Politics & Policy

Cover image for Vol. 44 Issue 2

Edited By: Emma R. Norman and David Mena

Online ISSN: 1747-1346

Note from the Editors: A New Direction for P&P

Note from the Editors: A New Direction for P&P

Note from the Editors
A New Direction for P&P in 2013: International Comparative Politics and Policy


Over the last seven years, Politics & Policy has evolved and grown enormously. Since our editorship began in late 2005, the journal moved to Wiley-Blackwell publishers, became a member of the Policy Studies Organization’s (PSO) large and highly integrated family of policy-specific academic journals, and increased its circulation and library subscriptions more than tenfold. By 2009 all back issues to 1973 were available online, and in 2010-11 online single-article downloads rose a substantial 36%. Following trends across the academic publishing industry, P&P moved to online-only publication in 2012.

Huge changes also occurred inside the journal’s editorial offices. The critical decision was taken in 2008 to increase P&P’s publications from four to six issues annually, the same year we made the transition from manual to electronic manuscript management. Doing so has enabled us to maintain competitive turnaround times, transparency (and a plausible appearance of sanity), despite the increase in submissions and output. From 2008-12, P&P’s average turnaround for a decision to review was 8 working days, and for a decision after review, 45 days. We have also worked hard to build the support of an exceptional, global peer-reviewer base that is more than 2,000 strong. The quality of P&P’s rigorous double-blind peer-review system continues to benefit as a result. We express our sincere gratitude to the PSO, our production team at Wiley, P&P’s Editorial Board, and the journal’s reviewers for their support during this period of exciting, and seemingly non-stop, evolution.

Now the many changes in management and publication procedures have taken full effect, the editors are keen to keep the journal moving ahead by refocusing its aims and scope to new times, changing demands, and fresh constituencies. This will necessarily involve some departures from the journal’s past.

Politics & Policy’s Past Focus

At the time we became editors, the steadfast support of many U.S. state Political Science Associations over the journal’s 40-year life had cemented it as an established outlet for research on U.S. politics and public administration, particularly Southern state and local politics. In tandem with relocating the journal’s editorial office to Mexico, in 2006 we adjusted its aims and scope to encompass a more international, interdisciplinary reach that nevertheless captured the same generalist character and appeal that former editors had worked tirelessly to achieve. Reflecting the culmination of this shift, the articles in this February 2013 issue span policy questions on trans-border issues (narcoviolence and fertility policy), a cross-national analysis of the causes of coups d’état, democratization in Ghana, and immigration and national identity in the United States.

Moving the Journal Forward: Aims and Rationale

Our primary aim is to maintain and improve the quality and citation impact of the research P&P publishes by strengthening the journal’s current international reach while refining its theoretical and methodological approach to the flourishing field of comparative policy studies. Several important reasons influenced the decision to hone the journal’s scope in this way.

First, electronic publication has revolutionized the way academics access, read, cite, and write journal articles during the years we have served as P&P’s editors. Usage has shifted from browsing and drawing from the contents of the hardcopy issue that landed on one’s doorstep every quarter to specific searches for specialized single-article downloads across the hundreds of journals available online. This has a clear impact on generalist publications, the past prestige of which rested not only on the high quality of their articles, but also the careful crafting of each issue as a whole to consistently offer “something for everybody.” Our transition to a more specialized focus thus reflects a concomitant shift in what P&P’s readers and authors need, use, and want more of—today and tomorrow.

Second, one of the benefits of editing a journal for seven years involves the depth and consistency of the journal data available to us. Analysis of all submissions received since 2006 has revealed a huge amount about P&P’s reader and author base and, most interestingly, the development of trends in the political and policy sciences over the years. Our statistics show a marked, consistent increase in submissions pertaining to politics and policy outside the U.S., to comparative analysis in general, synchronic and diachronic single-case comparative studies, and policy research with an inter- or cross-national focus. This is in line with the recent growth and increased exposure of the field of comparative policy studies and provides strong evidence that the decision to concentrate on international comparative approaches is the right one for P&P.

Third, the mounting influence of comparative policy approaches has yet to be reflected strongly at the level of the specialized journal. Very few regular publications concentrate on high-quality research in the area at present. This is surprising given the burgeoning body of research it is producing and the well-known wider intellectual benefits of comparative methods. Bringing an international dimension to a study promotes deeper reflection and stronger critical perspective, prompting more stringent evaluative criteria in any sound study. It also facilitates solid and innovative theorizing. And yet the flexibility of comparative methods permits an extremely wide range of subject matter. Almost any article on policy can be worked into an international comparative frame, sometimes fairly swiftly. What is more, we have rarely seen one that has not benefitted significantly from doing so. Taken together, these factors indicate a niche that P&P is well-equipped to fill successfully.

Reinforcing the relationship between the journal’s readership and authorship is the final reason behind P&P’s new focus. In refining our aims and scope to a more specialized field, we recognize the unique and vital connection between a learning community and its key journals. Politics & Policy’s aim is to serve, and contribute to consolidating, a dynamic emerging policy community whose members act as regular readers and commentators of the journal, as well as its active, innovative authors. We also aim to enhance the visibility, reach, and impact of P&P’s comparative policy research through our close and long-standing links to the wider policy community(ies) established by the PSO and its other nine policy journals. These links are mutually reinforcing in ways that most individually produced political and policy science journals find hard to replicate. In terms of visibility and reach, they ensure the work of P&P’s authors is disseminated to over 3,400 major institutions of higher education worldwide. In terms of impact and intellectual cross-fertilization, membership of the PSO journal family promotes overlapping networks and interdisciplinary innovations across a sizeable and extremely integrated range of policy-specific publications and conferences. Publication in one PSO journal thus makes it highly likely that it will quickly find its way to the authors of the others, right where it needs to be! P&P’s new comparative focus will, in turn, complement the existing range of PSO publications strongly, extending it to one of the most cutting-edge, yet still underrepresented, subfields in the discipline.

New International Comparative Scope

To accomplish the varied aims discussed in the last section, Politics & Policy is now inviting article submissions and special issue proposals that meet the following criteria.

Manuscripts should demonstrate high-quality original research that makes a strong theoretical or empirical contribution to existing comparative policy literature, or to policy studies and political science more generally via the use of comparative methods. We consider normative and empirical studies in any area of the public policy spectrum at all levels of the policy process and the politics that accompany them. These include, but are not restricted to: analyses of the theory, values, and/or public/political support underpinning or influencing policy trends, adoption, contestation, and change; policy framing; the challenges and opportunities facing policy networks; policy design and misdesign; decision-making; implementation; regulation; and outcomes. Trans-border, cross-national or wider international research emphasizing a comparative study’s political implications are especially welcome. Manuscripts dealing comparatively with aspects of democracy and democratization, global governance, or policies that transcend, or resist, the advent of porous borders are also encouraged, as are robust review articles on the current state of the literature, and short book reviews in any comparative policy area.

Strong preference will be given to papers demonstrating a balanced comparative treatment of policy in more than one country. Exceptional manuscripts that focus predominantly on one case study (e.g., involving comparative analysis over time or between subnational actors), may be considered, if their contribution is outstanding. Such papers may nevertheless be required to correct the imbalance if revisions are invited. Additional details concerning P&P’s new scope can be found via the links at the beginning of this Editors’ Note.

This transition will operate across several issues while we gather and review comparative submissions and publish the remaining backlog of articles reviewed under our former rubric. To assist the realization of P&P’s fresh aims, and to consolidate its new scope, several comparative policy scholars from around the world will be joining the Editorial Board from the next issue onward. Invited articles from key scholars in the field are under discussion, and a Special Issue on International Comparative Policy is programmed for later in the year. We are planning for at least one Special Issue per annum to follow. This latest step in Politics & Policy’s evolution is a stimulating time for everyone involved. The editors very much encourage the active participation, comments, reviews, and ideas for future journal innovation from our established readers, peer-reviewers, and authors and from the comparative policy network the journal now seeks to engage. We hope this note has provided new readers of P&P with some initial background for this long-standing publication and we look forward to working closely with you all in the near future.