Participatory approaches to research are well established in geography (Kindon et al. 2007). Extending them to publishing unsettles the norms of academic publication by questioning: Who owns the research? Who should write/represent the knowledge generated? Who is the audience? In what language (in all senses) should we write? How might publishing contribute to social change?
Geographers are experimenting with forms of co- and collective authorship with research participants/partners, and among themselves. Janet Townsend (Townsend et al. 1995) co-authored one of the earliest examples and our own collaborative work (e.g. mrs kinpaisby 2008; mrs c kinpaisby-hill 2011) draws strength from the feminist and collectivist spirit of the Women and Geography Study Group (1997) and ‘J. K. Gibson-Graham’ (e.g. 2005). Our pseudonyms reflect the impossibility of separating out our contributions and are gestures to the absence of ordinary voices in scholarship, aiming to disrupt the ‘game’ of individualistic publishing and citation (see also the Autonomous Geographies Collective 2010; Ian Cook et al. 2008 and Participatory Geographies Research Group 2012). Elsewhere, the chasm between critical geographers’ stated commitment to radical praxis and justice, and the privileging of academic publication reinforces the position of ‘the university’ as a distanced ivory tower (see also Berg 2004).
Collective writing and participatory publications involve challenges. The process requires genuine alliances and commitment to negotiate differences in priorities, interpretations, ‘voice’, and divisions of time and labour (Cahill and Torre 2007) and the necessary compromises may not always yield radical results. There are also risks involved in breaking the rules of the citation game that privilege publication of single authored articles in elite journals. However, with a suitable degree of critical reflexivity and strategic planning, participatory and collaborative authorship can address some of the issues of representation and accountability that have troubled some geographers, and result in more rigorous and multifaceted scholarship that makes a difference.
Five reasons for publishing collaboratively are to:
Explicitly acknowledge that we are never ‘lone scholars’ and that all knowledge is collectively produced.
Involve reciprocity that formally recognises the time and expertise others contribute to making research projects work; ensuring research benefits extend beyond academic careers, institutions and priorities.
Open academic debate to the informed opinions of a wider range of people to address class, race and gender-based inequalities in knowledge construction and engage directly with the vexed politics of ‘representation’.
Improve scholarship, rigour, validity and the ‘fit’ of theory, as outputs become negotiated texts reflecting a range of experiences, voices and expertise.
Challenge the predominance of competitive and individualistic career paths, and contribute to the movement to disrupt academic institutional structures that increasingly favour certain types and outputs of scholarship as proxies for quality (Pain et al. 2011).
About this guide
Publishing is a crucial, but sometimes daunting and unexplained, part of academic life. All academic geographers are supposed to do it, but there are few formal guidelines about how best it should be done. Many of us discover how to publish by trial and error or through the mentoring and support of colleagues. Publishing and academic landscapes also change, presenting new challenges to established academics. The publishing and getting read guides have four main aims: to provide clear, practical and constructive advice about how to publish research in a wide range of forms; to encourage you to think strategically about your publication profile and plans; to set out some of the opportunities and responsibilities you have as an author; and to support you in getting your published research read.