Six things you’ll want to know about the Journal of Ethnobiology: An insiders interview with an editor

Dana Lepofsky

By Annalee Sekulic

Whether you are entering the world of academia or a well-seasoned navigator of the chaos, publishing can be a headache. Where do you begin? Which journal is most suited for your topic? How long does it take?

Dana Lepofsky, editor and chief of The Journal of Ethnobiology and Professor of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University, sat down to answer some of our most pressing questions.

1.) What makes the Journal of Ethnobiology "different" from other SoE publications?

We are quarterly Journal, meaning we publish four full issues a year. We publish a combination of issues fully devoted to a single special topic, issues fully devoted to individual “regular” submissions, and issues that are a combination of “special sections” and regular submissions. All of the articles published are high end, refereed papers that situate ethnobiology in a broader social and or ecological - past, present, and future.

Papers for the Journal are between 5500 and 8500 words, but we encourage on-line only supplementary material. Ethnobiology Letters publishes online only and has a rolling acceptance of articles less than 5,000 words. Our Contributions in Ethnobiology series publishes longer manuscripts. Each of the Society’s three publication has its own Editors and production team.

2.) Special Issues Vs. Regular Issues?

Ideas for special issues and special sections emerge from my head or are proposed from others.  All are focused on cutting-edge ethnobiological topics. Currently we are working on several special issues and special sections, including “Sweet Ethnobiology”, “Wild Meat”, “Ethnobiology of Bats”, and “Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change”. Many more are in the works and I encourage people to send me ideas. If we agree to go forward, we then put a call out for people to contribute. There is often a guest editor for each special issue, specializing in the topical area of that issue.

Special issues are important because not only are they highly relevant, but also because they bring in scholars from wide-ranging disciplines and regions. For instance, in one special issue, we had geographers as guest editors; they never saw their work overlapping with ethnobiology until editing a special issue. Similarly, our most recent publication, “Ethnobiology Through Song” connects people internationally and people who mostly called themselves “ethnomusicologists”. This kind of expansion is critical to internationalize the ethnobiological conversation.

3.) What is an impact factor? What does the impact factor say about the reputation of the journal?

The impact factor (IF) is a calculation based on the number of times articles in a journal have been cited in recent years divided by number of citable papers. Many university committees look at the impact factor of the journal to give a quick measure of creditability. In recent years, JoE’s IF has been rising steadily as a result of us increasing the number of high-quality papers and a consistent production of quarterly issues. The impact factor is a just one measure of standing. Important also to note is that IFs are slow to rise.  Over time, our impact factor will more fully reflect the growth of our community and the number of citations our articles receive. In the meantime, it doesn't fully reflect how awesome our journal is! Ultimately, the Journal of Ethnobiology's goal is to create quality and impactful articles.

4.) What is the range of the ethnobiological topics which can be found in the journal?

The regular submissions are exceptionally varied from any time frame and covering anywhere in the world. A goal on the Journal’s editorial team is to capture the breadth and diversity of ethnobiology.

5.)   What is the publishing timeline?

How quickly things end up in the Journal relies heavily on how well it is written on initial submission. As soon as a paper is submitted to us, we review it internally, and if it passes the initial internal review we assign it to external reviewers. Sometimes, reviewers are harder to find for a specific topic, which slows the process. A few days or a week after reviews come back to us, we decide how to proceed. What is unique about our approach, however, is that we work hard with our authors to make sure the article is excellent – whereas other journals might reject a paper at this stage.  That is, whereas other editorial boards might not give as much feedback as we do, we work hard to encourage ethnobiologist from all over the world, and at all career stages, to develop and present their ideas in ways that have the greatest impact. We do not keep track of our rejection rate, because we sometimes work on a paper with authors for a couple of years! 

6.) As an editor, what makes a good article, great?

To make a good article great requires having robust data and connecting that data fully to big questions and ideas.

Without doubt, introductions and the discussions are the hardest and the worst part of writing; however, this is where the stage is set for those big picture ideas. We want papers to be accessible and well written - idea and data-rich. Send your papers our way!

Are you inspired to publish a new paper into circulation? Click here for more information on the Journal of Ethnobiology. A very LARGE thank you to Dr. Lepofsky for her insight and time to create this article.

Dana Lepofsky

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