Australian Feminist Studies has just launched a mentoring scheme for new academic writers. The scheme is competitive and we are inviting a small number of authors (around three annually) to work with us to develop their research into a publishable manuscript. We define “new academic writers” as anywhere between the final stages of doctoral study and up to three years post-Ph.D. We determined on this group as we felt they would come to us with already well-developed ideas, rather than needing help getting to that point. We didn’t want to become quasi-supervisors of doctoral research which could happen if less advanced Ph.D. candidates were eligible.
Potential candidates for the scheme have been asked to submit an abstract for a proposed article, a writing sample, and a short CV and we’ll be selecting participants on the basis of the quality of their writing and how well their proposed article fits with the aims and scope for the journal. We have reserved an additional spot for a new researcher from our own university in recognition of the support we are receiving as editors from our faculty.
We each have long histories of mentoring early-career academics and so incorporating that into our editorial role wasn’t a big leap. More importantly, having just taken over an established journal in its thirtieth anniversary year we were looking for new ideas to promote it. We were especially keen to connect with a wider international audience and with emerging scholars who may not yet know the journal. The process of advertising the scheme via social media and direct emailing was likely to do some important work in building that recognition for both groups.
We will be working with the successful participants over a 6–12-month period. We are looking to engender in them an understanding of the difference between a really solid manuscript and a compelling one that makes a genuine intervention in debate. Many new academic writers have difficulty articulating what is important and timely about their work or precisely where it fits in the field. We want them to be able to say what difference their article makes. And we want to highlight how quality writing is essential for communicating quality ideas. Hopefully, we will also be able to demystify the peer-review process and guide them through it in ways that will build both confidence and resilience for their future publishing careers.
Scholarly publishing is evolving at a fast pace and we want to ensure our new authors are aware of just how important such things as search-engine-friendly titles, abstracts, and keywords are. New authors are often very excited to see their work in print and they probably think their work is over at that point. As editors we want to introduce them to the world of post-publication promotion at the article level and to the importance of post-publication metrics such as article views and downloads.
As we were already starting to do some of this work on manuscripts submitted to us, it seemed to make sense to formalize it into the mentoring scheme so there was a clear framework for everyone. A key benefit to us is that we will hopefully generate a set of innovative and exciting contributions from early-career academics who in turn will develop loyalty to our journal and ensure it stays relevant for a new generation of scholars. We plan to announce the names of the successful applicants in the journal and via social media. Their articles, once published, will also be identified as emerging from the scheme. In time we hope that entry into our mentoring scheme will become a mark of esteem for early-career authors in our field.