Geography Compass: Setting Course in a New Direction
Article first published online: 16 APR 2008
© 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 2, Issue 3, pages 575–576, May 2008
How to Cite
Bradshaw, M. (2008), Geography Compass: Setting Course in a New Direction. Geography Compass, 2: 575–576. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2008.00112.x
- Issue published online: 16 APR 2008
- Article first published online: 16 APR 2008
- Geography Compass 2/3 (2008): 575–576, 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2008.00112.x
- Cited By
This editorial marks the first anniversary of the launch of Geography Compass at the Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers in San Francisco in April 2007. A year on, we have 104 articles published, 64 received and in-process and the section editors are now commissioning the next round of contributions. The first editorial meeting was actually held at the Association of American Geographers meetings in Boston in 2006 and the initial work planning the journal took place in late 2005, so a great deal of work has already gone into making Geography Compass a reality. Geography Compass is part of a suite of journals being developed by Wiley-Blackwell. The first, History Compass was launched in 2003 and today there are a total of eight Compass journals and it is possible to use the Geography Compass site to search across all the journals. Recently, we have published our first two cross-Compass theme issues that bring together articles across the range of the journals dealing with a particular issue, the first was on Race and Racism and the second on Violence and Conflict.
What attracted me to Geography Compass was the fact that it is an entirely new format for journal publishing in Geography. First, it is a peer-reviewed journal aimed at students, researchers and non-specialist scholars. As such, it aims to produce review articles that are of the highest quality and that are accessible to a range of novice readers. Therefore, its target audience is different from the Progress journals, which tend to publish specialist reviews written for other specialists. Second, Compass journals are purpose-built for the electronic age, they are only published electronically, there is no paper version, and they are only available on subscription to institutional libraries. Because we do not have to worry about the limitations of paper printing, we are able to publish in full colour and to support a wide variety of digital resources. This year we are publishing our first video, which will be hosted by YouTube.
The current editorial and publishing structure of Geography Compass is the result of much thought and discussion on the part of the two Editors-in-Chief, myself and Basil Gomez, and Helen Ashton and Vanessa Lafaye at Wiley-Blackwell. Geography Compass publishes across the entire field of Geography and therefore we had to come up with an editorial structure that could handle the diversity of the discipline. At present, we have thirteen subsections, with a fourteenth – Global Issues – soon to be added. This will be a virtual subsection, managed by the Editors-in-Chief, which pulls together topical articles dealing with issues of global significant. Each of the other subsections has a section editor or editors, who essentially run a mini-journal dedicated to their particular field of interest. The job of the Editors-in-Chief is to manage the section editors. It is the section editors who commission papers, manage the peer-review process and make the editorial decisions that are finally approved by the Editor-in-Chief for human or physical geography. If you are interested in contributing to Geography Compass, then the first person to contact is the relevant section editor. Obviously, getting the right people as section editors has been crucial to the successful launch of Geography Compass. Together, the editorial team has been working hard to establish a niche for the journal and to create a sense of what a ‘Compass paper’ looks like. Writing review articles is not easy, choosing a manageable topic and setting the right tone are major challenges; but writing a successful article is very rewarding. Because we use an online manuscript handling system, journal print runs do not hold us up and we are able to publish quickly. We do organise articles into volumes and issues, but papers are made available via ‘online early’ as soon as they are ready. We can also respond quickly to produce articles on topical issues; for example, Shepherd and Knutson's article on global warming and hurricanes was published in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. If there is a topic that you feel we have neglected, contact the relevant section editor and we will see if we can cover that gap. Better still, offer to write the article yourself, but remember that it will be subject to rigorous review.
I am often asked, what is a ‘Compass article’? One way of thinking is that it forms the bridge between textbooks and research journals. Textbooks use a wide brush and discuss the fundamentals, but they seldom provide sufficient detail on a given topic to make the journal literature accessible. This is as true for the student reader as it is for the researcher looking into a new field. A Compass article surveys the field or reviews the approaches to a particular issue and provides the reader access to the relevant literature. Having read a Compass article on a particular topic, the reader not only knows where to go to read more, but also has the knowledge to access that literature from a critical viewpoint. Thus, Geography Compass is not only invaluable in a classroom context, but it is also an indispensable tool for research. To aid in this process, we are producing ‘Teaching and Learning Guides’ that summarise the key issues and learning outcomes related to a particular article, suggests tasks for the classroom and identify key readings and web resources.
Geography Compass is constantly evolving. We have struggled over the journal's structure and have made changes as the journal has evolved, for example, splitting social and cultural geography into two sections. We decided not to have a specialist section on methodology; instead, articles on methodology are welcome within their systematic context. We are now working hard to coordinate our efforts across the subsections. At the end of the day, the sections are only a mechanism to commission and evaluate articles; once articles are accepted into Geography Compass, they can be searched across subsection by key words. This means that getting your title and key words right are critical, as is writing a good abstract that will be picked up by electronic searches.
The world of academic publishing is constantly changing; Geography Compass is at the forefront of these changes. This is an exciting project to be involved in. If you have not used Geography Compass get your librarian to sign up to a trial subscription, details can be found on the website. If you want to contribute contact the relevant section editor or Editor-in-Chief; equally if you can think of ways we can improve Geography Compass please do not hesitate to contact us, we welcome your feedback.