Special Guest Editorial – Mark Aldenderfer of Current Anthropology

A special guest editorial by the editor of Current Anthropology, Mark Aldenderfer.

Changes Coming to Current Anthropology

One measure of the success of a journal is the number of manuscripts submitted. Current Anthropology does very well indeed on this criterion: over the past three years, the journal has seen upwards of 200 manuscripts of article length.  I’m pleased that authors see the journal as a publication venue for their research, but this large number of submissions creates new problems in these times of fiscal constraint: a relatively high rejection rate compared to other anthropology journals and a lengthening queue for publication.

Over the past five years, the acceptance rate for article-length submissions to CA has ranged from 11% to 21%. As a point of comparison, the journals Science and Nature have acceptance rates that hover between 5% and 8%. All things being equal, this means that I have to decline to publish high-quality manuscripts, at least some of which appear in other journals.

One alternative to this situation is to increase the acceptance rate; this has the undesirable effect, again all things being equal, of delaying the time to publication after acceptance.

With the University of Chicago Press and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the editorial staff and I have begun to develop other strategies that will help, at least in the short run, to address these linked problems. Effective March 1, 2012, article-length manuscripts will be limited to 12,000 words, including reference list. This is a modest decrease from the current 14,000 word limit. Authors will still have many more words for expressing themselves when compared to our competitors, and this will allow us to publish three to four additional articles over the course of the year.

We will continue to give articles the full CA* treatment, and will not ask commentators to shorten their contributions.

We also are looking at key design changes that will save us a bit of space: we will reduce the type size of the references cited, and will consider other space-saving layout changes.

Finally, the Press and the Wenner-Gren Foundation are looking to provide additional resources to the journal that will allow us to increase the number of pages per issue to keep CA healthy and on the cutting edge of the field.  I’ll provide an update on this once these discussions have been completed.

I encourage those of you who have report-sized manuscripts to consider submitting these to the journal. There has been a steady decline in the number of reports over the past five years or so. Although they do not get the full treatment of an article, reports do have one distinct advantage: they usually get into print more rapidly. So if you have data-oriented pieces that have a broader theoretical import, I would be delighted to consider them for publication.

Current Anthropology is sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and is published bimonthly by the University of Chicago Press.