Mortal motivations: reflections on 15 years of Perfect Beat (1992-2007)

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Hayward, P 2007, Mortal motivations: reflections on 15 years of Perfect Beat (1992-2007)’, Perfect Beat, vol. 8 no. 2, pp. 3-13.

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Research journals are established for a variety of (often overlapping) reasons. Those emanating from academia often reflect the agendas and aspirations of individuals, departments, inter-departmental teams, institutions and/or sectors. Other factors are broader: encompassing politics, intellectual fashions, the zeitgeist (as perceived from a particular standpoint) and/or the opportunities opened up by funding (etc). But whatever the initial motivation, simply establishing a journal is in many ways the easy part of the process. In terms of enabling and sustaining it, two principal tasks arise. The first is to identify, nurture and/or mentor contributors. The second is to create a SUbscription and/or sales base. The latter is part of the ever-present 'bottom line' of journal production - funding. Keeping (for now) to the format of printed publications, in an era of business plans and financial rationalism, specialist journals are an archaic - if tenacious - reminder of a period when scholarship was an end in its own right, 'underwritten' by volunteer labour of various kinds and/or by burying items such as mail-out costs, fax and phone use, administrative handling etc within suitably porous institutional budgets. The former constitute what are often referred to as 'below the line' costs (akin to that majority of an iceberg that remains beneath the surface). The portion that insistently projects into the accountancy horizon comprises 'above the line' costs such as printing fees (and any associated design and setting expenses that can't be handled by the team or hidden elsewhere). In terms of the reverse side of the financial equation, subscriptions are always problematic - there are never enough. Innumerable journals puzzle over how to lift subscription rates, reduce subscriber 'chum' and/or raise prices gently enough to retain readers but sufficiently to increase income.

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