Last year, I was invited to translate the very first edition of the Italia Contemporanea Yearbook 2020, a selection of historical articles originally published in Italian in the journal Italia Contemporanea. It appears the editors were happy with my work, because they asked me to translate the second edition, which has just been published.
The new Yearbook covers a very broad range of topics as well as different historiographical and methodological approaches. More importantly, it presents original research that exceeds national boundaries, highlighting connections and interactions with Germany, Libya, Algeria and the Unites States. As such, it manages to overcome a common problem for editors of similar journals, as the editors explain in their introduction, namely that of reconciling “national, regional and local scales, offering a dynamic overview capable of locating themes and issues in the most appropriate contexts and restoring their interconnections — or even their deviations and specificities — in comparison to the global framework”.
As previously, all articles are freely available, which greatly contributes to the international exchange among scholars working on Italian history. Again, I am very proud to have been part of this project and hope that the publisher, FrancoAngeli, will continue to finance it.
You can access the TOC and download the Yearbook 2021 at this link
Although proofreading is my main activity, I am occasionally asked to do Italian to English translations. Exactly one year ago, I was approached by the editor of one of Italy’s main history journals, Italia Contemporanea, with a request to translate 10 recently published articles for a completely new, English-language ‘Yearbook’.
The publication of the Yearbook vaguely coincides with the 70th anniversary of the institute that had launched the journal in 1949, the ‘Istituto nazionale per la storia del Movimento di Liberazione in Italia’ (National Institute for the history of the Liberation Movement in Italy). But the reason behind the decision to launch an English-language ‘Yearbook’ was another: whereas many libraries across Europe are subscribed to Italia contemporanea, historians who aren’t Italian native speakers don’t necessarily read Italian. It was therefore time to offer a new series of publications aimed specifically at an English-language audience.
To be fair, Italian scholars also tend to struggle with research published in other languages. I recall having to persuade an Italian contributor to a special issue (for a British journal) that I co-edited some years ago to at least mention a few relevant English-language publications, as the journal’s editor-in-chief had suggested. This absence was mainly due to the fact that the author didn’t read any English at all.
This is why I think both English-language and Italian-language journals should start offering selected translations, making them available in open access. Only thus, research outputs that would otherwise remain restricted to a specific audience will truly become available to a global readership. For now, Italia contemporanea has taken a first step in this direction, and I am extremely proud to have contributed to this endeavour – by no means an easy one, given the broad range of topics and the varying writing styles I was faced with.
I also strongly recommend anyone interested in Italian contemporary history to have a look at the Yearbook. It offers a very broad and versatile range of articles, from women’s political participation after WWI in the bordering cities of Fiume and Sušak to a gender-focused analysis of welfare history in Italy; from museum representations of the colonial past to the Italian ‘communist question’ in American foreign politics; from recent Italian historiography on 1968 to the relationship between deindustrialisation and industrial heritage in Italy.
And my favourite: the primary role (and struggles) of women translators in the translation industry between the two world wars. It’s amazing to see how certain things (like keeping translators on a financial leash) haven’t changed…
You can access the TOC and download the Yearbook at this link
19% proofreading discount on academic texts (Humanities and Social Sciences)
As a former academic and published author, I particularly empathize with higher education staff and students in these difficult times. Job interviews cancelled, fixed-term contracts not being renewed, archives closed…It’s a proper mess!
But the pressure to publish remains.
If you need a reliable and flexible proofreader, I am offering a 19% discount on proofreading jobs – in the fields of Humanities and Social Sciences only.
New round of posts about the “fabulous four” core activities in academia: writing, teaching, research, and dissemination. Episode 3: dissemination.
Tackling the peer review system
A few years ago, the renowned scholar Mieke Bal made a provocative call to abolish the peer review system. Don’t hold your breath: it’s not likely to happen. As pressure to produce 4* publications increases, the peer review system will continue to be adopted widely.
This is why it is essential that you take the time to prepare yourself, and your manuscript, for publication, regardless of the fact that the peer review system is problematic, or perhaps precisely because it is!
In this blog post I want to offer a short, practical guide on submitting articles to peer-reviewed journals, based on both my experience as a published author and as a journal editor.
Lesson 1: Know your reviewer
Nowadays most academic journals draw on the expertise of peer reviewers in their selection of manuscripts deemed worthy of publication. They will assess the quality of your article, as well as its suitability for publication in the selected journal. Their feedback will eventually form the basis of the editor’s decision.
So how to get off to a good start?
Get some background information about the journal, especially its editorial board: peer reviewers are often selected from there.
Always check that you’ve correctly referenced other scholars’ works before you hit the ‘send’ button; they might end up reviewing your article, and people won’t appreciate seeing their name misspelt or their works cited wrongly (I once reviewed a paper where the author incorrectly referenced my work, from which I gathered they had probably never read it – I was not happy).
Some journals let you suggest peer reviewers. Given the difficulty to find reviewers nowadays, journal editors will appreciate you providing them with a list of potential. DON’T name colleagues or supervisors, though, as this may compromise your anonymity (in case of double-blind peer review procedure, i.e., author and reviewer identity remains hidden throughout the peer review process).
Lesson 2: Patience is the magic word
The peer review can take a really long time, so don’t expect quick answers or decisions. Here are a few factors that determine the length of the process:
Peer reviewers are generally unpaid, and the number of people willing to cut out time and energy to review a paper has – understandingly – diminished over the years. So it may take some time for a journal simply to find a sufficient number of reviewers.
When the reports contradict each other (for example, you get an “accept” and a “reject” recommendation), editors will have to find a third or even fourth reviewer in order to get a clearer picture. This will obviously prolong the process.
Your article may also go through multiple review “rounds”. In fact, it is not uncommon for journals to send a revised paper back to one or more – original or new – reviewers, who will check to see if and how you’ve addressed their feedback.
If the process is delayed for any of these reasons, there’s not much you can do, except one thing: when resubmitting a manuscript, always provide a detailed list of changes you’ve made. This will save both editors and peer reviewers time when reassessing the quality of your manuscript in further rounds.
It’s also fine to contact the editor to ask for an update, but please don’t harass them!
Lesson 3: Dealing with negative criticism
Peer review reports can be painful and even devastating, and Professor Bal is right to point out the problem of “grudge-bearing scholars” destroying articles just to get back at someone, although I wonder how common this really is.
In my experience reports are generally quite helpful, also because most journals will gather multiple reports, so even if you get one very short piece of feedback, the other reviewers will usually make up for this lack.
Still, if you get negative criticism, don’t take it to heart. Put aside your pride and try to learn from it. This doesn’t mean that you have to accept anything the reviewer says; if you can motivate your choices or defend your position, you don’t necessarily have to apply the suggested changes.
Do, however, carefully read and reflect upon the comments, and most of all, never dismiss the reviewer’s opinion. It won’t get you anywhere and you will not make a good impression on the journal editors.
Last but not least: show gratitude, even if you’re boiling with rage! Peer reviewers take out valuable time to read your work, usually with tight deadlines, and most of the time they will help you improve it, so acknowledge that.
For more advice, tips and encouragement, check out these online resources: