Challenging our Models: Innovation in Academic Publishing

By Laura Pincus Hartman

As scholars, we are motivated to publish our work by a variety of factors, some of which overlap. Perhaps we were spurred to enter our discipline by the urge to examine some issue of keen interest; or to use our voice – backed by research – in the name of justice and fairness; or to collaborate with our peers to discover new ways of doing business or to explain how we engage with others.

In any case (and certainly there are myriad other motivations), scholarship earns value once it is shared through publication, hence (one) part of the disappointment we often feel at the dreaded rejection email. New outlets often are suspect because they do not have the depth afforded to traditional publication through impact factors and other citation analyses that come with time. However, they offer alternative and, I submit, innovative and complementary value that provides exceptional strength to our academic environment. Though several new journals have emerged in recent years, Business Ethics Journal Review is one that offers some ground-breaking advancements to our scholarly environment, and I would like to draw the attention of the membership to just a few of them.

A double-blind, peer-reviewed journal accessed solely through its online portal ( Business Ethics Journal Review began publishing in February, 2013. BEJR offers several unique qualities that set it apart from other outlets in both process and substance.

From a process perspective, BEJR’s turnaround time for response to your submission is dramatically fast: fewer than 30 days. I had the benefit of this experience as a co-author last year and I can report that the reviewers’ commentaries were no less rich or in-depth than I have received from other editorial cycles. Moreover, because the journal is available solely through its online portal, the editors, our SBE colleagues Chris MacDonald and Alexei Marcoux, activate the social milieu to its fullest potential. Not only are your articles available through BEJR’s website, which invites and receives comments immediately on publication, but the journal encourages the online exchange of ideas in a way that maintains the active life and voice of a journal article. For instance, BEJR‘s approach to copyright is unique: as an author, you are encouraged to distribute your work as widely as possible, including posting it on your own webpages, on, and in any other archiving or distribution service.

In fact, this ongoing discourse is core to the mission of BEJR – both in its process and its substance. BEJR also differs from a standard journal in that it offers a new model of substantive disquisition. BEJR specifically publishes short commentaries – 1,000 to 2,000 words – that offer critiques of recent articles that have been published in the traditional business ethics literature. As such, each commentary published in BEJR offers a response in an unfolding conversation that began in another outlet. Often, the original authors opt to reply to the BEJR authors within the pages of BEJR, perpetuating and deepening the exchange in a manner – and time span – that would not be possible in any other publication community of which I am aware.

As a scholar, I welcome this opportunity for the actual, literal exchange of ideas. What Chris and Alexei have established allows us a platform not only to share our ideas and feedback surrounding each others’ important work – so that we may build fruitfully and productively toward shared goals – but also the opportunity to co-create, using our research as a base, in real time.

For Alexei & Chris, BEJR is a labor of love. As both editors and publishers, they pour their hearts into BEJR. “We’re not in this for the money – because there’s no money in it!” says Chris. “We’re doing this because we really believe in the model. We think the field needs something like BEJR at this point. Business ethics is a topic that matters, so we think it’s important to make it conversational. The pace of scholarly discussions about business ethics needs to be faster, if the field is going to stay relevant.”

Alexei adds, “Traditional academic journals work very well for publishing original research, but they offer a slow, clunky model for hosting the subsequent discussion – the counterarguments and rejoinders – that good articles generate. We looked at letters journals in the sciences (which publish short, intermediate findings from in-progress research), Econ Journal Watch (which publishes papers aimed at other published economics articles), and our hopes for a conversation in business ethics conducted at the speed of the Internet. We threw them all in a blender—and out came BEJR.”

Personally, I find myself writing brief, BEJR-style articles in my head as I read articles all the time. In fact, a review article easily could become the seed of a larger, more traditional research article. While a review article may not require broad research, nor lengthy literature reviews, it does challenge you to critically examine the work that you read in journals today. As you write about that work and integrate those ideas with your own, that kind of project easily could become part of a larger analysis. Exploring what you think about a specific article is often the first step in tackling a larger topic. BEJR makes that initial step publishable.

We all have plenty of choices of how to devote our time and scholarly efforts. I wanted to share the Business Ethics Journal Review as one new option available to those who publish in the field of business ethics and related areas. Our colleagues are striving to offer us an alternative not only to traditional publishing outlets in the form of journals but also offering a new way to use our voices collaboratively – to spiral upwards, building on the work of others to develop as colleagues, to help each other to see our work with new eyes, and perhaps also to see our world a bit differently, as well.