My scholarly publishing history: the successes, the failures and the backstories
22 August 2018
What follows is an annotated bibliography of my publishing history where I aim to provide an honest account of every peer-reviewed manuscript I’ve written, including the ones that didn’t get published, the ones that took years and endless rounds of reviews to get published, and the ones that probably shouldn’t have been published at all. I’ve written this partly for people starting out, for whom the path to publication is often a demoralizing one and where it’s easy to assume that people who are more advanced in their careers have had to struggle less – in that respect, it’s inspired by Johannes Haushofer’s CV of failures. My publication history also provides a sense of my career trajectory, which started out conventionally but rapidly became less so (although perhaps we need to redefine what we mean by ‘conventional’ as the alt-academic path is surely the dominant one today).
I suspect that this bibliography looks quite self indulgent, and indeed it is, given that it took a whole day of my leave to write (although with a grant application to work on and bathroom walls to paint, it suddenly seemed like a deeply alluring idea) and is more than ten pages long! However, I hope it’s also somewhat useful in illustrating the behind-the-scenes-action of scholarly production and the conditions of our own scholarship, which it seems to me that we need to think – and talk – far more about. So, without further ado, I present you with my peer-reviewed manuscripts: those that happened, those that didn’t, and those that went around the block again and again (and again) before they finally found a home.
‘Silent but deadly: Bodily odours and the dissipation of boundaries’. NEVER PUBLISHED.
This was the first paper I ever submitted – about six months after I finished my PhD, although it was on a completely unrelated topic (in hindsight, this is as good an indication as any that I wasn’t working in the right area). It got absolutely caned by the reviewers at Body & Society, one of whom wrote: “This looks like a graduate essay cobbled together at the end of the semester”. It basically went downhill from there. The experience made we quite gun shy about publishing. Some of this paper’s content ended up in a blog post on farting but I never tried to publish it elsewhere.
Bell, K. (2003) The gendering of religious experience: ecstatic trance in Ch’ondogyo. Asian Journal of Women's Studies, 9(2): 7-37.
This, my first paper, was not published until three years after I got my PhD! Although it’s hard to believe now, at the time it was still possible to get an academic job (I managed to get two!) without publications. This was an invited submission from the flagship journal of Ewha Woman’s University in South Korea, where I had, not coincidentally, held an academic appointment in 2002. After my first experience, I didn’t believe in hedging my bets.
Bell, K. (2004) Cheondogyo and the Donghak Revolution: the (un)making of a religion. Korea Journal, 44(2): 123-148.
Following my first ‘successful’ publication, I chose to submit my second paper to the Korea Journal without an invitation to ease my path. I didn’t even consider an anthropology journal as a publication venue, partly because even when I did ‘proper’ ethnographic fieldwork, my work itself wasn’t very ethnographic, but also because I quickly realized that anthropologists are arsehole reviewers (this is something every anthropologist knows). Thankfully, the review process was relatively uneventful – I think my ego at this point was too fragile to take more reviews along the lines of what I’d received at B&S.
Bell, K. (2005) The trouble with charisma: Religious ecstasy in Ch’ondogyo. Asian Studies Review, 29(1): 3-18.
This paper came out of a conference panel on Asian new religions, so was basically a sure thing – and further evidence of my publishing skittishness. I personally find the style in which it’s written quite stilted and old fashioned. If I’ve ever written a turgid paper (and I’d like to think that whatever faults I have, turgidity is not one of them, although I very much like the word ‘turgid’ itself, probably because of its phonemic similarity to ‘turd’), it’s probably this one.
Bell, K. (2005) Genital cutting and western discourses on sexuality. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 19(2): 125-148.
This paper was my first foray into medical anthropology, which I’d been teaching but was quite far removed from my fieldwork on Korean religion. It was a very different experience from previous papers, because for the first time I felt like I actually had something to say! From memory, the paper polarised reviewers (an all-too-common response to my work), and I had to do a fair amount of revision, but at least they published it. I’m still quite fond of this paper.
Bell, K. & McNaughton, D. (2007) Feminism and the invisible fat man. Body & Society, 13(1): 108-132.
I think we wrote this paper before I left Australia to move to Canada, but it had a fairly lengthy review process – although that was typical for the time, not like our present obsession with turnaround times and attendant expectations that reviewers will submit their comments within two weeks! This was another foray into a sidebar topic. The fact that it was submitted to Body & Society is no coincidence – I definitely felt like I had something to prove. Although the reviews were mixed (justifiably so), it was ultimately published with the journal. Looking back, I still agree with the points we made, but wish we’d been more tempered in how we made them. That said, I suppose my motto has always been “any point worth making is worth making with a hammer”, which I’ve certainly done my level best to adhere to over the years!
Richardson, L., Greaves, L., Jategaonkar, N., Bell, K., Pederson, A. & Tungohan, E. (2007) Rethinking an assessment of nicotine dependence: a sex, gender and diversity analysis of the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence. Journal of Smoking Cessation, 2(2): 59-67.
Ugh. Having left Australia without an academic job to go to in Canada, I was now working at an applied health research centre, which was basically a production line research factory. I didn’t even want to be a co-author on this paper, which I was only tangentially involved in, but that was the centre’s publication model – although I tried to challenge it. We ended up doing this ridiculous exercise where every man and his dog who’d even thought about the paper was listed as an author and we did secret ballots to determine the order. I wish I was joking. I often leave it off my publications list.
Bell, K. (2008) Pilgrims and progress: the production of religious experience in a Korean religion. Nova Religio: Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 12(1): 83-102.
This paper was actually written in 2005, so my publication record at this point isn’t remotely chronological. This came out of a conference panel where they aimed to publish an edited volume. However, the collection ended up falling apart, so I had to find another home for it. I submitted it to Nova Religio, which, being very narrowly focused on new religious movements, seemed to fit the bill. (Once again, it didn’t even occur to me to submit to an anthropology journal.) That said, I had seven reviewers. Seven! For a paper on an obscure Korean religion!! In the years since, only my paper on male circumcision and HIV transmission has garnered that level of editorial attention, so I must conclude that the journal takes new religion very seriously indeed.
Bell, K., McNaughton, D. & Salmon, A. (2009) Medicine, morality and mothering: Public health discourses on foetal alcohol exposure, smoking around children and childhood overnutrition. Critical Public Health, 19(2): 155-170.
This paper is how I discovered Critical Public Health, which I ultimately became an editor of. The only thing of note about this paper is what it tries to bring together – I don’t think the paper itself is saying anything especially interesting. From memory, the reviewers basically agreed on both counts. Its oddly high number of citations is primarily due to the fact that anyone writing about mothering and health promotion campaigns feels obligated to cite it.
Bell, K. (2009) ‘If it almost kills you that means it’s working’: Cultural models of chemotherapy expressed in a cancer support group. Social Science & Medicine, 68: 169-176.
This was the first paper I wrote as soft-funded researcher, having left the research centre I was working at after a year. Social Science & Medicine was my first choice for submission and, in hindsight, I’m surprised that it wasn’t rejected during screening because it was fairly specialized for the journal (it just goes to show that there is little rhyme or reason to their screening process). However, I got into trouble when it was published because although I was funded as an independent researcher, the PIs on the grant thought I should have put their names on it because they got the funding that supported my appointment. I tried citing the Vancouver Protocols on authorship, but this merely cemented my reputation for being ‘uncollaborative’.
Bell, K., Lee, J. & Ristovski-Slijepcevic, S. (2009) Perceptions of food and eating among Chinese patients with cancer: Findings of an ethnographic study. Cancer Nursing, 32(2): 118-126.
This paper was an attempt to show I actually was collaborative when genuine collaboration was involved. Beyond the politics that accompanied it, the only thing of note about this paper is that it was the first of many papers rejected by Psycho-Oncology. I could never get a single manuscript published under Jimmie Holland’s editorship. I initially thought I was being paranoid but it turns out she really did hate my work (I later learned she refused to publish a letter to the editor criticizing a paper published by the journal and using my work to do so, on the grounds that I didn’t do proper research). In my subsequent work on tobacco control I was to discover that I had a distinct talent for inspiring intense dislike in people I had never met.
Bell, K. & Salmon, A. (2009) Pain, physical dependence, and pseudoaddiction: Redefining addiction for ‘nice’ people? International Journal of Drug Policy, 20: 170-178.
This is another one of those sidebar articles, although it came out of observing differences in the ways that pain was treated in people diagnosed with cancer vs. those with a history of addiction (Amy’s area). We initially submitted it to Social Science & Medicine, where it was promptly rejected without review. We then submitted it to the IJDP, where it had a relatively positive review process.
Bell, K., McCullough, L., Devries, K., Jategaonkar, N., Greaves, L. & Richardson, L. (2009) Location restrictions on smoking: Assessing their differential impacts and consequences in the workplace. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 100(1): 46-50.
This is a chronological blip as this paper was written in 2006 at the production line research factory and based on a NICE rapid review I led. I can’t remember where I submitted it, but it was rejected; when I left the centre, they submitted it the CJPH unchanged, where it was ultimately published. The only thing of note about this paper is that it’s evidence of my exposure to systematic review processes. Oh, and the fact that not all the authors listed meet the requirements of the Vancouver Protocols, but by this time I’d learned to pick my battles.
Bauld, L., Bell, K., McCullough, L., Richardson, L. & Greaves, L. (2010) The effectiveness of NHS treatments for smoking cessation. Journal of Public Health, 32(1): 71-82.
As above. This was also written in 2006 and reworked after I left the centre and ultimately published, with a resultant shuffle of the authorship order. The fact that it’s one of my most highly cited papers is clear evidence that citations are not a measure of quality or impact.
Access to palliative care amongst cancer patients of diverse backgrounds: a literature review, with numerous official co-authors. NEVER PUBLISHED.
This manuscript was to be the primary academic publication stemming from a large knowledge synthesis grant I got that was doomed from the start for various reasons. I wrote the paper (which had numerous other official co-authors), with support from my research assistant on the project, and submitted it to Palliative Medicine, where it received a revise and resubmit – a very generous assessment. However, I could not bring myself to actually revise the paper, because I thought it was crap. This is the only paper I have written that was not rejected that I gave up on. It was the perfect example of an artificial collaboration brought together for the purposes of obtaining funding, and where there was little actual agreement on what we were trying to accomplish. In my final report to the funder, this is basically what I focused on as I didn’t really have any ‘outputs’ to produce beyond a report that I hope is dead and buried – where it deserves to be.
Bell, K., Salmon, A., Bowers, M., Bell, J. & McCullough, L. (2010) Smoking, stigma and tobacco ‘denormalization’: Further reflections on the use of stigma as a public health tool. Social Science & Medicine, 70: 795-799.
This paper, which wasn’t actually peer-reviewed, is my most highly cited paper, which is the only reason I’ve included it. It wasn’t saying anything new, but it was pulling together a variety of literature and arguments, so academic laziness basically explains why it is so highly cited (I believe this also explains the inexplicable popularity of another commentary I co-authored on the perils of invoking neoliberalism in public health critique). Oh, and this was the first time I was accused of parroting the tobacco industry.
Bell, K., Lee, J., Foran, S., Kwong, S. & Christopherson, J. (2010) Is there an ‘ideal cancer’ support group? Key findings from a qualitative study of three groups. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 28(4): 432-449.
This is my second paper rejected from Psycho-Oncology without review; the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology seemed like the next logical choice. That said, this was an obligatory paper to fulfil the requirements of my funding and to demonstrate the fact that I was collaborating out to the wazoo! (The last three co-authors were facilitators of the support groups.) The only thing of note is the embarrassing grammatical error in the title: the copy editors decided to move the inverted comma from ‘cancer’ to ‘ideal cancer’. I don’t know what they intended to accomplish with this tweak, but I didn’t pick up on it until after publication.
Bell, K. (2010) Cancer survivorship, mor(t)ality, and lifestyle discourses on cancer prevention. Sociology of Health & Illness, 32(3): 349-364.
Basically, my strategy at this stage for my cancer research was to write one for me, and one to fulfil the requirements of my funding. This one was definitely for me and was my first foray into a sociology journal. From memory, I specifically chose a sociology journal because I was hoping to make myself more attractive in sociology departments in the event that an academic job came up locally. This strategy did not prove effective.
Bell, K., McCullough, L., Salmon, A. & Bell, J. (2010) ‘Every space is claimed’: Smokers’ experiences of tobacco denormalisation. Sociology of Health & Illness, 32(6): 1-16.
I think I submitted this to SHI partly because if I had a positive experience with a journal, I would resubmit there based on the premise that what worked once might work twice. That said, the review process was odd, with one of the reviewers choosing to submit their comments only to the editor. The paper is not particularly exciting, but I think is one of those pieces that needed to be written. It did serve to solidify my unfortunate reputation as someone who was ‘pro-tobacco’, so I guess there’s that.
Ristovski-Slijepcevic, S., Bell, K., Chapman, G. & Beagan, B. (2010) Being ‘thick’ indicates you are eating, you are healthy and you have an attractive body shape: Perspectives on fatness and food choice amongst Black and White men and women in Canada. Health Sociology Review, 19(3): 317-329.
Svetlana invited me to be involved in this paper, although I hadn’t been involved in the project itself, so I was analysing data I’d had no role in collecting (the public health way!). However, it gave me the opportunity to look more closely at the relationship between gender and weight, which was a longstanding interest. Between you and me, this paper should have had just two co-authors, but it would have been hypocritical of me by this point to argue against gatekeepers and PIs getting authorship credit, given my own compromises in this regard.
Bell, K. (2011) Legislating abjection? Secondhand smoke, tobacco control policy and the public’s health. Critical Public Health, 21(1): 49-62.
This was part of a special issue that I co-edited and contained a paper from the journal’s former editor, who help set things up with the journal. I still like this paper, which I feel has been somewhat misunderstood, although it’s clear that I was getting really sick of being accused of parroting the industry as the tone is quite combative.
Bell, K. & Kazanjian, A. (2011) PSA testing: Molecular technologies and men’s experience of prostate cancer survivorship. Health, Risk & Society, 13(2): 183-196.
This is me being ‘collaborative’ again to fulfil the requirements of my funding, although the ideas were interesting enough that I went on to explore them in more detail later on. It was submitted to and rejected by Social Science & Medicine and the Sociology of Health & Illness. In any case, HRS was a suitable fit for it, and probably where it should have been submitted in the first place.
Bell, K. & Salmon, A. (2011) What women who use drugs have to say about ethical research: Findings of an exploratory qualitative study. JERHRE: Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 6(4): 84-98.
This paper came out of a project I was funded on, although it enabled me to explore research ethics regulation – a topic of longstanding interest and new personal relevance, given that the cancer grant that had previously funded most of my salary had wrapped up and a significant portion of my salary was now coming from work as a behavioural research ethics analyst at UBC.
Lee, J. & Bell, K. (2011) The impact of cancer on family relationships amongst Chinese patients: Findings of a qualitative study. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 22(3): 225-234.
I did not intend or want to be an author on this paper, which is why I hesitated to put it on this list. However, I ended up doing so much work on it that it would have been misleading to submit it as a sole-authored piece. I think it was published at the second or third journal it was submitted to. In hindsight, I should have insisted on just being in the acknowledgements, despite the work I did on it.
Bell, K. & Ristovski-Slijepcevic, S. (2011) Metastatic cancer and mothering: Being a mother in the face of a contracted future. Medical Anthropology, 30(6): 629-649.
This paper was influenced by Svetlana’s focus on mothering and I thought we had interesting things to say, although I was really concerned about what the support group would think. Medical Anthropology was our first choice for submission and the review process was reasonably straightforward, although I recall being shocked when the editor asked me to make a bunch of edits after it was accepted (er, something I was occasionally guilty of myself later on as an editor).
Interrogating Cancer Survivorship: Perspectives from Social Science and the Humanities, edited by Kirsten Bell and Svetlana Ristovski-Slijepcevic. NEVER PUBLISHED.
This book proposal was submitted to NYU Press. They took ages to review it and ended up turning it down on the grounds that they were deprioritizing edited collections – although that felt like a polite excuse. We had a lot of great contributors, some of whom got quite antsy with the wait and wanted to proceed with publishing their chapters as papers, and we didn’t feel like we could ask folk to wait while we shopped it around further. This experience definitely made me feel like edited volumes are a dying breed.
Bell, K. (2012) Remaking the self: Trauma, teachable moments and the biopolitics of cancer survivorship. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 36(4): 584-600.
This marks the beginning of the turning point in funding for my cancer research, which now came from a grant on cancer where I was the PI. As is evident in the paper itself, I sort of went crazy with the newfound freedom. CMP was my first choice for submission and the paper had an oddly easy review process, with only one review. In hindsight, I wish I’d had more critical feedback, because some serious conceptual leaps in this paper are made that even I do not find especially convincing.
Bell, K. & Salmon, A. (2012) Good intentions and dangerous assumptions: Research ethics committees and illicit drug use research. Research Ethics, 8(4): 191-199.
This is the second paper from the project with Amy and written around the same time. Because it was an ‘educational’ piece aimed at research ethics committee members, we initially submitted it to IRB Advisor, where it was ultimately rejected. We then submitted it to Research Ethics, where it was accepted – thankfully, as our journal pickings were getting fairly slim at this point.
Bell, K., Bowers, M., McCullough, L. & Bell, J. (2012) Physician advice for smoking cessation in primary care: Time for a paradigm shift? Critical Public Health, 22(1): 9-24.
This is the last paper from my tobacco denormalization project, and was written primarily to fulfil the grant requirements, which I think shows. It was rejected by at least two journals (Social Science & Medicine and Patient Education & Counseling) before finding a home in CPH. Although I was not yet an editor of the journal, I must confess that I chose because I thought it would undergo a sympathetic review process there.
Bell, K. (2012) Cochrane reviews and the behavioural turn in evidence-based medicine. Health Sociology Review, 21(3): 313-321.
This is a direct offshoot of the previous paper and I think is a much more interesting piece, although based on a very simple idea. That said, it was rejected by at least two journals (SS&M and Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal) before finding a home in HSR. I think my publishing model at this time was basically to start with SS&M and work my way down the list of less ‘prestigious’ journals, which, for the record, is a stupid, albeit extremely common, strategy.
Bell, K. & Keane, H. (2012) Nicotine control: E-cigarettes, smoking and addiction. International Journal of Drug Policy, 23(3): 242-247.
I seem to recall this paper having a fairly straightforward review process with the IJDP, which is where we chose to submit it. I’m still fond of this paper, but I guess half the battle in demonstrating ‘impact’ is in getting in early.
Assessing the state of cancer survivorship research: a content analysis of key journals, co-authored with Maggie Woo. NEVER PUBLISHED.
This paper was submitted to the Journal of Cancer Survivorship Research, Psycho-Oncology, Cancer and Cancer Nursing and they all rejected it. None of them got – or seemed interested in – what we were trying to do. I thought we’d exhausted all publication paths and was eventually forced to conclude that it was unpublishable – a call I almost never make.
Bell, K. (2013) Biomarkers, the molecular gaze and the transformation of cancer survivorship. , 8: 124-143.
This one had a fairly straightforward, albeit lengthy, review process with BioSocieties, although I recall making substantial revisions. I still like this paper but the only problem is that I got Charles Sanders Peirce embarrassingly wrong in terms of his characterisation of statistics. It makes me cringe whenever I reread it (for the record, I do not spend my life rereading my papers). Oddly, no one picked it up, so shhh.
Bell, K. (2013) Tobacco control, harm reduction and the problem of pleasure. Drugs & Alcohol Today, 13(2): 111-118.
This was an invited submission from the editor for a special issue, so basically another guaranteed publication. I wasn’t sure what I had to say on the topic until I started writing it, but it was a paper I enjoyed working on. Actually, that’s true of most of the invited pieces I’ve written – there’s something very freeing about knowing that publication is largely assured at the outset!
Bell, K. (2013) Where there’s smoke there’s fire: Outdoor smoking bans and claims to public space. Contemporary Drug Problems, 40(1): 99-128.
This came out of a conference panel and we negotiated a special issue with the journal. I personally think this one of the more interesting papers I’ve written on smoking, although I don’t think it fully works in a structural or stylistic sense.
Bell, K. & Ristovski-Slijepcevic, S. (2013) Cancer survivorship: Why labels matter. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31(4): 409-411.
This was basically a reworked version of the introduction of the doomed NYU Press edited collection. Despite being a clinical oncology journal, this piece had an oddly easy review process – I think because it was highly topical.
Bell, K. (2013) Whither tobacco studies? Sociology Compass, 7(1): 34-44.
This was another invited piece and therefore basically a guaranteed publication. I was supposed to write a summary of the field, but I wanted to use it to ask larger questions about the politics of scholarship. If you ask me, the interesting content comes at the end.
Bell, K. & Keane, H. (2014) All gates lead to smoking: the ‘gateway theory’, e-cigarettes and the remaking of nicotine. Social Science & Medicine, 119: 45-52.
This is a paper I really enjoyed writing – I thought we were onto something at the outset and it just got better and better the more we looked into it (or, worse and worse, depending on which perspective you take). We submitted it to SS&M, primarily because we wanted it to be widely read and it seemed the venue most suited for that. I don’t recall the review process as being particularly arduous.
Bell, K. (2014) The breast-cancer-ization of cancer survivorship: Implications for experiences of the disease. Social Science & Medicine, 110: 56-63.
This paper was rejected by Qualitative Health Research. I remember thinking one of the reviews was obviously biased and being quite annoyed at the editor for weighing in favour of it. I used to do a lot of reviews for QHR, and I stopped agreeing to them after this experience. Petty? Why, yes I am. I think it’s for that same reason that I submitted it to SS&M – as a sort of ‘up yours’ to QHR. Oh, and this paper represents my one and only attempt to coin a phrase, which seems to be a popular publishing strategy.
Bell, K. (2014) Resisting commensurability: Against informed consent as an anthropological virtue. American Anthropologist, 116(3): 511-522.
I submitted this first to Cultural Anthropology, who rejected it without review (rightly, I think) and recommended that I submit it to AA. This received five reviews from AA, but was accepted with minor revisions at the outset. This is only one of two papers I’ve ever written where that happened. It’s intentionally polemic, but I still stand by everything I said. It’s around this point that I’d started to focus on academic writing as a rhetorical as opposed to technical act, which I think shows in how it’s written (so many contractions!).
Ristovski-Slijepecvic, S. & Bell, K. (2014) Rethinking assumptions about cancer survivorship. Canadian Oncology Nursing Journal, 24(3): 166-168.
We wrote this paper as a result of funding requirements for a workshop we held. We initially submitted it to Psycho-Oncology, where it was, you guessed it, rejected. We ended up submitting it to CONJ as a commentary, where a group of nurse researchers took strong exception to it.
Bell, K. (2014) Science, policy and the rise of ‘thirdhand smoke’ as a public health issue. Health, Risk & Society, 16(2): 154-170.
This paper was begging to be written and I wrote it very quickly and had a lot of fun working on it. Sadly, the path to publication was not quite so fast! This paper was initially submitted to Science as Culture and rejected. It’s one of the few papers where I’ve asked for the opportunity to resubmit based on reviewer bias (tobacco politics again), although it didn’t change the final outcome. I think I submitted it somewhere else at well (maybe another STS journal) and it was rejected there too. It fared better with HRS, although the published version contains a disclaimer about the fact that I have no ties to the tobacco industry. I disliked having to write disclaimers about conflicts of interest I do not have, which has the ironic effect of making one look guilty.
Bell, K. & Ristovski-Slijepcevic, S. (2015) Communicating ‘evidence’: Lifestyle, cancer and the promise of a disease-free future. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 29(2): 216-236.
This paper took something like three years to get published. It was submitted to Science as Culture, American Ethnologist, Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal and the Sociology of Health & Illness before finally finding a home in MAQ. Reviewers kept saying that they enjoyed the story but it was too data ‘lite’, which is probably accurate. One reviewer recommended that I submit it to Critical Public Health, which I found hilarious, given that I was one of the journal’s editors at the time (but well called, anonymous reviewer; well called). Finally, we hit gold with MAQ, where the reviews were reasonably positive. Sometimes five is the lucky number!
Bell, K., Dennis, S., Robinson, J. & Moore, R. (2015) Does the hand that controls the cigarette packet rule the smoker? Findings from ethnographic interviews with smokers in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA. Social Science & Medicine, 142: 136-144.
This was the first choice for submission and the reviews were surprisingly positive. I really thought we’d struggle to get this one published based on the arguments we are making - which I think are important but have been completely ignored.
Bell, K. (2015) HIV prevention: Making male circumcision the ‘right’ tool for the job. Global Public Health, 10(5-6): 552-572.
This paper took more than three years to get published. I submitted it to Social Science & Medicine, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Current Anthropology and Science, Technology & Human Values – continuing my run of zero for three in STS journals. In total, it received 25 reviews and editors kept sending it to people I’d listed as non-preferred reviewers, most of whom declared it one of the worst papers they had ever read. If Richard Parker hadn’t got in touch about the special issue of Global Public Health on this topic, I can say with certainty that I would have given up on this paper, which, given my general persistence, is surely telling. I’ve never felt so brutalized by the peer review process.
Haines-Saah, R., Bell, K. & Dennis, S. (2015) A qualitative content analysis of health warning labels on cigarette packaging in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA. American Journal of Public Health, 105(2): e61-e69.
The AJPH was our first choice for submission and it helped that Rebecca, who is better versed in the requirements of public health journals, took the lead. I don’t think any of us would claim that this is an exciting paper, but we enjoyed writing it.
Bell, K. (2015) Thwarting the diseased will: Ulysses contracts, the self and addiction. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 39(3): 280-298.
This is another one of those side-of-the-desk papers. I submitted it to CMP and it had a smooth review process there – it was the other paper I’ve written that was accepted with revisions at the outset. I must say that I really enjoyed writing it, although the topic is admittedly obscure.
Haines-Saah, R. & Bell, K. (2016) Challenging key assumptions embedded in Health Canada’s cigarette packaging legislation: Findings from in-situ interviews with smokers in Vancouver. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 107(6): eS62-eS67.
This was the first choice for submission and was a straightforward and benign review process. Again, it helped that Rebecca was the first author, because she’s better at making critical arguments more widely palatable. It’s not an earth shattering paper, but it’s one we felt compelled to write as a sort of ‘FYI’ to Canadian policy makers.
Kierans, C., Bell, K. & Kingdon, C. (2016) Social and Cultural Perspectives on Health, Technology and Medicine: Old Concepts, New Problems. London: Routledge.
I think the three of us would agree that this book was a nightmare to write. It had a complicated politics, and all I can say is that, just like Braveheart and Rob Roy and Armageddon and Deep Impact, there’s another book out there with strikingly similar themes and completely different personnel. In any case, our book proposal itself got mixed reports, with one of the three reviewers calling the prose ‘turgid’ (my favourite word! My least favourite descriptor for my writing! So many mixed emotions!). That said, I’m not sure it’s ever been read, although I am particularly fond of the chapter I wrote on magic.
Bell, K. (2017) Health and Other Unassailable Values: Reconfigurations of Health, Evidence and Ethics. London: Routledge.
I wrote this book basically because I didn’t have a sole-authored one and realized that this was a lack in my CV. I planned to submit this book proposal to a university press but Routledge approached me first and I went with the easier and less prestigious option. Writing this book made me realize that I really don’t like writing books. To add insult to injury, I’m pretty sure no one has read it. I think it’s probably better to write something that people hate than something that is completely ignored (and, yeah, I learned that philosophy from the movie Easy A). In my view, the best part of the book is the conclusion, and not just because I wrote it last.
Bell, K. (2017) ‘Predatory’ open access journals as parody: Exposing the limitations of ‘legitimate’ academic publishing. TripleC: communication, capitalism & critique, 15(2): 651-662.
This paper is a good example of my other motto (beyond “make points with a hammer”), which seems to basically be: “pretty anything you’re interested in can be written up and submitted as a paper”. This was actually an essay I wrote for my Master of Publishing course, which I took a year out of my life to complete (the course, not the essay). I initially approached Cultural Anthropology about the possibility of publishing it on their website, but was told it was better suited for a specialist journal. I chose TripleC because of its previous scholarship on this topic and the review process was pretty straightforward.
Kierans, C. and Bell, K. (2017) Cultivating ambivalence: Methodological considerations for anthropology. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 7(2): 23-44.
This had a fairly lengthy gestation but a relatively straightforward review process – in part, because we managed to make it sound like we were speaking back to previous publications in the journal. This was before the Hau mess, although we were both pretty surprised when they asked us to pay hefty article processing charges. If Ciara’s university hadn’t had funds for these (I'd just started at Roehampton, which doesn't allocate funds for OA charges), I’m not sure whether the publication process would have been so straightforward, based on Emily Yates-Doerr’s experience.
‘Revisiting the utility of quality of life’, co-authored with Svetlana Ristovksi-Slijepcevic. NOT PUBLISHED. This paper started as a sole-authored piece by Svetlana that was rejected from Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry and Health Sociology Review (and I think maybe Sociology of Health & Illness as well). Svetlana wanted to give upon it but I thought it was worth persisting. I came on board and reworked it as a commentary for Journal of Clinical Oncology where it was speedily rejected. We then sent it to the European Journal of Cancer Care where it was also rejected, although the reviews were very helpful. I’ve come to the conclusion that the topic is really interesting but requires a lot more effort to do it justice than I probably have the time for.
Bell, K. (2018) Whatever happened to the ‘social’ science in Social Science and Medicine? On golden anniversaries and gold standards. Social Science & Medicine, available in early view.
This paper is a perfect example of how I almost never give up on a paper. I started writing this years ago, and kept putting it aside as unpublishable. At one point, I thought about turning it into a blog post, because I couldn’t see SS&M – or any other journal – going for it. I continued to sit on it, convinced that it would languish on my computer forever, until SS&M’s 50th anniversary, when I felt like I now had a context in which to publish it (and that would make things somewhat awkward for SS&M if they rejected it). I specifically submitted it to the medical sociology section, based on the premise that Stefan Timmermans might be sympathetic.
Going back over my peer-reviewed publications has probably been a far more interesting exercise for me than for anyone reading this (if you've actually made it this far), but I think it clearly shows that 'success' in publishing has a lot to do with persistence and not letting criticism wear you down. Almost a third of my publications were rejected at the outset, and some were rejected not just once, twice or even three times! Therefore, I completely understand how demoralizing the peer review process can be. After all, it almost put me off publishing entirely! There was also a period when it felt like everything I submitted was being rejected, although that has been counterbalanced by other periods where things went a lot more smoothly (and invited papers and those emerging from conference panels are a big part of that). That said, even when I’ve struggled to get stuff published, I do think it was ultimately better for the critique.
Although I like to think of myself as someone who has not been driven by the imperative to ‘publish or perish’ and that I’ve primarily focused on stuff I wanted to write and where I felt I had something to say, my publication record reveals that story for a lie. The fact is that while I have managed to write what I wanted to write, a sizeable minority of my publications were driven by other factors – especially funding requirements and the dictates of surviving in a precarious academic position. Baldly put, I only got to write what I wanted to write by producing these other sorts of publications. I also like to think of myself as someone who has pushed against authorship practices driven by politics rather than ethics, but once again my publication record reveals a more complicated picture. While I have challenged authorship norms in the field of health research (and got a reputation as uncollaborative and combative for doing so), more often than not I acceded to them, because it caused less problems for myself and others if I did.
All this leads me to conclude that the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves as scholars are perhaps less true than we think they are, and that we'd be well served by paying more attention to the implications of this.