what scholars publish as well as how they themselves perceive key characteristics of their publication practices. It will give a feel for the empirical situation of publishing and serves as a reference guide. The empirical situation is highly relevant as it shows the numbers of publications at respective career positions. The chosen representation showcases the similarities and differences between Germany and the UK as well as between the humanities and the social sciences. Critiquing publishing practices or shaping policies—institutional or country-wide—require an appreciation of what actually happens.

Next to basic numbers of published output, this also concerns questions of the predominance of single authorship, language use, or popular books. This complements bibliometric studies with the self-identification of authors. Moreover, the represented items go beyond numbers about the state of publishing portfolios. The imagined backward-looking scholar with her dusted books in endless library shelves seems to be a stubborn gestalt representing a traditional humanities scholar. Some of the following items enquire the actual self-perception of scholars to enable a better understanding of, for instance: the use and perceived value of metrics, the use of self-publishing services, rapid or unhurried publication processes, physical copies in libraries or bookshops, and online discoverability. This is followed by a discussion of OA.

Continue reading: Find the HTML version of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities or access the published PDF edition on Cambridge Core here. You can access the self-archived author manuscript here.




3. Publish or Perish: The Empirical Reality of the Pressure to Publish

Extract of the third chapter of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities:

What are drivers of the pressure to produce more and more publishing output? The easy answer is competition. However, competition can take place in manifold ways. It could be a matter of substance and qualitative difference. As scholars highlight, though, it rather takes place on the basis of comparative output. The way competition takes place—the narratives and governance behind it—is abstracted in its terms. These, instead of competition per se, are responsible for the pressure to produce publications since they build on the recognition of qualitative work in formal terms. This shows the circularity of competition that invokes the self-referentiality of output.

Who experiences this pressure? What are the strategies of dealing with it? What does the balancing of contributing to discourse and producing output mean in praxis? This chapter provides answers to such questions. I first look at what publish or perish and competition mean, followed by an investigation of the empirical reality in quantitative terms, and a discussion of how this can be interpreted, comprising of insights from the qualitative interviews.

Publish or perish is an ambiguous term. On the one hand, it refers—in both discourse and praxis—to the terms of competition in academia, in particular how publishing output is preferred to intellectual development. Publishing practices and the focus on formal authorship embody publish or perish in this sense. On the other hand, ideology is negotiated among those affected in everyday discourses—particularly early career scholars. They reinforce the impact of publish or perish by extending its narrative. It solidifies the principle that formal authorship really is the objective of publishing and the primary way to enter an academic career. As this everyday discourse—chatter at conferences, philistine management advice, the rhetoric of constant improvement and excellence—is passed on among young scholars, the terms of competition become reified. Reducing publish or perish to a single, context-unspecific denotation would mean disavowing parts of its force.

Continue reading: Find the HTML version of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities or access the published PDF edition on Cambridge Core here. You can access the self-archived author manuscript here.




4. Being REFable: The UK’s REF and Germany’s Traditionalism

Extract of the fourth chapter of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities:

Scholars in the UK have to become REFable. The REF is an epitome manifestation of the instrumentalization of publishing in the UK. Its historical development substantially influenced the grounds and ways of publishing. All the while, research management has taken over its principles so that these shifted grounds and ways are no longer tied to the REF itself. Particularly the job market—the way scholarly productivity is assessed and rewarded—is extending the influence of the historical impact of the REF. Being REFable is shorthand for the requirement of being fit for the scholarly job market based on authorship. Both quantitative and qualitative data substantiate the matter of REFability and provide further insights into the ways quantity, quality, and temporal issues of REFability are—seemingly naturally—negotiated through publishing.

The chapter picks up several aspects discussed in the preceding chapters such as the value of marketable output, publish or perish as a reifying discourse, and the clustered distribution of experienced pressure. Preceding this discussion is an historical overview of the REF and the Exzellenzinitiative, followed by a closer look at the empirical situation of publishing practices, and a discussion of how this is to be interpreted in a larger context.

There are many aspects the REF—and the earlier RAE—is criticised for: the way it reproduces existing hierarchies (Dix, 2016; Münch, 2008: 134); the mechanism of redefining institutional roles or moving efforts away from teaching (Frank et al., 2019; Henkel, 1999); the way it promotes competition but not fully considering corresponding market mechanisms (Frank et al., 2019; Shackleton and Booth, 2015); the fact that it is quite an expensive publicly-funded exercise benefitting only a few institutions (Arnold et al., 2018); (resulting from this, it can be argued to be a classic example of an institution that is only giving the appearance of rational conduct while being primarily inefficient; see: Meyer and Rowan, 1977); that the results of the REF are transmuted from a funding into a ‘research ranking system’ (Brink, 2018: 82; emphasis in original) and that it is partly based on an instrumentalist principle of benefit (Brink, 2018: 168–177); that the costs of impact assessment of this mode will likely outweigh its benefits (Martin, 2011); or the way it puts pressure particularly on younger scholars (Archer, 2008). Ultimately, as Frank et al. call it, ‘the RAE/REF became a victim of its own success’ (2019: 81), which means it has acquired such a strong position that it has become a distortion of that which it was supposed to measure. In other words, the REF has fallen prey to Goodhart’s law.

Continue reading: Find the HTML version of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities or access the published PDF edition on Cambridge Core here. You can access the self-archived author manuscript here.




5. Publishing as Production and the Meaning of Authorship

Extract of the fifth chapter of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities:

What exactly is the point of publishing? After having discussed the empirical reality of authorship and publishing in the three preceding chapters, can a comprehensive answer to this question be spelled out? I aim to do so in this last chapter. This will be both a conclusion to the data and the interviews and an abstraction from it in order to reach a more general understanding of the recognition of scholarly work in today’s humanities departments.

This also connects the discussion of authorship and publishing with wider issues of the humanities, particularly the debate of their—assumed, suggested, or projected—normative purpose. Calls of a crisis of the humanities are ongoing alongside chases for potential solutions (Belfiore, 2013; Drees, 2021; Fish, 2008; Kagan, 2009; Marquard, 2020a; Small, 2013). To be sure, this book is by no means an answer to this debate. And yet, the identification of the self-referential practice that authorship and publishing have become very well provides an argument for it. Its claim is to seek a different recognition of the work of scholars that, in turn, allows for new ways—or the strengthening of old ways—of integrating and positioning scholarship within society.

I first conclude the discussion of authorship and publishing with two shorter sections on the constitution of publishing and the resultant meaning of authorship. I then turn to the concept of the distancing of scholar and text which aids understanding of the self-referentiality of publishing.

A conclusion of the preceding chapters—and of my conversations with scholars in the humanities in particular—is that individual intellectual development and the difficult dialogical engagement with others are subordinate to the production of output. Appearing productive on time and being measurably visible are key for making a career as a scholar; scholarship has to accommodate to the production of output. Intellectual development and dialogue cannot be counted, measured in terms of easy heuristics, or marketed in a global race to excellence. It is in this sense to be understood that publishing and authorship are geared more towards formal criteria of marketable output than to contributing to discourse.

Continue reading: Find the HTML version of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities or access the published PDF edition on Cambridge Core here. You can access the self-archived author manuscript here.




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Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities - Marcel Knöchelmann