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Decision Process for RHM Special Issue on Mental Health

31 December 2018 by Lisa Meloncon

Happy New Year’s Eve-

I hope that you’re finding time to rest and recuperate during this down time between terms. Over at the journal, Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, we continue to work hard in moving manuscripts through review, and we’ve also been working through proposals for RHM’s second special issue (in 2020) on the rhetoric of mental health.

And that’s what I want to talk about today. The process we went through for the special issue proposals.

Every journal handles special issues a little differently, and we’re no different at RHM. In our case, we developed our system based on feedback from our editorial board. The system is created to avoid some of what editorial board members—and the editors—felt are problems that sometimes affect special issues, such as less rigorous review standards/easier to get into, the feeling that only friends of the editor were invited, and issues that don’t cohere.

This explanation does three important things: (1) it continues RHM’s dedication to making the review and publishing process as transparent as possible; (2) it provides a type of accountability to the editorial board, the readers , and to the broader RHM community; and, finally, (3) it simply explains the process for those who submitted to this special issue and those that will, hopefully, submit to the journal in the future.

We received 57 proposals, which is a healthy number for a special issue of any journal, and we were quite pleased with this turn out. Contributors spanned a number of RHM related fields (e.g. composition, rhetoric, communication studies, technical and professional communication, and allied health fields, etc.) and held a variety of different ranks and titles (e.g. graduate students, grant-funded researchers, tenured professors, healthcare practitioners, etc.). Cathryn Molly and Drew Holladay, special issue co-editors read anonymous versions of the proposals and selected 12 to move forward to the second state of review for research articles. The main factors that lead proposals to the second round of review: (1) were they clearly connected to mental health and disability and (2) did they include a direct engagement with Rhetoric. (See our captioned video or transcript on what we mean by rhetoric). In addition, the co-editors tried to move forward a diverse set of proposals based on topic and methodology.

Those 12 proposals were then forwarded to Blake Scott (co-editor of RHM) and two members of our editorial board: a mental and health disability specialist, Jenell Johnson and someone versed but not a specialist, Scott Graham. While other members of the editorial board also have expertise, Scott and Jenell represent the two big “sides” of RHM’s audience: English studies (including rhetoric, composition, technical communication and some linguists) and communication studies (including rhetoric, health communication and applied research methods). The three of them were asked to rank the proposals from 1 to 12, with 1 being the best. Each reviewer was familiar with the CFP, but beyond that no other ranking instructions were given because we wanted their responses to be based on their own readings of the information presented in the proposals and their own perspectives of the proposals’ relevance and timeliness.

I collated those responses, while Drew and Cathryn also ranked the anonymous proposals. As co-editors of the special issue, one of Cathryn and Drew’s jobs is to set the focus of the issue. Therefore, they ranked the proposals based on how things talk to each other holistically. A guiding factor, therefore, was how well each individual proposal worked toward a coherent issue that gets a bunch of things represented and shows the breadth of RHM work and influence. To do this, they prioritized diversity in methods, issues, theory/concepts, and sites of study and application.In the end, we accepted seven proposals and have invited those contributors to submit full manuscripts that will be sent through the regular peer review process. This means the proposal acceptance rate was 12%. It is important to note that even though these proposals were accepted, the odds are that at least two to four of the manuscripts will not make it through the peer review process. Unlike many special issues, RHM does not have to fill pages (so to speak), which means that we can maintain our rigorous standards. We will not accept and publish an essay that is not actually ready.

We are excited about the potential this issue holds and look forward to sharing it with you!!

Until then, wishing you health, peace, and joy!