On Slavic Review: Report from the Editor

By Harriet Murav, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

Slavic Review logoASEEES members are, of course, familiar with Slavic Review. However, a few facts about the journal may be of interest to its readership. Libraries around the world subscribe to Slavic Review, including institutions in Costa Rica, South Korea, Japan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican, in addition to libraries in the United States and Canada as well as those in western, central, southern, and eastern Europe.

Slavic Review publishes, on average, twenty-four articles a year. We received 189 new submissions in 2014. The criteria for acceptance combine a desire for representation across disciplines and geographic regions with the quality and significance of the article (including ways in which it reaches conceptually beyond particular topics of study). The language used in correspondence with both readers and authors indicates these criteria: “originality, interpretive significance, and breadth,” and the article should raise “significant interpretive questions within fields of study and interpretive and analytical themes with resonance across fields and disciplines.”

Most articles published in the journal undergo three rounds of revision. Nearly all articles sent out for review are read by two independent peer reviewers, whose anonymous service is invaluable; revised submissions are typically sent to at least one of the original referees, in the interests of seeking a fresh perspective in conjunction with an informed evaluation of an article’s progress. Patience is a desirable quality for authors interested in publishing their work in Slavic Review, but even for authors whose work is eventually rejected, the rigorous peer review process can be productive and edifying. Not all articles submitted go out for peer review. The reasons may include a significant problem in length, a topic that falls outside our disciplines, or a discussion too narrowly focused on one particular aspect of an historical or cultural phenomenon or text—in other words, the manuscript lacks in conceptual reach.

The normative length for articles published in the journal is 9,000 words of text and 3,000 words of notes, for a total of 12,000 words. We still ask for hard copies of manuscript submissions, because the editor and a fair number of reviewers prefer not to read on the screen. Since we have a strictly limited budget for printing, and receive nearly two hundred articles a year, we require authors to provide us with paper copies. Our editorial assistants, three Illinois graduate students in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian studies hired for each academic year, process each submission in electronic and paper form and, when an article has been accepted for publication, they check the bibliographic information of all cited references. This form of submission and processing means that many pairs of eyes read, skim, check, and verify many aspects of each submission on its path to publication, ensuring the finished product is of the highest quality possible.

Most manuscripts receive a decision within six months. I read incoming manuscripts within two to four weeks of receiving the paper copies and I ask referees to return reports in six to seven weeks (this is a shortened turnaround time from the previous two–month deadline). Concerning time to print, depending on where we are in the production cycle at the time of acceptance, production time after acceptance is approximately six months.

I anticipate a higher number of submissions in 2015 in comparison to 2014, including an increase in the number of manuscripts from Russia and southern and eastern Europe. Potential contributors may submit articles in Russian, but the responsibility for providing English versions of accepted articles falls to authors. We continue to receive the highest number of submissions in the field of history, although we’ve seen significant increases in submission in anthropology and political science. We are currently considering clusters of articles on a wide range of topics in history, literature, and cultural studies. A cluster is a group of articles united by a clear conceptual anchor, with an introduction and/or afterword by the cluster organizers or another scholar. Each article in a cluster must be capable of being published as a standalone piece. This necessarily adds to the time to decision, as each article must be reviewed on its own merits and as a constituent part of a thematic whole, but these featured sections showcase active discussions within and across our field’s disciplines. We feature no more than a single cluster in any issue, published as a “special section” preceding the regular articles. Recent special sections have focused on various dimensions and redefinitions of “community” in the late Soviet period and current media discourse on Balkan identity.

Out of roughly five hundred books submitted for review, Slavic Review publishes around two hundred book reviews a year, in addition to featured reviews, critical review essays, and film reviews. A new feature of the book review section will be reviews of literary translations in the Slavic field. Translation is an increasingly important dimension of new publication in our field, and goes hand in hand with scholarship. I also hope to increase the number of film reviews and to include more commentaries on feature films in addition to documentaries.

Slavic Review is a quarterly print journal, which has implications for the time an article or a book review takes to get published. We work six months ahead of schedule, which means that, for example, in mid-August, the finishing touches are being put on articles slated to be published in the Winter issue, which comes out in mid-December. The limitations of the publication schedule mean that we cannot keep up with the 24-hour news cycle; scholarship must take first place over timeliness. However, as readers of the journal will see, we have a “Critical Discussion Forum” coming up in Winter 2015 on the Ukraine crisis. These short essays are not subject to peer review, hence the time to publication is significantly shorter. I hope to continue this feature in order to focus on other current issues; for example, the ongoing migrant crisis in southern and central Europe would be an apt topic for another discussion forum. I welcome suggestions and proposals from prospective authors.

Harriet Murav is a Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is the Editor of Slavic Review. She will speak on a roundtable on "Getting Published in Slavic and Eurasian Studies 1: Do's and Don'ts of Academic Journal Publishing" at the 2015 ASEEES Convention in Philadelphia.

Editor's Note: Article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of NewsNet