Building the Literature on Aging Partners Managing Chronic Illness Together

In this post, Xan and J announce an upcoming and rolling special issue of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine focused on managing illness in relationships over the life course, and invite scholars interested in health, aging, relationships of all times, caregiving, and chronic conditions to consider submitting works for this issue and emerging area of research in social, physical, and medical sciences. 

Hello readers!

Xan and J here with a teaser for our newest project. In our home communities of Orlando and Tampa, we’ve been spending some time recovering from Hurricane Irma and helping our fellow Floridians do the same, as well as supporting friends in Texas and Puerto Rico in their own recovery efforts. As things calm down more here in central Florida, we’re pleased to roll out our latest effort to amplify voices from lived experience in research.

Earlier this year, we pitched a special collection proposal to Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. We suggested a content collection focusing on “Aging Partners Managing Chronic Illness Together”. The collection would highlight opportunities for inquiry, evidence-based perspectives, case studies, and new primary research on collaborative illness management among older intimate partners.

Right now there is very little literature on this topic—most published research on caregiving in intimate relationships uses a “sick partner/well partner” model. But our own lived experiences as well as what we have both seen in our work suggested that many people are living a very different reality! We also found no literature whatsoever in conducting our own preliminary review on collaborative illness management that delves deeply into the experiences of marginalized older adults and relationships between people occupying varied genders, sexualities, and relationship types. We very much want to change that!

Our introductory editorial for the content collection at GGM will be up soon (we’ll share on the blog and social media sites when it is), meaning we are ready to accept original submissions from other scholars doing work on this important topic. Unlike traditional “special issues”, this content collection will remain open indefinitely for new submissions. We intend to use the Aging Partners Managing Chronic Illness Together collection as a springboard for both highlighting inspiring innovative research on older adult health that champions people’s unique lives, biographies, and needs.

If your research includes a focus on chronic disease management, older adults, and intimate relationships, we hope that we’ll be able to showcase some of your work in our special collection in the future!

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Adventures in Publishing Volume 1

This post is the first in a four part series wherein J and Xan outline some tips and lessons concerning publishing and reviewing they have picked up over the years.  In the first two posts, J outlines 5 lessons learned about publishing journal articles over the 4 years since submitting zir first manuscript to a journal.  Next week, J will outline 5 more lessons from these experiences, and then the following two weeks Xan will offer tips and lessons about being a good reviewer for journals and the ways this may help one’s overall publishing and other career-related experience.  

Every year, I attend conferences and come into contact with graduate students seeking to find answers to a multitude of questions concerning publishing and other aspects of academic careers. As I often do in such cases, I wanted to use this post (the first of two on the subject) to share some lessons I have learned about publishing in academic journals over the years just in case it may be helpful to emerging scholars navigating these activities. I do not mean to claim my experience is in any way exhaustive or some kind of ideal approach, but I realize (if for no other reason than the number of graduate students that seek me out each year) that such information may be useful to many people.  I further admit that many people may disagree with my own approach and the lessons I have learned so far, and I think that is quite fine – my goal here is to offer what I have learned and experienced in hopes of helping others, and I would suggest others simply do the same if they see things differently.

To this end, I offer the following lessons I have learned in the 4 years since I submitted my first manuscript to an academic journal. Considering that I have since published 19 journal articles, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the journal article process, and so I hope to share some insights from behind the scenes while recognizing that many other people likely approach things both the same way I do and much differently in practice. In this post, I offer 5 lessons learned, and in the next post (Volume 2 forthcoming) I will offer 5 more.

Lesson 1: Publishing journal articles is something one learns by doing.

If you walk through any conference or graduate program I have come across so far, you are likely to be able to find lots of advice about how one should go about publishing, but best I can tell most of such advice is not all that useful in practice. I say this as someone who was lucky enough to have mentors that answered any question and provided examples along the way.  What I learned, however, is that the process itself is simply one that takes practice. I cannot tell you how I know when a paper is ready to go out for review or which reviewers to agree with or disagree with because these are ongoing processes of interpretation I have simply picked up with practice over time. I can tell you that such practice is very important, and thus I encourage you to spend at least as much time submitting your work as you do asking others how you should go about submitting work.

Lesson 2: The people who publish the most generally are those who submit the most.

It may be comforting to believe in meritocracy or other ideal scenarios where the cream rises to the top no matter what in academic work and beyond, but realistically everyone I know (self included) that other people say “wow they publish a lot” or “how are you so productive” has a ton of rejections to go with those publications and always has something in the pipeline (if not ten somethings, hell I have 20 at various stages of review as I type this and I know of two colleagues that have more than that in the pipeline right now). To get published, you have to write and you have to submit. I was granted this advice by a scholar I met while in graduate school who, to quote a senior scholar at the time, “published a ton,” and their advice was simply – “if you want to publish a lot, you have to submit a lot, get rejected a lot, and keep submitting – it’s a numbers game like any other, the more chances you get the more times you’ll score a publication.” I can thus tell you that no matter how much (or how little) you workshop, present, or otherwise agonize over your papers, in the end what will matter is how many of them go out for review and how willing you are to keep submitting them (with adjustments along the way) following rejections. Like any other game, you have to play to have a chance.

Lesson 3: Publishing journal articles is about rejection.

Everyone I know that actually enjoys the publication process (as opposed to worrying about it, fearing it, and / or stressing about it) expects every paper they submit to get rejected – period, no exceptions. I say this as someone who has already had 2 papers get conditionally accepted on first submission and as someone who has published a lot – I assume each thing I submit will get rejected and I look forward to getting the rejection, disagreeing with the reviewers, and one day celebrating when I can say (no matter how accurate or inaccurate) “see they were wrong” when another journal wants the piece. I do not expect to get accepted, and thus each time this happens feels like a damn holiday and miracle. The rejections hurt (they suck), but like any other pain, it stings less if you are expecting it from the start instead of hoping for something that you do not get. I thus treat submissions like a game – I throw the pass or accept the dare or spin the bottle assuming it won’t go well so I can dance and sing when it occasionally works out great. I also never developed a “thick skin” as some professors suggest – rather I curse, scream, cry or whatever I feel about every rejection and use that emotion (or pain) as motivation to keep going (i.e., I’ll show them!!!) with the paper in question. I would thus say think of it like this you have nothing to lose since they’re going to reject you anyway so why not give it a shot.

Lesson 4: Publishing journal articles is about patience.

When submitting an article to this or that journal, there is no way to know how long it will take to get a decision. Almost every journal says they do things in x or y time period, but in reality these are averages at best or ideal guesses at worst from what I can tell. The shortest turn around from submission to decision I have experienced so far was 1 month, and the longest was 13 months. I have also experienced everything in between these two extremes. When you submit something, my advice is to forget about it the best you can and work on something else. Watching the pot will not likely do you any good at all, and may increase any anxiety you experience in relation to publishing or submitting in general from what I’ve seen.

Lesson 5: Publishing journal articles is about editor shopping.    

I know the standard marketing slogan, sermon or whatever you want to call it that damn near everyone repeats constantly – “the best papers get published here,” “this journal will get you good reviews,” “your paper is a perfect fit for this journal,” and “if you get good reviews you’ll get published” to name just a few. This is all “wishful thinking” best I can tell because the reality is – as many of my mentors and colleagues have expressed and I have experienced – that all you’re doing when you submit a paper is waiting to see if a given editor wants that paper. Some examples may help de-mystify this statement for those of you who might still cling desperately to beliefs about merit and objectivity in publishing:

  1. I think of the time an Editor rejected a paper of mine because they wrote “they did not believe in qualitative methods,” which kind of automatically meant the merit of any qualitative work would not matter because they did not believe in the work in the first place. This was after the paper had gotten all positive reviews during both rounds (yes I said both, initial and R&R rounds) of review.
  2. I think of the time an Editor rejected a paper of mine because they wrote I had “published too much” in that journal recently, which simply ignored the 3 glowing positive reviews the piece got (i.e., merits) in favor of journal politics and desires.
  3. I think of the (too many to count to date) times I have received rejections at various journals only to realize I got 3, 4, and even 5 glowing positive reviews with statements like “This is the most innovative piece I’ve seen in x field” or “This could be a major contribution to the discipline.” In such cases, editor taste trumps the merit documented by reviewers. In fact, a colleague and I have a running joke that if someone calls our work “innovative” or “original” we know we’re going to get rejected (unless we go to a small niche journal or a brand new journal where they appear to be more open to NEW ideas in my experience) because the last thing any editor at a well known journal seems to want is something innovative or original.
  4. I think of the many times (at least a dozen or so) where reviewers have slaughtered a piece (i.e., they hated it – I even had one write they hated it) by giving it the worst reviews I could imagine only to get a glowing R&R from an editor who apparently liked the piece. Once again (though more positive for the writer) the editor’s taste trumped the merit established (or denied in such cases) by the reviewers.

Sadly, I could give plenty more examples of these experiences, but the end point remains the same – publishing is about finding the editor that wants the piece and merit doesn’t matter unless the editor says it has merit. You have to keep in mind that editors are people with their own biases, assumptions, perspectives, tastes, agendas, etc, and they can (and do) ignore the reviewers (positive or negative) regularly. You can love this or hate this, but in either case, this is the process so you will need to learn to accept it. If your paper is great according to your colleagues and / or the reviewers, but an editor doesn’t want it, it will not get published at that journal. If your paper is horrible according to your colleagues and / or reviewers, but an editor does want it, you will get published at that journal. In the end, the process is about editor shopping because in the end editors decide what has merit and what does not. As a result, you can spend years trying to get your writing group, advisor, friend, magical creature, pen pal or whoever to like it, but in the end unless they are the editor of the journal you choose it won’t matter all that much.

I hope these 5 lessons are useful to readers, and I encourage debate and discussion of them here on the blog since I know from experience people view publishing processes differently. In the next post, I will offer 5 more lessons learned that build on these 5 so until then I wish you well in your own adventures in publishing.

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To Be Seen, Not Heard at the Boys’ Table: Sexism in Academia

The following guest post is by a doctoral candidate in sociology at a public research university in the United States. In this post, ze reflects on experiences with sexism at academic conferences.

 

The systemic problem of gender inequality is often a driving force behind individuals’ decision to specialize in sociology and, more specifically, in the areas of sex and gender. Doe-eyed graduate students, such as myself, believe academia is where merit and opportunity are derived from hard work and meaningful contributions to science. A place were females, males, cisgender, and transgender individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexualities or social class, are accepted by their peers and discrimination is checked at the door. Academics, certainly those in sociology, would never discriminate against minorities and those who are different. Right? Wrong! So wrong, unfortunately. As a first year PhD student in sociology, and also a female, I have already experienced evidence that the boy’s club is still alive and kicking in academia.

For instance, I have been counseled multiple times that it is in my best interest this early in my career to abbreviate my feminine-sounding name on scholarly publications. The second and probably more disheartening sexist experience took place during an annual sociology conference; ironically, the theme of the conference was gender. I feel compelled to share my experience as well as the experience of my co-author (who is also a doctoral student in sociology) during our paper session at this particular conference in the hopes that others can read this and know that they are not alone. Our experiences as minorities deserve to be shared in hopes that they will act as a wakeup call to our more privileged peers.

Nobody Wants to Hear a Female Talk Longer than 6 Minutes

Although I had previously presented at this particular conference when I was a master’s student years ago, this was my co-author’s first time presenting at a sociological conference. We were both excited and bit nervous to present our paper among more seasoned academics. However, our enthusiasm was quickly stifled by the patronizing demeanor of the moderator during our session.

Our session was scheduled to begin at 11:00 am and end at 12:15 pm. This was a fairly small paper session with five presenters and only five audience members, so the moderator decided to start the session at 10:58 am. The moderator asked the five audience members as well as the presenters if any of us anticipated having questions at the end of the session. When one member said yes, the moderator decided that the presenters would have 12-13 minutes to present their work in order to leave sufficient time at the end for questions.

The first presenter was a female professor of sociology, who, mind you, traveled several hours by plane to present her research. About halfway through her PowerPoint presentation the moderator abruptly cut in to tell her that she needed to bring her talk to a close. Flabbergasted, she quickly attempted to finish her presentation while insisting that she was not given the 12-13 minutes promised. Dismayed by this, the first female presenter headed to the back on the conference room and began timing each presentation.

The next person to present was a male who was also giving a PowerPoint presentation. This presenter was politely and unobtrusively shown a written three-minute, hand-written warning by the moderator. The male presenter was then not only permitted to talk for those three minutes, but beyond that time as well, enabling him to complete his presentation in full.

Next up, my co-author and I, both females, were scheduled to present. Unfortunately, I forgot to start the timer on my phone, but the first female presenter had her timer going. Besides, I was confident that my co-author and I would not go over our 12-13 minute time limit. However, we were only about five minutes into our presentation when the moderator interrupted me, mid-sentence to tell us that we needed to conclude. He did not offer a three-minute warning as he had for the previous presenter, instead I was brusquely cut off from speaking. I fumbled to collect my thoughts and wrap up our presentation. The female who was timing us also feverishly waved her hands and stated that we were only given five minutes to talk, but it did not matter. Our time was up – all the practicing and nervous anticipation for five damn minutes!

The next presenter, a male, had time to complete his presentation in its entirety without interruption or suggestion from the moderator that he needed to “wrap it up.” And yes, his presentation took all 13 minutes. The moderator presented his paper last and adhered to the 12-13 minute time limit he set at the beginning of the session. When the moderator concluded, the time was 11:48 am. As the session began at 10:58 am with five presenters, it is obvious that not every presenter received an equal amount of time to convey their research, averaging around 10 minutes each. It was also quite apparent that the two presentations given by females were the two (and only two) that were cut short of the promised 12-13 minutes.

But it does not stop there. The remaining 25 minutes were devoted to putting each presenter, one-by-one, in what the moderator called “the hot seat,” inviting audience members to question each presenter. During the other female presenter’s “hot seat” time, the moderator challenged her in a condescending tone rather than engaging her professionally. He provoked an argument with her rather than a discussion and disrespectfully dismissed her responses to his questions. Finally, this awful, degrading paper session came to an end a few minutes early. The moderator quickly offered a general apology for cutting the session short and insisted that it was important for the audience to be permitted to have ample time to ask questions.

However, the moderator’s hollow apology was not directed at anyone in particular. As graduate students, we spent a great deal of time practicing and preparing our presentation to ensure we did not exceed the anticipated 10-15 minute time slot. Besides the frustration of only being allowed to speak for six minutes, the fact that this clearly only happened to the females and not the males at a sociology conference focused on gender seemed especially terrible.

It is in these very moments where I feel like throwing in the proverbial pink towel and walking away from academia. But, I am stronger than that. I have to remind myself that I earned my spot at that conference table and I will not allow sexist, close-minded individuals to make females (or anyone, for that matter) feel any less deserving. So, fellow minority grad students, let us beware: while we study the systems of inequality outside the walls of academia, the frontline of social injustice may still lie within.

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