Collin Koh Swee Lean is an Associate Research Fellow at the RSIS Military Studies Program, part of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies that is a constituent unit of RSIS. As part of the research activities to be undertaken, Collin focuses on military developments, particularly naval issues, in the Asia-Pacific and he also looks into Russia and the Scandinavian regions. In addition, he is an avid watcher on military technology. From AY2008/09 to AY2009/10, Collin served as a research analyst at the RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, where he conducted research on energy security issues, particularly nuclear energy. As such, beyond his primary focus on traditional security issues, Collin also watches nuclear energy development in Southeast Asia. Collin is also a doctoral candidate in strategic studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. His dissertation, supervised by Associate Professor Bernard Loo and Professor Geoffrey Till, revolves around naval developments in Southeast Asia and the concepts of non-provocative defence and naval arms control.
Defence & naval arms control
1. What makes an article top quality?
Response: An academic article is of top quality as long as it has undergone a rigorous peer-review process, which can be single or double-blind types. Being subjected to a rigorous peer-review process by contemporaries in those specific areas of research, depending on the topic of the article, helps serve as a “gate-keeper” to ensure only those academically well-researched and written articles be published and thereby, not only help the authors earn academic credentials, but allow the journal to gain reputation over time. Peer-review process is a tedious, manpower-consuming enterprise but it is all worth the effort if consistency in this respect helps build up the journal’s reputation and credibility in the academic world.
2. Do you think that journals determine research trends?
Response: I think to some extent it is true. However, it is important not to fall into the trap of following the “fashion” of research. A journal ought to have a specific scope or mandate of research specialization. In the case of JDSRM for example, it therefore ought to have a specialized scope that looks at defence and strategic studies-related issues, with also an interest on issues related to defence management.
3. What makes a good position paper?
Response: A good position paper, in my opinion, ought not to be any radically different from a peer-reviewed article. It has to be well-researched, well-argued in a concise and clear manner, substantiated with proper evidences. A position paper, however, is probably shorter than a standard, original research paper.
4. What are the qualities you look for in an article?
Response: An article has to follow the academic rigors of research, writing and proper citations. By that, it means it has to be well-researched, using credible and diverse sources that are cross-corroborated and well-deliberated for their relevance when utilized in the article. The author needs to exhibit good written prose, coherence in the discussion and good organization of the article’s sections and sub-sections. Last but not least, and this is equally important: the article has to follow the standard, accepted conventions of academic citations if it is a research paper.
5. Can you give us a broad indication of the types of themes a scientific journal should cover?
Response: Actually I don’t think it is possible for me to give a broad indication of the types of themes a scientific journal should cover since it really depends on the mandate of the journal’s specialization. As mentioned earlier in point 2, JDSRM ought to consider submissions which ought to have a specialized scope that looks at defence and strategic studies-related issues, with also an interest on issues related to defence management.
6. What sorts of research methods and frameworks do you expect people to use, and how will they balance conceptual and applied research?
Response: The sort of research methods and frameworks used depends on the nature of the research itself. For instance, in the case of JDSRM, since it would probably be highly interested in defence management issues, defence economics would come into play, which entails the need for quantitative research methods. However, good research papers ought to display a good grasp of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research approaches depending on the research itself.
7. How would you describe the journal’s mission and editorial objectives to our readers?
Response: Really, JDSRM ought to have a specialized scope or mandate that looks at defence and strategic studies-related issues, with also an interest on issues related to defence management. The first thing I’ll recommend as a way to professionalize JDSRM and to help build its reputation and credibility is to have a standard style guide for authors. JDSRM is new, understandably, but it can always learn from established examples, such as Asian Security, Defence Studies and International Security, to follow good practices in this respect.
8. If you could be granted dream articles, what would they be on?
Response: If you’re referring to dream articles for my own research interest, surely I’ll be most interested in articles related to naval or generally military affairs in the Asia-Pacific region.
9. Are there any particular areas which you would like to see, or expect to see, collaborate?
Response: Same response as the above under point 8.
10. How does the research published percolate through to practitioners?
Response: To be sure, new journals tend to be less well-known compared to the more established ones, and it takes time for them to percolate, not just to academics but also practitioners. As a start, I’ll recommend JDSRM to reach out to practitioners by getting in touch to relevant agencies which might be interested in the fields of research published by JDSRM. Usually the first-time outreach ought to involve free access to the articles, but that’s not all: the articles published have to be of high quality and the practitioners come to understand and be aware that JDSRM follows a stringent selection and peer-review process. Only then will practitioners find the published research relevant and credible for their real-life policy work, and only then will the journal gain its reputation in the policymaking world, through peer-to-peer recommendation. Last but not least of course, academic papers published ought to have policy relevance, not just academic and “talking theory”. What’s the use of research papers for practitioners if the research work carries no policy relevance? I believe this is something the JDSRM editorial team ought to bear in mind when devising its mandate for potential submissions in the future.
11. How can a publisher ensure the authors/readers a rigorous peer review and quality control?
Response: Building on the points I raised earlier under point 1, I believe in a rigorous peer-review process that can be either single or double-blind types. The best is double-blind peer-review: both reviewers and authors are anonymous to each other. This ensures maximum mitigation of any bias in the process. Up to three independent reviewers ought to be assigned per author’s submissions. Just assigning one reviewer per submission does not count for rigorous peer review. The editorial board has the sacred responsibility of assigning reviewers based on matching their research areas to the topic of research in each submission. The submissions also ought to undergo a series of review process, starting from its first review then on to the second (upon the author’s submission of a revised draft after the first round of review) and finally, the editorial board decides whether to publish. Usually articles which pass the first round of peer-review for revision or total acceptance will eventually be published. Those which could not make the mark during this first round ought to be rejected. Quality control in terms of veracity and credibility of research content would be covered by the reviewers, but quality control of the eventual product in terms of the grammar, vocabulary and general written prose would have to be safeguarded by the editorial team prior to publication. But perhaps most importantly, the editorial team has the responsibility of ensuring that submissions accepted for consideration in the review process fall under the mandate of publication.
12. Your editorial policy is to be eclectic and welcome perspectives from other disciplines and schools. How does this translate into the types of contributions you encourage?
Response: I’m not certain of this question. But if you’re referring to other discipline, all I’ll like to say is that JDSRM, because of its mandate straddling between defence and strategic studies and defence economics, ought to have an inter-disciplinary approach. The reviewers JDSRM could tap on should also strive towards such inter-disciplinary diversity.
13. What do you see as the merits of journals, as opposed to book series, as a means of scholarly communications?
Response: Book series or edited volumes usually require long gestation time compared to journals which could be more rapidly processed and published. Based on my own experience as one of the editors of an edited volume back then, book series may take up to a year or more before it was sent to the press. Journals with direct policy relevance, which I believe JDSRM might be striving towards, ought to be timely. In this respect, I strongly recommend JDSRM to stick to peer-reviewed articles, such as research papers, book reviews, research notes and short op-eds if possible.
14. How do you differentiate Journal of Defense Studies & Resource Management with other journals in the field?
Response: JDSRM ought to find a niche in the whole range of journals in the field. It has to have a specialized scope that looks at defence and strategic studies-related issues, with perhaps a key interest on issues related to defence management (by that I mean defence economics.