Law and society journal editors discover shared challenges
Cambridge University Press was pleased to chair a panel on socio-legal publishing at the Law and Society Association/Canadian Law and Society Association Joint Meeting in Toronto in June 2018.
The session focused on past, present and future challenges encountered by law and society publications and brought together the editors from some of the most prestigious journals in the field. The journals Social & Legal Studies, Law & Social Inquiry, Law and Society Review, Legal Studies, International Journal of Law in Context, Journal of Law and Society, Droit et Société, Canadian Journal of Law and Society/Revue Canadienne Droit et Société and Asian Journal of Law and Society were all represented on the panel. A quick survey showed the large audience included a good mix of authors, publishers, book series editors and further journal editors.
The discussion was split into three key areas: the fundamental challenge of interdisciplinary publishing; practical challenges facing journal editors; and the future of publishing. Initial comments from three panelists on each area triggered an excellent dialogue with the wider panel and audience.
Encouraging innovative socio-legal scholarship from all parts of the globe was something that panellists identified as a central challenge. All journals represented strive to ensure their published content is not dominated by the Western law and society model yet it has been difficult to attract more diverse publishable submissions, particularly in the Global South where writing style and use of English can be problematic and require heavy language-editing. On this topic, it was great to learn the Journal of Law and Society, Social & Legal Studies, Feminist Legal Studies and International Journal of Law in Context are collaborating with Cardiff Law and Global Justice on a series of writing workshops in Brazil, Bangalore, Nairobi and Accra.
The difficulties attracting timely quality peer reviews was a recurrent theme. The inter-disciplinary nature of much law and society work makes attracting sufficient reviews a particular problem with some journals hoping for reviews from a number of different disciplines (Law & Social Inquiry seeks four reviews for this reason). Given there are no material incentives for reviewers, it seems that young scholars need to be educated to view peer review as a fundamental part of their role as an academic. Setting up more ‘how to peer review’ workshops following on from the more common ‘hot to get published’ workshops may be part of the answer.
Other issues discussed included the Open Access landscape and the lack of available funding for Open Access in this subject area, the consequences of SSHRC funding requirement changes, data transparency and data issues, the growing number of special issue proposals and the specific challenges faced by bi-lingual journals.
The major takeaway from the session was that all journals in this subject area face similar challenges and we hope the panel is the beginning of an ongoing dialogue between journal editors.
Cambridge University Press is proud to publish the Law in Context and Cambridge Studies in Law and Society book series and a number of socio-legal journals and has just announced a partnership with the American Bar Foundation to publish the journal Law & Social Inquiry from 2019.