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Meet the Editor Series Welcomes Professor Ben Martin

The Editor of Research Policy shared advice on how to pitch to leading journals in this virtual event hosted by our Department of Management.

Professor Ben Martin outdoors, looking into the camera.Having been an Editor of Research Policy (RP) for fifteen years, Professor Ben Martin (SPRU and University of Sussex Business School) is well versed in the pitfalls that hopeful contributors should avoid and, more importantly, the steps they can take to give papers the best chance of being published.

In our fourth Meet the Editor session, Professor Geoff Walters, Executive Dean of Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics welcomed Professor Ben Martin and the international audience comprising more than 45 scholars from around the world. Chaired by Dr Muthu De Silva, Professor Martin shared insight into Research Policy and best practice in paper development with colleagues in our Department of Management.

What is the positioning of Research Policy?

Professor Martin began the presentation by giving an overview of RP, its scope and structure. RP is widely regarded as the leading journal in innovation studies and its focus is on innovation, technology, knowledge, learning and entrepreneurship. The journal is unique in that authors choose which of the twelve editors to pitch their paper to based on their area of expertise.

RP is oriented towards policy and practice and is less theory driven than many other leading journals. It is also interdisciplinary in scope, drawing on economics, management, organisational studies, sociology and political science. Among the most highly cited papers from RP are those which involve conceptual exploratory analysis, as opposed to purely empirical analysis.

In terms of coverage, RP is a global journal, with an even number of contributions from North America and Western Europe and a growing number of papers from Asia.

Advice for academics thinking of submitting to Research Policy

Professor Martin shared insight into how to provide a good submission, stressing that much of the advice could apply to submissions to other journals as well:

  • Read similar papers in the journal to get a flavour of the content, style and theoretical or conceptual approach.
  • Check the website for the scope of the journal and instructions to authors.
  • Seek advice from experienced authors.
  • Present the preliminary version of your paper at conferences and seminars, get feedback and improve the quality before submitting.

Aside from ensuring authors have ‘done their homework’, RP editors ask three key questions when examining papers:

  • Is the topic within the scope of our journal?

An author might demonstrate this by referring to literature that is familiar to RP readers, ensuring the topic has broad appeal for RP readership and arriving at a conclusion of interest to RP readers. This can be further justified in the covering letter if required.

  • Is the paper high quality?

Quality is understood both in terms of topic, which should be embedded in relevant literature and offer an original contribution, and in structure, which must feature systematic analysis, logical argument and a clear, interesting conclusion with specific policy or management implications. Papers should also be written in good English.

  • Who to referee?

Professor Martin highlighted that reliable, conscientious referees have been particularly hard to find during the COVID-19 pandemic. Authors should consider who the editor might ask to referee and may influence the editor’s choice of reviewer through the references they cite.

Revise and Resubmit

Professor Martin offered advice for academics who are invited to revise and resubmit their work to RP:

  • Read referees’ comments very carefully.
  • Decide which points you can respond to.
  • Revise your paper and prepare a detailed accompanying note explaining to each referee how and where you have responded to the points that they made.
  • Be prepared to revise and resubmit more than once.

What to do if your Paper is Rejected

The sheer volume of submissions that RP receives means that inevitably some papers will be rejected. Professor Martin advises authors in this situation to learn from critical comments and to revise and improve their paper for submission in another journal.

We would like to thank Professor Martin for the opportunity to learn from this thought-provoking presentation and for taking the time to answer our audience questions.

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