I am a tenure-track faculty member, or
I am a graduate student trying to gain an academic position:
Why would I submit an article to SHERM Journal?
It is true, on initial review, a journal dedicated to the socio-historical study of religion or the socio-historical study of ministry appears to be a niche publication with too small of an academic market, possibly making the publication a low-impact journal. There are simply far too many other psychological and sociological journal options out there for academics to submit their qualitative research and quantitative studies. But a socio-historical examination of religion and ministry is almost unheard of as a sub-discipline in religious studies. So, who practices that?
The answer is: just about everybody who studies religion. Let us explain.
What is the Socio-Historical Study of Religion?
In the broadest (and briefest) definition possible, a socio-historical study of religion coalesces the aims, philosophies, and methodologies of historical science with those of the social and cultural sciences, including anthropology, sociology, psychology, and (more generally) religious history. The goal of a socio-historical study is to examine how different aspects of a religion function in the broader socio-political and cultural milieu, regardless of whether the study focuses on ancient societies, medieval societies, or present-day societies. They are all historical cultures that require documentation and examination.
Doesn’t a Socio-Historical Study Limit Your Fields of Study to Just History or the Social-Sciences?
SHERM journal appears to accept a lot of different areas of study, such as hermeneutics, philosophy, theology, textual criticism, and biblical studies. While some of the other fields, like research into the historical Jesus, conform to a socio-historical study of religion, how do the other fields relate?
Here at SHERM, we believe in providing the greatest possible range of publishing opportunities to erudite academicians who have worked hard to propel their scholastic careers and contribute to the scientific and academic study of religion and ministry. This is one of the main reasons why SHERM offers so many options for religion-oriented research.
Nonetheless, it could be argued that every aspect of religion, including theology, philosophy, and hermeneutics, has a socio-historical dimension to it. Take, for instance, an exegetical examination of Acts 2:42 from the New Testament where the text describes an early church practice of sharing communal meals. Even if intending to be purely an exegetical article, a properly in-depth analysis of the verse (the kind that SHERM would accept as having been thoroughly researched) would involve a discussion on the function of communal meals in first-century Palestine within both a Jewish and Hellenistic context.
There are similar socio-historical implications and methodological approaches in disciplines like theology, the philosophy of religion, and textual criticism, as well. The point is not to publish only those articles that are predominantly historical or predominantly social-scientific in nature. The point is that every element of religion and ministry, whether historically in the past, the present, or (intriguingly) the future, was (and is) a product of the socio-historical context from which it emerged. Thus, every area of religion and ministry had (or still has) a function within the broader culture and society. SHERM simply wants to publish those findings.
The First Real Issue: An Obsolete Print-Era Bias
But let’s be straightforward about the real concern many have with submitting an article to journals like SHERM. Many scholars are wary about free open-access venues because they fear that their work will not be found by other researchers (because of its small academic market) and, thus, will not be cited in other academic work. They fear that the journal will have a low impact and short longevity because it will eventually disappear. The safe bet is to stick with established journals that are already reputable, produce good quality articles, and are highly-cited. Thus, having your article published in a low impact-factor journal will not look good for current and soon-to-be scholars.
However, this kind of mindset is actually an unfounded (and frankly, outdated) bias toward the now passé print-era of academic journal publishing. The simple fact is, academic journals have changed significantly over the last several decades. One of the primary reasons why certain journals appear more reputable is simply because these journals had the funding (usually through high-cost subscription services) to print and disseminate their publication in an era when fewer academic journals existed and none could be read without access to an academic research library. Similarly, with the invention of the internet, there were only a handful of startup journals who saw the changing availability of information as an opportunity to establish their own publications (and make a profit at the same time).
In both cases, these journals only seem to be more reputable because they were some of the first journals to exist in their particular media format, giving them an already-established reputation by default. This is not to say that these established journals are not, in fact, reputable. They oftentimes do produce great work by erudite academicians. But it is to say that they are “established” predominantly because they had the luxury of owning the market place for academic research, which meant they could take advantage of supply and demand practices by forcing people to pay for their publications.
Sadly, many of these journals continue to practice the same antiquated methods by either requiring authors to pay for membership to their academic societies, pay subscription or publishing fees, or pay college tuition to have access to specialized research libraries. They have yet to adjust to the ubiquitous availability of academic research stemming from online platforms, which is why so many of these journals are struggling to compete in the current market place of open-access journals.
The Second Real Issue: An Unreasonable Status Quo Bias
What is also at the core of these concerns is usually a status quo bias, meaning some academic researchers are going to prefer only those journals that they have personally heard of, read, or cited before. In other words, they stick with what is familiar. As a result, they miss out on a great deal of actual current scholarship available from open-access publications. But things have been different for many years now, and the so-called “established” journals (especially ones that charge money) are no longer the sole venue for significant and impactful articles.
Today, readers of specialized research (the kind of research found in peer-reviewed academic journals) have expanded beyond the confines of institutional academia. Your work is now likely to be cited by journalists, bloggers, undergraduate students, and even popular fiction/non-fiction writers (in addition to the more traditional citers, such as doctoral students working on their dissertations and scholars working on their own publications). But those same doctoral students and academic researchers are also readers of newspapers, blogs, undergraduate papers, and other popular writings. What this means is that the more accessible your research is to the general public, the more likely it is to be cited by someone who will include a link to your research for others to read, which means your article is more likely to be seen by other scholars and researchers who will, in turn, cite your research without having to go through a research library.
Likewise, scholastic researchers and educators looking to publish their own work are no longer confined to the academic library’s computer system for access to current publications. In fact, more and more researchers are doing simple Google searches on the internet to discover new and relevant data. The problem with those other so-called “established” journals is that they make it more difficult for other scholars to find your research as you cross your fingers that your particular institution has a subscription to the right kind of journal database.
With SHERM’s open-access philosophy and free open-access advertising, your entire article (not just the title and abstract) is indexed and discoverable throughout multiple platforms, search engines, websites, blogs, and news articles. For more information on the dissemination and advertising practices of SHERM, which are unlike any other peer-reviewed academic journal on the market today, see our benefits page here.
With that said, allow us to set the record straight and address each of the concerns above more directly:
Dispelling Fears about Publishing with SHERM:
Not only will simple Google searches populate individual SHERM articles in their results, but SHERM issues will also populate in Google Scholar and Google Book results, as well. But that’s not all. SHERM is indexed in Crossref, EBSCO, and ProQuest academic search engines, which means your article will also populate in your research library’s computer system just like other peer-reviewed publications. See details on SHERM’s indexing here.
But that’s not all! SHERM is also a proud member of Wipf and Stock Publishers, which is one of the largest global publishers of academic work and will disseminate each issue of SHERM to multiple agencies, including Coresource Distribution, Amazon, and Logos Bible Software. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!! Unlike other peer-reviewed journals, every single issue of SHERM receives free Google advertising, and every single one of our published articles will appear on or be referenced in multiple scholarly and social media websites where researchers go to find information online, including (but not limited to) the following:
You can read more about these free advertising perks here.
Additionally, one randomized controlled trial of open-access articles found that “articles assigned to open access were associated with 89% more full text downloads (95% confidence interval 76% to 103%), 42% more PDF downloads (32% to 52%), and 23% more unique visitors (16% to 30%) … than subscription access articles in the first six months after publication.” A second controlled trial found that “articles placed in the open access condition (n=712) received significantly more downloads and reached a broader audience within the first year.”
Moreover, because of SHERM’s copyright retention & non-restrictive licensing, you are allowed to upload your individual article to any website or social-profile of your choosing and disseminate your article in any way you see fit. SHERM even offers authors the chance to advertise their personal article using Google Ads (for a small fee) to attract even wider attention to your specific research (but this individualized advertisement is completely optional).
2) My article won’t be cited as much as other articles appearing in established journals.
This is simply not true. In fact, when publishing with SHERM, your work is more likely to be cited than it would be when going through other journals (and that includes other open-access journals).
First, one longitudinal bibliometric analysis of open-access (OA) publications concluded, “We found strong evidence that, even in a journal that is widely available in research libraries, OA articles are more immediately recognized and cited by peers than non-OA articles published in the same journal. OA is likely to benefit science by accelerating dissemination and uptake of research findings.” In a separate logistic regression analysis, another study found that open-access articles “are cited significantly more than articles in the same journal and year that have not been made OA.” Another analysis of citation rates found that “the mean number of citations to offline articles is 2.74, and the mean number of citations to online articles is 7.03, an increase of 157%.”
Second, citing numerous other publications, one study‘s literature review “found that free-access articles tend to have more citations than pay-for-access articles. This citation advantage has been observed in a number of studies, spanning a variety of academic fields….The estimated size of the citation advantage varies across and even within studies, but is often measured to be between 50% and 200% more citations for open access articles.”
And because each article of SHERM is simultaneously published to other research sites, such as Academia and ResearchGate, it is likely your article will be cited more than with conventional platforms. For instance, this same study found that articles uploaded to Academia were cited far more often than any other medium.
All that to say, the data shows open-access articles, especially those uploaded to multiple sites, will have far greater citations than other articles published in conventional journals.
3) SHERM has too small of an academic market niche.
This was addressed above, but it’s worth mentioning again. A socio-historical study of religion and ministry does not limit the number or types of publications. In fact, since everything in religion and ministry has a socio-historical context and, thus, societal function, the fields of study are significantly higher. And because both academics and laypersons are continually researching information on religion, it is likely that your article will continue to reach a wide international audience.
4) As a new academic journal, SHERM will have a low impact on the academic world and on my academic career.
Not exactly. A journal’s impact on the academic world is dependent on the number of readers and the number of citations it receives, not on its longevity. As already explained, SHERM is in a position to receive more readers and more citations than conventional journals. In terms of having an impact on your personal academic career, that is entirely dependent (like any other journal article) on the type and quality of article you choose to write. However, we at SHERM are going to do everything in our power to make your research discoverable and citable. So, we recommend that your article be as significant and as interesting as possible, being sure to make a unique contribution to the wider academic study of religion.
5) SHERM is not as well-established as other journals, so it will likely just disappear in a few years anyway.
This is an understandable concern, and the Editorial Advisory Board is doing everything possible to ensure SHERM journal will become a competitive staple of academic publishing for many decades to come. In the meantime, your article will never disappear so long as the internet is around. Not only does each article of SHERM get catalogued and uploaded into every massive database of Crossref (with its own DOI number), EBSCO, ProQuest, Academia, ResearchGate, and Google Scholar (among numerous others), but you will also own a personal copy of the journal article for you to post and disseminate at your leisure. Thus, even if SHERM disappears, your publication never will.
With that said, we at SHERM hope this brief discussion eases any concerns you and your colleagues might have about submitting your research to us. And as always, please feel free to contact the editor if you have any other questions or concerns.