I declare that I don’t own a goldfish…

Yes, I totally understand conflicts of interests, and I also understand that journals have an incentive to indemnify themselves in cases of conflict of interest. At the same time, we’re not getting paid any extra for doing reviews; I could be doing something else. I guess this is why they ask me every time whether I want “recognition” on Publons (no, I still don’t get it), and perhaps on ORCID… but seriously, who comes up with this?

Please complete a declaration of competing interests, considering the following questions:

1. Have you in the past five years received reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organisation that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of this manuscript, either now or in the future?

2. Do you hold any stocks or shares in an organisation that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of this manuscript, either now or in the future?

3. Do you hold or are you currently applying for any patents relating to the content of the manuscript?

4. Have you received reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organization that holds or has applied for patents relating to the content of the manuscript?

5. Do you have any other financial competing interests?

6. Do you have any non-financial competing interests in relation to this paper?

OK, I guess it’s sometimes worth spelling out what a conflict of interest actually means. (I also guess that most of these points are not really adapted to the social sciences.) Obviously I should not do the review in the first place in the case of a conflict of interest, but the best part comes at the end!

If you can answer no to all of the above, write ‘I declare that I have no competing interests’ below. If your reply is yes to any, please give details below.

That’s right, a tick box is not enough in this case. So please, I want to declare that I don’t own a goldfish — I mean, it could be relevant?

Rejecting candidates

I’m currently screening candidates for a fixed-term position and thought I would share some views “from the other side”, so to speak.

It’s not an easy task, especially if you do your best to provide a fair and equitable selection. One thing that really struck me this time was how strongly the advert resonated in some disciplines and not in others. The advert was for a “Post-Doctoral Researcher”, with a clear preference for “economics; sociology, or political sciences”. That’s simply because for this particular position — in a specific project — that’s the skills we need; and it worked, we have received mostly applications demonstrating excellent quantitative skills. Another generic observation concerns LinkedIn. It’s the first time I’ve also advertised on LinkedIn, and this enticed a fair number of applicants to press the “apply” button, even though the advert asked for applications by e-mail. One thing I noticed compared to the applications by e-mail is that the share of speculative applications was noticeably larger: applications without any reasonable fit. Some of them obviously clicked through the screening questions, because the CV did not always back up the skills. On the other hand, LinkedIn also makes it almost too easy to reject applicants.

The hardest cases are always those truly excellent candidates that just don’t match, but impress otherwise. Let’s be clear here, there are positions that are open, where you set your own research agenda, and there are jobs in projects where the general direction and research design are given.

Reasons we rejected you

Here’s a list of reasons why we have not continued with your application into the second round (in no particular order):

  • very poor English in the cover letter; I know not everyone has had the same opportunities to learn English, grew up with a similar native language or was given the necessary resources, but if your cover letter fails to demonstrate good language skills, we cannot count on your writing those articles in English
  • you did not demonstrate any of the skills we asked for; these are the skills you need to carry out the job, so a motivation to learn advanced quantitative methods is not going to be sufficient, certainly not when you’re up against more than 100 other candidates
  • you really want to work on a (widely) different topic; in this case, it’s a job for a specific project, so no matter how great your “project” is, it’s not useful. I know you need a job, but when you tell us that you really want to work on a different topic, you’re not going to be happy in this job.
  • your best quantitative skills are QCA or Atlas.ti (I’m not making this up!), or you’ve done economic theory up to now
  • you provided a list of keywords from my webpage, but there is no coherent statement. Yes, you got my attention for 1/4 of a second, but not more than that
  • your e-mail bounces when I sent the acknowledgement mail. OK, technically you have not been rejected, but how should we communicate?

Some bad signals we ignored

Let’s be clear here, with over 100 applications, we could be very picky and work only with the applications that immediately impress us. But we also know that we might have missed something in the first round. Here are some things you might want to avoid next time:

  • you’re not following the instructions (i.e. send a single PDF by e-mail in this case, like sending 7 PDF and Word documents, or sending me an updated CV twice); this doesn’t really signal attention to detail
  • your PDF application is poorly organized, like putting the job market paper first, not the cover letter (sure, we love scrolling through documents… .~)
  • your personal website doesn’t work — when did you update it last time?
  • you use a script font for the cover letter — it’s just very hard to read, OK?
  • you can’t spell STSTA [sic.]

Stuff we appreciated in the first round

It’s not magic really, but there are things you did do to aid the screening process, thank you:

  • you have the skills asked for, and you clearly show this
  • you demonstrate in the cover letter that you have read the advert beyond the word “postdoctoral researcher”, like mentioning how your previous work relates to the project we advertised. I know you’re probably writing many applications, but it does make a difference for jobs with clear requirements.
  • that one applicant using Julia
  • your material and especially your CV is nicely organized
  • your cover letter is short and relevant; it’s not just your CV in prose, and probably you don’t want to lead with your teaching statement when applying for a pure research position.

Now on to the second round …

Parallel Universes

Two recent books examine the politiclization of migration in the news in Europe. It’s great to see different takes on this important topic, but having contributed to an earlier similar study with an extensive study of how the media report immigration, it struck me how much we’re working in parallel universes. The excellent REMINDER project managed to go 3 years without discovering the work by Van der Brug et al., the equally excellent TransSOL project did find it. Both H2020 projects start in 2015, after the so-called ‘refugee crisis’, whereas Van der Brug et all covered 1995 to 2009. Should we count this as a failure to publicize the work, or are we simply looking at parallel universes where each universe prolifically produces new knowledge…?

Cinalli, Manlio, Hans-Jörg Trenz, Verena K. Brändle, Olga Eisele, and Christian Lahusen. 2021. Solidarity in the Media and Public Contention over Refugees in Europe. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York : Routledge, 2021.

Strömbäck, Jesper, Christine E. Meltzer, Jakob-Moritz Eberl, Christian Schemer, and Hajo G. Boomgaarden. 2021. Media and Public Attitudes Toward Migration in Europe: A Comparative Approach. Routledge.

Van der Brug, Wouter, Gianni D’Amato, Joost Berkhout, and Didier Ruedin, eds. 2015. The Politicisation of Migration. Abingdon: Routledge.

The PRIO Guide to Migration Journals

This deserves more attention that ‘just’ a tweet! The PRIO guide to migration journals is now live: https://migration.prio.org/Journals/

It’s a guide of 29 migration journals you might want to consult once in a while if you consider publishing in migration journals.

What do you get?

The first thing you’ll notice is a list of (currently) 29 migration journals — with a relatively broad understanding of ‘migration’. As is probably necessarily the case, we can quibble about the inclusion of journals in such a list, but in my view the PRIO guide provides a pretty good overview of the publishing options. Having such a list in itself is greatly useful.

For a slightly different list of migration journals, you can consult the excellent list provided by our Documentation Centre: http://www.unine.ch/sfm/home/library/revues-liees-a-la-migration.html

It doesn’t stop here, though, far from it! For each of these 29 journals, you get a detailed portrait that should help you decide whether the journal is a suitable outlet for your research. The headings included are relevant for researchers, and I really like how they managed to provide information about the impact factor without listing it (or other similar measures). (unlike my blunt summary here).

Perhaps the most useful part (but also the most difficult one, thus possibly also the one where we might not always agree) is at the end, where they have picked typical articles. On the one hand, this saves you a trip to the journal website to check recent publications. On the other hand, it doesn’t entirely answer the question of what kind of research do they typically publish? I guess that’s the question we’re asking, but also one which is very difficult to answer when the common factor is the topic (migration) and not the methodology or something like that. In that sense, three articles can never do justice of the diversity of articles in IMR or JEMS, for example.

If open access is a concern for you, the end of the guide nicely summarizes the open access status. This doesn’t include (how could it possibly?) national agreements with publishers.

If Because impact is probably one of your concerns, there’s a nice summary at the end. I really like it how they avoided impact factors of Scimago rankings, yet still provide you with a general idea of ‘impact’ — and with that ‘prestige’.

What don’t you get?

You don’t get journals that publish a lot on migration but are not focused on migration, like some demography journals. The selection of journals is nicely documented, so no quibbles there! You also don’t get journals without peer review — but that’s definitely a good thing!

You don’t get impact factors (that’s probably a good thing), but you also don’t get information about the peer review — that’s a factor many early career researchers (have to) take into consideration. Luckily, we have SciRev for this. While journals have the relevant information about turn-around time or rejection rates, they tend not to publish them in a systematic way — it’s more like advertising: journals often highlight those aspects they do ‘well’. With SciRev, everyone can review the review process, and there are also short comments that can be quite insightful. There are other such guides, like some wiki pages, but SciRev is the only one I know with a systematic procedure, and speaking of migration journals, the only one that spans different disciplines!

One thing that a generic guide like the PRIO guide will struggle to do is capture the prestige of journals in different circles of researchers. This is linked to the question of what kind of research typically gets published in the journals, and can be quite different to impact factors or Scimago rankings… not that a Q4 journal in Scimago will be considered high prestige by some, though. I guess there’s still value in ‘asking around’ a bit.

If you need more information about ‘green’ open access, there’s still https://v2.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/