Episode 15-Ableism in Academic Publishing
0-0:12 Orthotonics Accessible as Gravity plays and fades out
0:13 Hello and welcome to Accessagogy a podcast about accessibility and pedagogy. I’m your host Ann Gagné and this podcast is recorded on land covered by the Upper Canada Treaties and within land protected by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Agreement, which is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.
0:33 Welcome to episode fifteen. In this episode, which is a bit of an extension of what I talked about in episode fourteen about font choices and publishing books in different modalities, today I want to talk a lit bit about ableism in academic publishing. I’m also doing this on a day that is particularly windy and loud in my neighbourhood so I hope that the audio is still useable when this does come out. One of the things that I want to discuss today in regards to academic publishing will based around three main ideas that you see in academic publishing and where there tends to be a lot of ableism. Again, this is not a comprehensive look, but I wanted to focused on these three things to start a conversation and hopefully you can continue that in your spaces.
1:25 So one, I’m going to be talking about the editing process and the over all format, discourse, and level of diction that is seen in academic publishing. Two, I’m going to be talking about the peer review process for academic publishing. And three, I want to talk about the call for papers (or CFPs) and the sometimes ableist language that is used in these and in the framing of some of the CFPs.
1:51 So academics love to talk about publishing, and in fact publishing research has been made such an important part of academic processes that it’s probably one of the most common things academics tend to talk about, sometimes sadly even more than teaching and pedagogy. But academic publishing is of course deeply flawed and incredibly ableist as a system. You may find some journals that are inclusive or at least say that they’re inclusive until you have to engage with them in any way and then of course you find out they are very deeply bound to whatever systemic inequities that allow them to exist in the first place.
2:32 So, today I’m only going to focus on these three aspects of academic publishing, and I’m focusing on these because I feel that this is also some of these spaces that prevent really great pedagogical research and on the ground information that’s happening in terms of accessible pedagogies that are happening in the classroom from being published, but as I say I promise you there are a lot more things to be said about this, and you know like the open source book that was published last week in this itty bitty font that I saw, which was fun [said in sarcastic tone]. But I want to talk a little bit more about like away from those font inequities like we talked about in last episode, and really just talk about publishing in general.
3:22 So let’s start with point one of why academic publishing can be ableist and this is the editing process and the overall format. So, many journals and university publishing spaces are using outdated inaccessible legacy systems that are not accessible to assistive technologies. And then even the ones that have newer systems and may be accessible to things like screen readers and other assistive technologies, are set up with a user experience that is absolutely a barrier to participation in publishing academic work in this way.
3:57 One example is not letting those who do not have an institutional email to submit work. This of course does not leave room for adjuncts or sessional instructors who may be using personal email to submit their work because they recognize that, you know they know that every institution that they work for may change from semester to semester, and so using a personal email is probably the easiest way to make sure that they can be contacted. And of course, you know studies have shown, who are the folk that are usually the adjuncts and the sessionals are usually marginalized folk by and large. And if you do manage to get past the system then you have to make sure that your manuscript of course, is formatted in a particular house style, often with a lot of arbitrary “musts.” You know the document must do this, the document must do that. And a lot have to do with citation styles like APA, MLA, Chicago, and so on, and I’ve already written about how most of these citation styles can be incredibly ableist, and I can link to that article in the show notes, but there are also some other arbitrary musts that are not very inclusive, such please attach an academic CV in this particular format to make sure that you are legit or something.
5:15 The editing process itself also comes with its own accessibility barriers and assumptions around style and formatting. Sometimes the particular editing that happens after an article has been submitted or accepted tends to even edit out one’s own voice or writing style to make it more conforming to what the journal is used to. And I’ve had this happen to me once and I’m going to tell you that experience was so excruciating, with this going back and forth in the edits, that I often share this with peers when I hear them thinking about submitting to this particular journal. At the end I really felt like the journal that came out didn’t even sound like my own voice, it was almost like a Gen AI wrote it, but of course this was long before we had Gen AI. So maybe discussions about editing of voice from our editor friends, and I know we all have editor friends, could help bring this forward a little bit, so folk don’t feel like their voice is being erased by the editing process.
6:15 And so of course here is where I want to actually like turn this to you that are engaging with the podcast. What are some ridiculous style considerations that you’ve seen that have been actively a barrier to publication for you or your own work? I know peer review is a barrier, and I’m going to just talk about that next, but I’m talking like what kinda like house style type things did you see that are actually a barrier to your lived experience or accessibility needs.
6:43 And so of course here I go to number two which is the peer review process, because you know reviewer two is waiting to hear what I’m going to say about them, and you know how reviewer two will oftentimes take offense to minutiae and accurate uses of punctuation, references again MLA, APA, Chicago and other citation styles. But I want to focus on how the peer review process ends up reinforcing a particular citation style yes, but also ends up reinforcing a type of diction in the review process. Sometimes it ends up being a hunt for the terms or terminologies that the reviewer is used to engaging with and when they don’t see them, even though the person may be, the author may be talking about the exact same thing under a new word, the paper is rejected. So sadly if your writing style is different than the reviewers’ writing style, you know and we’ve all seen these discussions online, you may receive these assumptive and even offensive comments about who you are as an author, who you are as a writer.
7:49 I’ve had conversations with neurodivergent academics who receive similar offensive comments about their style, and what is going on there is in fact the reviewer is in fact noting a difference in how the information is being explained and processed. Beyond the usual asks, that you know, that the author read the works that are often behind very pricey paywalls, and you know please cite so and so’s work from 2023 and so on, where folk from smaller institutions, or even independent scholars may not have access to these resources, it would be really a great movement forward towards inclusion if editors would look over what the reviewer comments are saying for these kinds of language and disability biases in their reviews.
8:40 Three and finally, at least for this episode, though as I say there are many many barriers found in academic publishing, and certainly not all the barriers that impact disabled writers and scholars are going to be talked about here. But I want to talk about where most articles or chapters for example originate, and that’s with the call for papers, or CFPs. I feel like CFPs have actually been getting worse instead of better over the years. Some CFPS ask for papers that focus on inclusive topics like trauma-informed pedagogy, and I recently saw one about neurodiversity and teaching and learning, but they don’t use inclusive language, they have intense deadlines and word count requirements that are a barrier to many who have lived experience of the topic or in disability community, and so they’ll will not be able to send in a proposal or a draft. And open educational publishing or open educational resource creation that’s done through these kinds of calls for papers is not excluded from these barriers as well. A CFPs asking for community input or support on OERs needs to be inclusive or the resource that’s created will not be inclusive, regardless of how its going to open eventually.
9:58 So what we need, I feel, is a deep review of the kinds of language and positionality that’s used in these CFPs. And yes I know full well that sometimes the language used is extremely purposeful. They do not, in fact, want papers from disabled scholars even if they say so at the bottom, they want to maintain some sort of normative status quo, but if you’re working on an inclusive topic and you have a CFP that does not demonstrate that you have an intersectional awareness of disability or accessibility requirements, then that CFP just simply becomes performative.
10:36 So what can you do? Well you can review the CFP and so here are a few tips to kinda end this episode. Look at the due date ask yourself is it reasonable to have someone to have a complete draft of a 6000 word paper in 6 weeks. Probably not. Look at the words and terminology used and reflect on some of them to see if they are ableist or if they presume a sort of neurotypical academic that’s at a particular kind of higher education institution.
11:05 And the third tip to changing the CFP, and I know some of you who are working in more traditional publishing places will tell me well this is absolutely impossible we cannot do this, but I promise you, you have the opportunity to change that, is to ask the authors to submit abstracts in different modalities. Does the proposal have to be textual? I’ve seen conferences where they do video abstracts, and you know captioned video abstracts of course. And so what’s stopping places like you know journals and those doing chapter abstract proposals, to ask for folk to submit an audio transcript file, or a video file as an abstract. If I can go into a learning management system and give students audio or video feedback on an assignment, then why can we not do the same for publishing is basically what I’m trying to say here?
12:01 There is a lot here to talk about and I know that publishing is one of those things that we can talk about forever, I know that some rather robust discourse has been talked about in terms of publishing for quite some time. And I know that everything within the publishing system is actually a system right? From the actual systems they use to receive work, to the biases against disabled authors in the peer review process, to the framing and phrasing of CFPs, to the editing and the editors who edit the work- there are many places where ableism appears and creates barriers to folk sharing their work in this way.
12:40 So that is episode 15 of Accessagogy, with an overview the way that academic publishing systems are ableist and I sincerely hope that those of you who listening to this podcast and have some connection to academic publishing take a moment to make it more accessible to everyone going forward. And of course feel free to share some things that you’ve seen to make publishing even more inclusive recently.
13:06 Remember as well that I also want this to be a space where you can ask questions and share concepts that you would like me to discuss. So if there’s anything that I’ve mentioned here, that you’d like to clarify, or if you have any really great resources that you’d like to share please do share and please do ask.
13:22 As always if you have any ideas or aspects of your pedagogy that you would like me to address in this podcast, feel free to send me an email at Accessagogy so that’s acc e ss a gogy at gmail dot com. I will try to include as many suggestions as possible in the podcast because ultimately, this podcast is for you. So that’s it, that’s episode 15 of Accessagogy, thanks so much for following along and asking how can I make my space more accessible today? Have a great week!