June 26, 2012

Running a special issue

The nominal reason for this week’s #oi2012 conference at Imperial was to prepare authors and manuscripts for the special issue of Research Policy. (The real reason was to get some of the best open innovation scholars in the world under one roof to teach and learn from each other).

Our VIP guest for the conference was Ben Martin of SPRU, who is lead editor of Research Policy and perhaps the most visible tie remaining to Keith Pavitt, Chris Freeman and the earlier era of SPRU and RP.

In his opening talk Monday, he presented his “20 challenges for innovation studies (from his paper for the Lundvall festschrift). He didn’t have time to present the trends of publication in RP (which having hard data I thought was more practical); instead, he focused on his predictions of future trends which were (as promised) provocative but at times somewhat implausible.

In a brief talk Tuesday just before lunch, Martin spoke about something nearer to the hearts of the assembled audience of OI researchers — how a Research Policy special issue works. He talked about the guidelines and heuristics RP as developed to get special issues that provide both quality and integration.

After seeing the first day and a half of this week’s conference, Martin then congratulated the prospective authors (and the four guest editors) for what he considered a “model special issue”:
  • “An important topical theme,” as demonstrated by the interest and discussion
  • An integration of papers that demonstrates the value of publishing them together in a special issue as being superior to separate publication
  • An experienced, respected team
  • A call that leads to a large number of papers. (As Martin noted, the editors dropped those that “made a perfunctory link to the theme.”)
  • Bringing the papers together in a workshop is “necessary not sufficient”; an effective workshop also means
    • exposing the papers to criticism, getting good “focused criticism” from the guest editor(s) and exposing the ideas to “an audience of expert peers.”
    • an opportunity to hear and read other papers, to build in links between the papers.
This what RP looks for in a special issue — and, I submit, what the guest editors have done thus far. All that Martin’s praise cost us was a Pimm’s at Monday night’s dinner.

Finally, he encouraged the audience a submit their own proposal in the future for one of the 2-3 annual special issues of Research Policy.

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