Proceedings of the British Academy
Guidelines for proposing and editing a themed volume
Why edit a themed volume?
Publishing in Proceedings of the British Academy offers the combined advantages of publication in a distinct book and publication in an established series. Each volume has its own ISBN number and is available to buy separately, yet each paper is citable as being part of a series with a tradition of excellence dating back over 100 years. Proceedings volumes are published in a traditional high-quality print format (marketed and distributed worldwide by Oxford University Press), but they are also included within British Academy Scholarship Online. (List of recent Proceedings volumes)
Editing a themed volume is a serious commitment, but it offers a lot of freedom and responsibility to the Editor(s) of the volume. What we can offer you is a dedicated themed volume on the topic of your choice, with your name on the cover in one of the most prestigious series in the humanities and social sciences.
As Editor, you have the freedom to choose the authors and suggest their titles and topics, and to shape the whole volume as you see fit.
Planning a themed volume
The British Academy wants each themed volume of the Proceedings of the British Academy to be a landmark in its field.
At the same time, because our readership is broad and ranges across the entire spectrum of the humanities and social sciences, it must be emphasised that the papers should be inclusive and accessible to readers who are not specialists in the field. Volumes should focus on an area of research that is advancing rapidly, and need to be of general enough interest for our wide readership, but specific enough to be a landmark volume on the topic.
Please note that the Proceedings is not specifically a forum for conference proceedings. Conferences can be, and very often will be, a basis for a volume (further information on how to submit a proposal for a British Academy Conference). Selected papers from such a meeting may well be suitable (in this case, Editors should not feel that all conference papers have a ‘right’ to be in a volume, and should be ruthless with unsuitable papers). Conference papers are often also usefully supplemented with invited papers to provide balance, scope, and broader interest to the themed volume. Where a volume does derive from a conference, the publication proposal should normally be submitted after the conference has been held, and after the final shaping of the material has been considered. But themed volumes do not by any means have to derive from a conference, and many of the best such volumes will not.
The Editor has the responsibility of defining the subject matter, and role, of every paper in the volume. Editors should not simply leave each paper to the discretion of its author, but rather give each author an idea of what their paper should cover so that it contributes to the volume as a whole. A successful themed volume will have a unity that owes much to its Editor. It is often necessary for the Editor to discuss all of the papers in a volume, and to define what each paper will cover. It may be important to spell out the boundaries of each paper, to ensure both a complementary approach and the absence of overlap. Above all, Editors should work to cover all the relevant angles of the topic, while minimising any repetition between the papers.
All themed volumes should be based around important research topics and contain strong contributions. However, for a volume to be really successful, it is important for the Editor to set out a ‘road map’ of the volume, so every author can understand what is to be achieved by their paper, and the volume as a whole.
One of the historic strengths of the Proceedings of the British Academy series has been the multinational range of authors contributing to the volumes, so the Editor should think about appropriate international representation in the list of contributors. A Proceedings volume may also provide an opportunity for papers by early-career scholars to be included alongside those of senior academics. And Editors should look out for any serious imbalances in the list of contributors (e.g. in the numbers of male and female authors).
We encourage Editors to be creative about the kinds of papers included and to feature a range of papers in the volume. For example, these could include reviews on different aspects of the topic, new research, papers explaining the importance of the topic to the wider world, or papers looking to the future.
Typically the papers in the themed volume will fall into two categories:
- Research papers
The meat of the volume will be the papers that discuss the current research in the field. As mentioned in the section discussing the introduction, the authors of each research paper will have a clear understanding of what the precise topic of their paper is, and what it is not. As ever, it is important to remember to explain the accepted evidence/theories first, in order to lay the ground and set the context for the new evidence/theories. By explaining the current evidence/theories and then discussing the new evidence/theories, you lead naturally to looking forward towards the future of the field, and exciting the reader about the possibilities of research in this area.
- Review-type papers
As well as the research paper, it is useful to include one or more review papers that explain the wider implications of this topic, including to other areas of scholarship. However, rather than making vague allusions to widespread implications inside and across disciplines, the important thing here is to be specific. Take a few of the most important implications, for the discipline and for areas outside it (if relevant), and explain exactly how the research discussed in this volume has direct influence for researchers in these areas. This is important for making the publication appeal to a wide audience, and to explain the value of this field to other specific areas. It is also possible to include opinion pieces in the volume.
An ambitious and substantial Introduction by the Editor(s) is absolutely critical to the themed volume. This introductory paper will sell the topic and the volume to the reader, explaining why the topic is so important and why it deserves a dedicated volume. It will provide a reader coming fresh to the topic with background information of sufficient depth, interest and clarity to encourage them to take up the volume, even if they come from another specialist field.
The Introduction will describe the aims of the volume, and explain the comparative framework that holds the papers together. It will discuss the current state of debate in the field, suggest why the volume is particularly timely, and offer a clear statement as to how the book as a whole, through all its different empirical approaches, contributes to and pushes on the discipline. Having set this context, the Introduction will define and frame what ground each paper in the rest of the volume will be covering. At this point the ‘road map’ that has been set out for the authors will become apparent to the reader.
Editors should aim for the Introduction to be the paper that is cited in the introductory paragraphs of every research article written in your field, where they state that the importance of this topic has been demonstrated by you, and quote your paper.
A reasonably sized Proceedings of the British Academy volume should contain up to 12 papers, each of up to 10,000 words. This is a point of reference, however, and we will certainly be prepared to accept longer volumes, or volumes with more but shorter chapters. If the chapters are too short, though, they will not make their mark; and long volumes must justify their length.
By following the above guidelines, we hope Editors can produce strong and lasting themed volumes, each of which will become a much-quoted volume in its field.
Submitting a proposal for a themed volume
We will consider proposals for themed volumes in the Proceedings of the British Academy series on subjects across the whole of the humanities and social sciences.
The Proceedings of the British Academy series publishes up to ten themed volumes a year. Due to the prestige of publishing one of these landmark volumes, competition is stiff.
Some themed volumes may well arise from scholarly meetings organised by the British Academy, but these will not have priority over other applications.
Please note that all the proposed authors must have agreed to contribute before we can consider a themed volume proposal.
Proposals should be submitted on the appropriate form, which can be downloaded here.
The Proceedings series operates two submission rounds per year. The next advertised deadline for proposals is 20 March 2015. Selection of the proposed volumes will be carried out by the Publications Committee in May 2015, and all applicants will be notified by the end of May.
What happens after a proposal is approved
Detailed information on what you next need to do to prepare the themed volume can be downloaded here.
As volume Editor(s) you are responsible for managing the review process and for ensuring the quality of the volume. The exact arrangements are a matter for you. But each paper should be sent for comment to at least one referee who isn't an Editor of the volume or an author contributing to the volume. It is important that the papers for these themed volumes are refereed to the same standards, so your role in this is crucial.
Once you are happy with the shape and content of both the individual papers and the overall volume, the complete and final text of the volume should be submitted for final approval for publication by the Academy's Publications Committee. The volume, along with a brief report from you confirming that the papers are of a suitably high standard, should be submitted at least one month ahead of the meeting of the Committee at which it will be discussed. The Committee will send the volume out for a final read, and the Committee itself will pay particular attention to the Introduction. The Academy reserves the right not to publish the volume on quality grounds.