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Journal of Peace Conflict and Development: Making Our Own Mark

In today’s post the Editorial Board behind the Journal of Peace and Conflict Development talk about how their journal is marking its mark in the changing world of academic publishing. This post was written by Benita Sumita and Roberta Hollanda Maschietto, doctoral researchers in Peace Studies, University of Bradford with input from the editorial board members of the Peace Conflict and Development journal.

“Can we improve our credibility without being ranked?” This potent question raised by one of the editorial board members defines the struggles that lie ahead for the Journal of Peace Conflict and Development (PC&D) nearly a decade since its founding. Apart from the continuing – now ever-more severe – funding constraints, the Journal is faced with having to prove its credibility through more mainstream avenues. It seems the PC&D is not visible within the UK’s mainstream cottage-industry of academic publishing and assessments, which has presumably led to a loss of the meagre financial backing the Journal received the last nine years. All these concerns need to be viewed within the contexts of the current climate of financial pressure in UK’s Higher Education and the increasing tendency to measure the quality, impact and ranking of journals by the number of times their articles are cited. It is perhaps time to question and rethink the systemically flawed nature of academic impact assessment rather than the credibility of a Journal such as PC&D that has made its own mark by reaching a wide and diverse national and international readership and attracting submissions from established scholars and practitioners.

A quick and brief introduction to the Journal and its prestigious Department of Peace Studies will help shed some light on the reasons behind the conscious choice of redefining the mainstream without compromising on quality and impact. It is based at one of the most notable Peace Studies departments in the UK – University of Bradford. The Journal has the individual support of some of the prominent names in the in Department. Most importantly, with the trust and support of the Department of Peace Studies and its staff, the journal is managed by its vibrant, dynamic and emerging cohort of doctoral researchers.

The PC&D was the brainchild of a few doctoral researchers of 2002 in the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. Abiding by its founding principles, the Journal remains an online, open-access and rigorously peer-reviewed biannual issue focusing on contemporary issues towards understanding conflict and peace. Its founding objectives were to provide a space for the work of emerging researchers and scholars within the Department; and also be a vehicle of impact for the cutting-edge research in the Department.

Unlike many academic journals, the PC&D is a platform for not only dialogue between academics within a narrow theme or specific discipline, but a space for interdisciplinary dialogue between academics and practitioners in the overlapping fields of conflict and peace. This is its core appeal. Sticking to these fundamental principles, it publishes relevant, current, innovative and accessible writing on a wide range of topics – human rights, justice, democracy and democratisation, conflict resolution, environment, security, war, culture, identity and community, and other related areas of interest. Articles include academic essays, field reports, book reviews and the occasional special columns.

This fits well with the founding idea of the Department of Peace Studies itself – a base for alternative thinking and dialogue. The Department’s respected repertoire began with the formation of the Alternative Defence Commission in 1980. This reputation did not come easy as Prof Paul Rogers and Dr Simon Whitby explain in the City of Peace: Bradford’s Story (1997, edited by Carol Rank). The Department and its staff braced through a storm of political and social flak for being radical and emerged on the other side of the Cold War as not only an academic centre of excellence but also as a Department, as Prof Rogers and Dr Whitby (1997) state, with a “genuine mix of commitment and scholarship…which is a potential source of real progress in understanding issues of conflict and peace”.

The PC&D reflects this reputation to be an alternative and a potential source of dialogue that can enable real progress. It must also be reiterated that the core principle of maintaining the open-access nature of the Journal cannot be compromised. We are making our own mark with the meagre resources the Journal had until last semester and without being tethered to the restrictions of a publishing house.

As per the tracking data compiled and analysed for the Journal’s website the readership is diverse and international. Over the last year (September 2010-2011), the journal’s website has had  over 16,000 visitors and close to 60,000 page views from the US, UK, Canada, India, Nepal, Germany, Australia, France and others. This is a cautiously optimistic improvement from the over 3,500 visitors in September 2009-2010. Out of the numbers for 2010-2011, over 67% were unique new visitors. In the last month alone (4 August 2011-4 September 2011) the journal has been accessed by over 1000 users, out of which over 700 users accessed the latest issue (Issue 17) published on 1 August this year.

The PC&D has achieved unexpected international appeal, both in terms of authors who publish in it, as well as in terms of readers. Instead of remaining a journal that published mainly articles from Bradford Peace Studies PhD researchers, the PC&D quickly became an international publication, receiving articles from academics, including established professors, of universities in countries as diverse as the United States, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Kenya, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Japan, just to name a few. The numbers are a clear indication of the growing recognition that Journal has earned and its credibility not only linked to counting citations. At this ten-year crossroad, the PC&D editorial board has decided not to give up because we clearly are credible and making our own way.

So, it is not our credibility that needs questioning but the ranking process itself. It is true that our small cushion of financial comfort has been taken away. However, this is not the moment to despair but an opportunity to be seized; a moment to prove that real credibility does not come from ranking but a genuine mix of commitment and scholarship.

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