I’ve been publishing on the archaeology of death and memory, medieval archaeology, the history of archaeology, public archaeology and contemporary archaeology for just over 20 years (1997-2016), so thought I’d indulge in a short retrospective post supported by a chart.

I want to briefly reflect on my research endeavours and outputs to date (excluding 2017 outputs thus far). I didn’t publish during my undergraduate or Masters degrees, but during my years as a PhD student I began to write and publish, first my MA thesis, then chapters and elements from my doctoral work, fieldwork and subsequent research projects.  Through 4 academic posts (at Trinity College Carmarthen, Cardiff, Exeter and Chester) I’ve produced (written and edited) c. 97 outputs via four principal types of output:

  1. c. 46 book chapters, from 1999
  2. c. 36 journal articles, from 1998
  3. 10 edited journals/special issues of journals, from 1998
  4. 5 edited books & 1 monograph, from 2003

I’ve created 5 columns, the first four showing the first four key output types – book chapters, journal articles, journals (edited and special issues) and books (one 2006 monograph and a series of edited books). I’ve also created a ‘total’ of these different outputs – the black column.

Reading the chart – provisos

Publications take a lot of time and energy as you might appreciate. Please note, it is quality, as much as (or more than) quantity, that matters in academic publishing, although it is worth saying that I have continued to publish as much as possible in peer-review venues during this 20 year period. I’ll leave it for others to judge whether I’ve ever published anything of high quality, and whether my work has declined, improved or remained steady in terms of quality.

A further proviso is that one cannot say the peaks and troughs directly map onto how busy I am at any particular time. Each individual output can take several years to produce, from initial design and planning, through research projects, submissions, editing/writing, revisions/peer-review through to publication. Hence, the year of publication needn’t relate in any direct way to when the work was done. Nor does it mean much to compare each type of output, since an edited book and journal article are difficult to directly compare in character and quality, time involved in preparation/writing and production. Indeed, each book chapter and book, journal edition and article are distinctive creations.

I want to point out a further limitation with the chart. My first piece was written with my doctoral supervisor. Subsequently, a large fraction of my projects and writing have been collaborative. This isn’t factored in on the chart. Of course the edited books and journals mainly contain the work of others: not me.

Also into this post you have to add changing work circumstances, since only 5 and a half of these years were spent in a research-focused Russel Group institutions (Sept 2002-Jan 2008) and much of these years were actually teaching intensive.  A further factor has been changing personal circumstances. I’ve been ill a number of times for short durations in the last 20 years, most notably in 2007. Kids came along from 2008…

Finally, this chart doesn’t count this blog, a new form of output I adopted from 2013. Whether a blog constitutes an academic output is a matter of dispute and academics vary in their views on this. I have used it to disseminate provisional ideas as well as to extend and enhance, promote and evaluate, existing outputs, so I think a fraction of my posts might count at least. Still, for simplisticity, I haven’t factored them in here.

The final point is that this chart masks the many unfinished projects that also litter my career thus far…

Interpreting the chart

I guess it shows I’ve been moderately busy and perhaps increasingly so. Academic life doesn’t seem to get easier with pressures of REF submissions and so on. Also, for my career, I’ve taken on editing and writing roles more than ever before in recent years. As you see, I continue to publish in a nice mix of book chapters (with peaks in 2014 and 2015) and journal articles (with peaks in 2007, 2011 and 2016).

Perhaps the obvious gap is my doctoral write-up year of 1999/2000. This is a hiatus many face and it can be the end of many scholar’s short publication careers, especially if they lack paid work in which to write subsequently. Another low-point for outputs are the years 2012/13. These relatively quiet years coincide with my status as father of 3 in 2011 and then as father of 5 when the twins arrived in 2012!

In terms of peaks. These occur notably in 2007 showing the benefit of accumulated time at Cardiff and Exeter. Another peak occurs in 2011 where a series of outputs come together developed in my early years at Chester. The last few years have been ludicrously busy with my editing roles and ongoing projects, with a sustained peak taking place through 2014, 2015 and 2016; this shows the benefit of many projects coming to fruition but also the benefits of research leave.

What number and character of publications will I be involved in over the next 20 years? Will I do less, or more in quantity? Will the kinds of publication differ? Will I end up simply writing a blog?