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American Sociological Association: 2012 Editor Applicant Vision Statements
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
JHSB is the premier showplace for medical sociological research. It should continue to publish high quality studies while highlighting the relevance of research findings to a broader audience, including other sociologists and policy makers. The journal has been in great hands for the last several editorial cycles, and major changes are not needed. The new editors will strive to maintain both the quality of work and the wide scope of topics that are covered. That said, there are some existing areas that should continue to be emphasized, and new ones that could be further refined.
More emphasis could be placed on development of both theory and method. (Note that development should not be confused with hypothesis testing, where existing theories and methods are utilized.) Being more receptive of articles with a purely theoretical or purely methodological focus should further this goal. In particular, we would like to implement the publication of "research notes" or shorter more concise pieces that focus on advancement of an existing theory, production of new theory, or development and illustration of new methods that are particularly applicable to medical sociological research.
A streamlined publication process will ensure that JHSB is publishing both timely work, and that work is published in a timely manner. If JHSB is to publish articles that are timely and relevant to current debates in both the literature (e.g., theory, methods) and the social policy world, then the editor needs to make a commitment to be aware of timing. One way to do this is to standardize a "pre-screening" protocol for rejecting submissions prior to review if they do not meet some minimum standard (to be set by the editor and the editorial board members).
Continued emphasis should be placed on making the work of medical sociologists relevant to public discourse (e.g., one page policy briefs, website podcasts by authors). For example, special issues should be tied to contemporary social issues (e.g., health care policy research, poverty, obesity, veterans’ health). The use of policy briefs could be expanded to several per issue, making them available only on the JHSB website. Working with the ASA, it may be possible to make the JHSB website, and podcasts, more media friendly.
In summary, JHSB is doing many things right—publishing high quality work, covering important topics in medical sociology, and engaging with a broader audience. However small tweaks in the existing system may result in an even better journal—more emphasis on theory and methodological development, streamlining the review process in order to ensure timeliness, and continuing to push research into the public sphere. By focusing on these three goals JHSB should continue to be the preeminent place for scholarly work on health and well-being.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior (JHSB) is a solid journal, with a strong history. As editor, my primary role would be to carry on that tradition. Therefore, my ideas for the journal are not intended to revolutionize it, but to build upon its existing traditions and foundation.
The journal’s official description states that it focuses on “empirical articles” that are “grounded in important theoretical issues.” These two core principles will remain at the heart of my editorial direction. Under my leadership, the journal will adopt a broad definition of health, including functional health, wellbeing, mental health, disability, mortality, physical health, and health behaviors. Macro and micro level approaches to health, health care, and health behaviors will be balanced. National and international perspectives will be presented. Both interdisciplinary and purely sociological approaches will be highlighted. All forms of methodological inquiry will be welcome, including (but not limited to) ethnography, statistical analyses of existing population-based datasets, meta-analyses, primary data collection, qualitative methods, and comparative historical analyses. As has been done in the past, JHSB will present a select number of editorial and review articles – for example, the prestigious Reeder award lecture – but the vast majority of the articles published in JHSB during my tenure as editor will be motivated by theory, and based on empirical data and the analyses of that data.
Within these general guidelines, there are no substantive topics that will be especially sought after, and no topics that are necessarily off-limits. In my view, the primary role of an editor is to select articles that showcase the diversity of exceptional work being doing in our discipline, rather than imposing my predetermined agenda. Therefore, I will allow the interests of submitting authors and the enthusiasm of trusted reviewers to advise me on which specific topics are most timely and important to the readers of JHSB. I will, however, give preference to pieces that are particularly novel or cutting edge. For example, the sociologist who is able to utilize biomarker data to explain potential causal pathways underlying social disparities would be most welcome. And, articles that expertly blend macro and micro level analyses will also be appreciated.
Although the articles published in JHSB should, first and foremost, be grounded in social theory and situated within the existing social science literature, I will encourage all authors to also think about the practical implications of their findings. To this end, I will work with authors and reviewers to consider how their findings may be applicable to policy, practice, or daily human life. I intend to work with SAGE Publications to expand the “policy brief” feature used by current editor, as well as to explore how the use of social media, podcasts, and targeted press releases may further expand the reach of the work published in JHSB.
In sum, I do not anticipate any major changes – no need for any fixes. My goals are simple: to uphold the high standard that we have all come to associate with JHSB, and to select a range of articles that blend important theoretical insight with unique methodological contributions that further our understanding of how the “social” affects health.
The Journal of Health and Social Behavior has been widely influential, not only within sociology, but also in other disciplines and in the policy arena. This influence is seen in the current framing of health disparities, debates over health care access and finance, and in the study of social stressors, to name just a few among many examples. A key contribution of the journal is the dissemination and debate of ideas that move other fields towards a more sociological analysis of health.
Currently, this sociological analysis is more important than ever. Funding opportunities have become more competitive and scarce. Perhaps as a result of this scarcity or as a symptom of it, funding agencies are becoming more conservative by focusing on diseases and technology. As one example, the National Institutes of Mental Illness (NIMH) has shifted from a comprehensive understanding of mental health to one that is much more narrowly focused on clinically-diagnosed psychopathology. The overall effect of this shift is to place the locus of analysis on personal troubles rather than social issues.
A medical intervention that focuses on treating one person is an easier pill to swallow for many policy makers and ordinary people than a societal-level intervention that prevents illness among the population. But it is this challenge to tackle difficult and sometimes controversial issues that lies at the core of the work of medical sociologists. For example, sociologists continue to play a key role in raising crucial questions about how to think about epigenetics, the expression of genes based on changes in the environment. Similarly, sociologists exert pressure on the national health agenda on how to conceptualize, measure, and evaluate health disparities and their multiple causes across numerous social categories. Sociologists continue to take leadership roles in many areas, including: the health impact of the criminal justice system; rising patterns of social inequality; changes in the structure and functioning of the family; the aging of the population; shifts in the meaning of health, illness, dying, and death; the financing of health care; advocacy and social change related to health; and the globalization of information, pathogens, and products.
If chosen as Editor, I would want this flagship journal to continue to lead the debate around these and similar issues. Given JHSB’s track record and selectivity, I would not seek to change the journal itself. Instead, I would continue to encourage the best submissions, and facilitate a quick and fair review process. I would retain the activities established by Editor Umberson and her predecessors (e.g. policy brief, Twitter and Facebook pages, podcasts). I would add a moderated blog to highlight publications. One section of the blog would be written to be accessible to an 8th grade reading level to encourage a broader readership, including young students. The blog would also ask readers to pose a question for the field, with the goal of generating further engagement with the journal and to encourage new ideas for investigation.
While looking to the future, we must not shortchange the past. A notable omission is that the journal’s webpage does not list articles preceding 2004. To rectify this shortcoming, I would work with ASA and Sage to at least provide the citations of older articles.
Finally, I believe we can increase the number of subscriptions to the journal by promoting the Associate Member category. This category is open to people who do not have full-time appointment in sociology departments. Associate Members pay a reduced rate ($100), and gain access to one journal, but do not have voting privileges. Currently, Associate Members comprise 10% of the JHSB’s individual subscriptions. By advertising this membership category in the listserves of other disciplines (e.g. public health, gerontology), we can increase the number of subscribers to the journal and promote ASA more generally.
I have considered many other changes that have appeared in some other journals, such as by adding new subsections, adding pictures on covers, inserting historical anecdotes and similar activities. All of these may be additions worth considering, but I sincerely believe that JHSB is in a very good place. As a current Deputy Editor of JHSB, I know that the journal receives a large number of excellent submissions, has a fair and timely review system, and receives the support of substantively diverse reviewers with deep expertise in their respective areas. These are the foundational ingredients of an influential journal and I would do everything possible to continue this tradition.
Sociology of Education
The main goals are to maintain and continually raise the journal’s professional standing and to increase its public visibility. The first goal will be achieved by keeping the journal’s impact high through increasing submissions by means of calls through list serves and newsletters, and by locating outstanding reviewers. A set of on-site editorial advisors will assist in making decisions about reviewers and about questions of acceptance. In order to serve both goals, a section entitled “Research and Policy” will be included in each issue. This will consist of invited articles on how research relates to current policy issues, by major scholars in the field. In order to increase public visibility, news releases about selected articles will be sent to outlets such as Inside Higher Education, Teachers College Record, Education News, and Education Week.
My foremost responsibility as Editor of SOE would be to identify high-quality sociological scholarship on education that is theoretically motivated, empirically grounded, and presented in a clear and compelling manner. Beyond this foundation, I would prioritize work that speaks to a broad readership within the subfield, that is useful to the subfield’s external constituencies (e.g., educators, practitioners, and policy makers), and that is widely relevant. Sociologists of education study innumerable substantive issues, draw on a broad array of theoretical traditions, and employ the full range of methods used by social scientists. In short, sociology of education is an extremely vibrant and expansive subfield. In recent years, SOE has generally reflected this diversity of topics, theories, and methods. However, more can always be done. One important goal of my term as Editor would be to continue and expand SOE’s tradition of attracting and publishing high quality scholarship that employs a diverse sets of theories and methods to understand the many ways in which the processes and institutions of education shape and are shaped by broader social, economic, political, cultural, and other contexts. I would actively reach out to scholars from all theoretical orientations, methodological approaches, and substantive areas. I would also be creative and proactive when it comes to disseminating sociological information via press releases, an enhanced web interface, and social media.
We believe the role of a journal is to publish research that generates scholarly conversations and to serve as a forum for advancing the science of the discipline. Sociology of Education is widely regarded as one of the premier sociology and education journals in the world. Our primary vision as coeditors will be first, to maintain SOE's stellar reputation as the journal of record for the most theoretically, substantively, and methodologically sophisticated and important research in the field; and second, to further expand Sociology of Education’s influence, to increase the reach of these scholarly conversations and discipline-advancing scientific works, while maintaining these highest of standards.
We will maintain SOE’s reputation by continuing the journal's tradition of publishing the best new scholarship in sociology of education. We will ensure that articles published reflect the entire field in terms of methodology and substantive subareas, and that theoretically innovative pieces have a home in the journal. We will do so by developing a demographically diverse editorial board comprised of nationally- and internationally- recognized scholars, whose expertise collectively covers the field substantively and methodologically. We will also achieve this goal by attending education sessions at conferences with audiences comprised of both scholars and policy-makers, including ASA, ISA (International Sociological Association), AERA, SREE (Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness), APPAM, SRCD (Society for Research in Child Development), AEFP (Association for Education Finance and Policy), SEA, and the World Congress of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES). We will invite authors, both within the United States and internationally, to submit their polished manuscripts to Sociology of Education, and we will inform researchers of new and forthcoming articles that are relevant to their research. Our outreach activities, to be discussed below, should also help us maintain standards of excellence in research.
Our second main goal is to expand the reach of Sociology of Education. David Bills aptly wrote that Sociology of Education is a unique journal that should be of interest to both academics and practitioners. He did an admirable job ensuring that articles presented policy implications, when relevant. We will continue this practice by encouraging authors to consider both theory and policy (again, as appropriate). We also will expand the reach of the journal, first, by organizing Sociology of Education sessions at academic, policy, and practitioner conferences that will feature recently published and forthcoming articles. Second, we will expand Sociology of Education’s reach to practitioners by engaging them through a newsfeed, entitled Developments in Sociology of Education Research (news@socofed). This newsfeed will summarize recent and forthcoming articles with a focus on policy implications. The editors will create the newsfeeds, with help from a research assistant. Prior to release, the authors will vet the feeds. A link to the newsfeed will be placed on the Sociology of Education website. The newsfeed will be modeled after the Journal of the American Medical Association because this journal is highly visible in the media and among practitioners. We will work with ASA’s public relations staff to recruit policy-makers and practitioners to subscribe to an electronic news feed digest, to be distributed quarterly.
Next, we will engage students by creating online-only one-page extended abstracts (executive summaries) and short quizzes for each article (with assistance from and approval of authors). The extended abstracts would be geared toward students and would help professors easily incorporate Sociology of Education articles in their classrooms. We also will generate an online quiz for each article. This quiz would include one to two questions that help summarize the findings in the article. Again, this is a tool that professors can use to engage their students in the classroom. The proposed coeditors will create a listserv of professors who teach Sociology of Education, Social Problems, and Introduction to Sociology. We will remind professors biannually of new research and resources available through the Sociology of Education website.
Finally, our coeditorship will engage academics, practitioners, and students by posting on the SOE website brief video or audio interviews with authors discussing their manuscripts, increasing the current usage of podcasts by Sociology of Education. Each author will spend 3-5 minutes contextualizing her or his research topic and highlighting key findings. They will state why the research is important, its relevance to theory and the field’s stock of knowledge, and implications for practice and policy. We will model our interviews on Teachers College Record’s “The Voice” feature (see, for example, http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=12596 in which Prof. John Rury discusses his and Jennifer Ng’s critical analysis of the Ruby Payne phenomenon).
Our vision will help maintain and enhance Sociology of Education’s reputation as a scientifically-rigorous, theoretically powerful, and practically relevant journal. This vision will expand the journal’s reach so that it may influence future research, policy, and discourse.
The next editor of this journal will inherit a vibrant and healthy journal, as well as a duty to maintain this level of excellence. This is a charge I will approach with the utmost of professionalism and intensity. The most important characteristics an editor embodies or embraces the following: fairness, professionalism/ collegiality, efficiency, and transparency. Above all else, an editor must be fair. This means holding all submissions to the same high standards, not privileging submissions based on topic area, theoretical orientation, methodology, rank or prestige of the author(s), or one’s personal relationships. The editor needs to acknowledge the hard work that goes into every submission, and respect that work with a thoughtful, professional, collegial, and efficient review process. This means having open lines of communication with authors, striving for timely editorial decisions that do not compromise the quality of the ultimate publication, providing an honest assessment of the prospects of invited resubmissions, and detailing the rationale for editorial decisions when papers are rejected. In short, I approach the editorial review-related aspects of this position with no agenda or purpose other than to fairly facilitate the publication of the best research possible within the covers of Sociology of Education.
How is this goal of publishing the best possible research accomplished? I believe the guiding questions listed below will identify quality research and improve the articles ultimately published. Therefore, the central questions that will influence my editorial decisions are: 1) Is the submission addressing an important question? I want to see articles in Sociology of Education that “think big.” Rather than papers that address narrowly defined issues and attempt to only incrementally further knowledge, I will privilege submissions that identify substantial topics and boldly attempt to move sociological knowledge forward in more meaningful ways; 2) Is the article theoretically driven? In my view, the best research does not only describe reality, but rather makes theoretical sense of it. Theory, broadly defined, should be not just be an obligatory addition to a manuscript, it should be a centrally important component of the work; 3) Does the article speak to multiple sub-disciplines? I fully understand that Sociology of Education is a “specialty” journal, closely associated with the ASA section that shares its name, but as Editor, I would encourage authors to write to the broader audience of sociologists in general, and develop connections to other sub-disciplines whenever possible. Outstanding articles that focus primarily, or even exclusively, on sociology of education-related topics could still find a home in Sociology of Education, but I believe that articles which bridge multiple sub-disciplines are often more influential; 4) Finally, the policy implications of the research needs to be developed whenever possible. Sociology of Education is well positioned to not only further sociological knowledge through basic research but also to directly influence the decisions of educational policy makers. All of these criteria can be met with qualitative or quantitative (or mixed-method) approaches, and I would not privilege one of these types of research over the other. That being said, given my perception that a majority of papers published in Sociology of Education have been quantitative, I believe qualitative researchers should also be actively encouraged to submit their work. Ultimately however, the quality of the research, and the guiding principles noted above will shape my editorial decisions.
Sociology of Education has such an impressive impact because it draws the attention of a wide range of academics around the world: educational researchers in policy centers, educational social-psychologists, anthropologists, economists, historians, health researchers, criminologists, demographers, and so many others. These academics need to be encouraged to read, cite, and ultimately submit their best education-related work to Sociology of Education. The editor should engage in the promotion of the journal in a variety of ways. This can be accomplished by actively talking up the journal, and the research it has published, at professional conferences, participating on panels focused on the publishing/review process (as a form of professional socialization of early career scholars), and being willing to hold workshops for departments that want editors to discuss the review process in-depth for their graduate students and faculty. The truth is that Sociology of Education publishes a relatively small number of articles (16-20 annually). This means that efforts to promote these articles are less burdensome than journals that publish several times that number. This represents unique opportunities for the editor. For example, the few podcasts that are already on the journal’s website represent an excellent way to market papers published in Sociology of Education. I would strongly encourage all authors of Sociology of Education articles to engage in this type of article promotion, and I would work with them to disseminate this information widely. The more exposure a wide range of academics has to articles published in Sociology of Education, the better. In sum, Sociology of Education is an outstanding journal, and in order to keep it that way future editors need to actively encourage a wide variety of researchers to submit their best work there and to promote the excellent research that is published in the journal.
Sociology of Education is one of the premier ASA journals and the flagship journal of this sub-field. It has a loyal readership with most sociologists of education following the journal since their graduate years. SOE maintains a similarly high impact score of other ASA journals and ranks 16th of 137 in Sociology and 17th of 203 in Education and Educational Research (Thompson Reuters, 2012). The upcoming editor will take the helm of a strong, highly respected journal with loyal readership. Should I be selected as editor, my first commitment would be to ensure that the journal continues to publish cutting-edge, high quality research on the substantive issues and methodological approaches that represent scholarly work in the field.
I have reviewed the journal’s website, read the editors’ reports over the last ten years, reviewed all papers published during the last four years and spoken with the current and past editors. All of these sources and my own impression of the journal, which I have read for over twenty-five years, suggest that Sociology of Education fulfills its mission of providing “a forum for studies in the sociology of education and human social development” (SOE website). My review of the journal’s publications revealed that, although much has been accomplished by recent editors, thematic and methodological diversity remains a challenge. The journal continues to show what Karl Alexander identified in his 2006 editorial report as topical and methodological skews towards secondary data analyses, issues of social inequality and older stages of the student career.
The challenges facing the incoming editor will be to increase the thematic, methodological and theoretical diversity in submissions to more closely represent the wide range of scholarship within the field and to broaden the readership of the journal. To these ends, I would work to (a) increase the number of submissions that use qualitative methodologies, combined data analysis strategies and other innovative methodological approaches, and (b) strike a balance between theory and practice in published work to promote the understanding of educational phenomena. Sociology of Education is in an excellent position to make a significant impact on its field and social policy by encouraging the development of new theories or the refinement of existing theories pertaining to educational phenomena. Expanding the intellectual diversity of the journal would require a concerted effort of outreach through numerous venues.
Increasing the thematic and methodological diversity of the journal will also result in broadening the journal’s readership and increasing its impact. This was made clear by recent SOE publications that covered a broader range of topics than the “industry standard” of educational achievement. I would also aim to increase visibility of the journal through news bulletins highlighting articles relevant to specific sections of national and international professional associations, continuing the current editors’ initiatives of podcasts, working with the ASA press release office to promote exemplary articles and collaborate with Sage Publications in exploring the potential use of social media in expanding journal visibility and keeping scholars connected to the journal.
Ensuring a thorough, fair and timely review process would be important for achieving my stated goals of increasing publication diversity, readership and journal visibility. To this end, I would seek to I appoint two deputy editors, who, together with the editor, would form a substantively and methodologically diverse team with complementary skills and sociological approaches as well as an active and diverse editorial board.