The journal Work, Employment and Society embarks upon a new chapter in its history in the appointment of nine new editors to the team and with it a new process for the appointment of future editors.
WES welcomes Michael Brookes (University of Hertfordshire), Clare Butler (Newcastle University), Rory Donnelly (University of Liverpool), Donald Hislop (University of Aberdeen), Andy Hodder (Birmingham University), Jo Ingold (Deakin University), Angela Knox (University of Sydney), Paul Sissons (Coventry University), Joana Vassilopoulou (Brunel University). Four of the Editors will start in autumn 2020 and five will start in January 2021, all supported by the current editorial members to smooth their entry into the team. These new members widen the scope of expertise and bring exciting developmental ideas to WES.
This style of appointment is, in itself, a significant development for WES. Many readers of the journal may not be aware of its (relatively) unique governance structure. As a journal of the British Sociological Association (BSA), the process of appointing the Editors, Editorial Board and Associate Editorial Board has been based on open and democratic processes in line with similar processes of its sister publications Sociology, Cultural Sociology and Sociological Research Online.
The Editorial Board and Associate Board are comprised of respected scholars in the field elected on a (renewable) three-year term. Invitation to apply for Board membership is open to all on an annual rolling basis (one third replaced each year – like the US senate). Unlike many journals, the WES Board has met physically twice per year and has formal decision-making powers over aspects of editorial policy – such as, for example, scrutinising and nominating hosts for the biennial WES conference. Unsurprisingly, the Sept 2020 WES Board meeting was held online.
From its foundation, the selection of editors – also rotating every three years – was straightforward: the inaugural editing ‘team’ was Richard Brown. As WES grew – in terms of submissions – so the editorial team needed to grow. For reasons of coherence and continuity, the editorial team has more recently been based in a single academic institution to ensure regular and frequent collaboration on day-to-day journal issues. Since the WES review process originally was based exclusively on reviews by members of the Editorial Board, this increased the pressure on editors and board members alike. By 2012, the journal’s popularity (in terms of submissions) reached a point where the Editorial Board agreed to increase the number of issues per year from 4 to 6. To alleviate further the pressure on the Board, an (elected) Associate Board was created, whose members were asked to review at a lower rate than full Board members, and with less intensive eligibility criteria and commitment – i.e. they were not required to participate in full Board meetings. In addition, there is an International Advisory Board.
Following the most recent iteration of the Editors team from January 2018 when the team from Middlesex University was nominated, discussions began on the future governance structure of WES and in particular to pursue a more internationalist outlook. Clearly, that would be better facilitated with a more international Editorial Board and a more internationally diverse Editor team. By 2019, the Board agreed to take the first step in reforming the appointment of the Editor Team. While the idea of a coherent group in close physical proximity enabling collegiality remains of value, the size of the Editorial team – for day-to-day editorial judgements as well as the broader stewardship role – has now grown to the extent that it becomes difficult to build a single-institution team and impossible (as well as undesirable) to prevent the dispersal of that team over their period of tenure. The Middlesex Editorial team, for example, no longer consists of members predominantly at Middlesex.
So the Board decided to try a new form of appointment – that new editors will no longer be an en masse appointment, but rather will be appointed through a stochastic process, retaining as much inclusivity and transparency as possible. The invitation for new Editor applications was put out in June 2020 and virtual interviews were conducted by a panel including members of the Editors team, nominees from the full Board, the BSA and the Chair. The field of candidates was extremely strong and the journal felt very grateful for the level of interest shown by colleagues, particularly in light of the challenging circumstances in which many of us find ourselves. The result of the process was the proposal to appoint nine new editors, whose appointments were formally agreed by the full Board in July 2020. The first tranche begin service in September/October 2020 with the remaining new editors beginning in January 2021. They will work with those of the current Editorial Team (including the Editors-in-Chief) who have agreed to stay on until December 2021.
All the new editors bring with them new ideas for the future development of WES. While continuing the ‘good’ traditions of the journal – remaining in the core academic discipline of the ‘sociology of work’; retaining an active, democratic Editorial Board – now there is the opportunity to diversify and internationalise. While the consensus view within WES was already moving toward displacing the requirement for UK residence (to facilitate physical Board meeting attendance) in favour of willingness to participate by other means, Covid19 has made this working practice the new normal. Therefore, we now have two Editors based in Australia and the rest from a range of institutions around the UK. With this precedent set, we hope that future appointment processes will attract applications from a wider global area. We hope, in particular, that we can now redress the particular problem with the lack of representation from the Global South. This is our ambition. To expand the global profile of the Board (there are discussions in hand on ideas for this which parallel the discussions for the Editorial team) and to increase the geographical profile of authors (and subjects) of articles published, as well as to increase the global readership. These measures will, we hope, facilitate an improvement in the rate of high quality submissions from (in particular) the Global South. We already have in-hand the publication of two e-specials on China and India which showcase the existing quality of papers from these countries.
WES welcomes our new members and will continue to reflect on new ways of working in an online environment.