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I agree completely. Young or early career scholars should focus on publishing papers in peer reviewed journals. That is the most straightforward way to advance your chances for a job with respect to scholarship. I work at an institution where a paper in an edited volume "counts" for 1/3 of the value of a paper in a highly ranked (top 20 %) peer reviewed journal. The details of the system are irrelevant, but it reflects the value the community puts on different types of publications.


Without taking a position on the normative question here, as a junior person who is wrapping up an edited book project, I can speak a bit to the task itself. My book is on its way to publication in a good press, and I have managed to continue to publish single-authored articles and even a book along the way. However, an edited volume is time-consuming.

First, if you want the book to be more than just a collection of loosely related papers, this requires time conceiving of the project. A lot of university presses are moving away from edited volumes, so you’ll need some narrative thread and something over and above a proceedings volume.

Still, having a workshop or conference is a good way to get people’s submissions going in a timely manner, as well as to get them to be engaged together. So you might wind up doing something like this. That’s a lot of administrative time. It also is a lot of administrative energy if you are a junior person and at least some of the people you are inviting are senior. How will you play the role of editor and manage the project while also respecting people’s areas of expertise and seniority?

Relatedly, there also is the consideration that if you are a junior person, you will be in the position of encouraging more senior people to contribute their works on time—if you want those sorts of people to contribute. That involves not just time following up, but energy in considering what the best strategy is for this process.

And editing the volume, once contributions are in, involves copyediting beyond the usual looking for typos and fixing bibliographies. It means editing with an eye towards some kind of consistency (see first point about narrative thread).

My own volume began as an idea my last year of graduate school and will probably be published about five years after that point, this summer. Thankfully I’m working in a field where five years is the blink of an eye, but if your area is not so historical, and you want your volume to be relevant, you’ll need to work much faster. And, as Marcus suggests, that may involve attention away from other things.

Finally, co-editing may be a way to distribute some of this work, but that requires a good working relationship with your co-editor and may not in the end save that much time (but perhaps someone who has co-edited can speak to that).

I will say that I have learned a tremendous amount through the project, both philosophically and professionally.


I think that the biggest potential advantage of editing a volume is that you get to work with the big names in your area. If this works out, it still might not be all the beneficial to a job candidate (but it might). Its clearly beneficial to a mid-career and perhaps early career person. The other side of that is that unless you get a contract with Oxford or Cambridge, chances are you won't get too many big names to contribute. So then you have a publication that doesn't count for as much as a single authored book or blind reviewed articles, and you might be working primarily with other early career folks and grad students. I don't think its a good idea until your established...

On the market still

Just to note, against what seems to be the common view here, I've heard from different independent committee members that my forthcoming edited volumes actually helped my application significantly, and that they (at different research schools and one teaching focused school) viewed them very positively. They viewed them as showing a certain standing within the field that may not be shown by having a (relatively lowly cited) article in a top journal, and an ability to lead a research project through to completion.

I should note, this is editing the volumes, not merely contributing to them, which they more in line with the comments here viewed as less significant than other publications.

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