Walking Heathrow: Exploring the fissures of infrastructure


As I’m sat in my car, parked in the Hatton Cross Station Car Park, I watch as the dark blue hue of the cold November morning sky slowly turns to a light grey, as the sun struggles to pierce the thick blanket of cloud above. Planes rumble up the runway, the end of which is about 100m in front of me separated by three rows of chain-link, razor-wired fence and a buttress of thick orange scaffolding supporting runway lights. These slender machines soar over my head, jetting off into the turning sky, roaring their ascent to the awakening population beneath them. In a few minutes, I was due to meet a traveller from New York. He had a 6-hour lay over and wanted to walk the perimeter fence of Heathrow, roughly 13 miles or so. The banality of such an undertaking bemused many when I told them I was doing it, particularly as it involved me battling the alarm clock a good 2 hours earlier than I normally do. But it is in the banality that the sublime can shine through; there is beauty in the everyday. Also, I was halfway through marking my third year cohort’s essays on psychogeography, and with their exciting adventures in the quotidian city teeming through my mind, how could I refuse such an invitation?

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Poppy Lawrence
I returned to the department this term to study MA Cultural Geography having graduated from reading BA Geography at Royal Holloway earlier this year. My undergraduate dissertation involved contemplating the formation of a possible subculture within religious groups, more specifically looking at young creatives who identify as Christians within urban clusters such as London. I hope to focus my research this year upon the evolving nature of sacred space and community, looking at how this could be perceived as redefining the bodily and affectual experience of sacred space.


Emily Hopkins

I completed my undergraduate degree in BSc Geography at Royal Holloway, and now I am starting the MA in Cultural Geography as part of my ESRC 1+3 studentship. My general interest is in creative geographies, ranging from visual and artistic methods, to the planning and functioning of cultural regeneration strategies.

Through a focus on creative gentrification within cities, my research aims to understand urban creativity from an audience perspective in smaller scale sites. I will undertake this in order to understand public perceptions on the artistic and cultural investments that are increasingly popular in city regeneration strategy.

Nina Willment

 Following my undergraduate degree at Royal Holloway, I am now studying for the MA as part of the ESRC 1+3 studentship. My general interests are in the geographies of creative workspaces and the work practices of creative labourers. My research aims to investigate the workspaces and careers of DJ’s and MC’s, particularly in the emerging musical genre of grime across the UK.


Sarah-Jane Pilton

During my three years at Royal Holloway studying for my degree in BA Geography, I discovered my enjoyment for the cultural aspects of the course. I did my undergraduate dissertation on the geographies of women and sport, in relation to performance and the media, which links to my primary research interests of the body, gender and the digital. When it came to thinking about what I was going to do after I graduated I decided that I wasn’t ready to leave the department. I stumbled across the MA Cultural Geography course and after reading through the course content and speaking to lecturers on the course I decided this was the right path for me.


Sterling Mackinnon III

Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway has provided a unique opportunity to synthesise mybackgrounds in both history and GIS. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington (Seattle, WA) I focused on historical notions of European nationhood and in the years following my graduation gravitated towards GIS, spending last year interning with the U.S. National Park Service as a GIS technician. As a cultural geographer I am fascinated by the entree of geospatial technologies, 3D modelling and printing, and virtual and augmented reality into the heritage sector, particularly with regards to ‘at-risk’ built heritage. I am curious as to how an evolving approach to built heritage preservation and restoration will inform and influence the future construction of narratives of place.


Publishing Your Phd

With the support of Royal Holloway Departmental Researcher Development funding, this year’s Landscape Surgery programme includes a series of six sessions on ‘Communicating Research’. In the first of these, our meeting of November 1st focused on the theme ‘publishing your PhD’.  Chaired by our new Lecturer in Social and Cultural Geography, Cecilie Sachs Olsen, the discussion was led by two returning ex-surgeons: Amanda Rogers and Justin Spinney.


Amanda, now Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Swansea University and a member of the Landscape Surgery group as MA student, PhD student and post-doctoral fellow from 2002-2012, reflected on publishing from her ESRC funded PhD on ‘Geographies of identity and performance in Asian-American theatre’ (completed in 2008). This included journal articles in Cultural Geographies, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Geography Compass and Journal of Intercultural Studies, and a contribution of materials and ideas to her monograph Performing Asian Transnationalisms: Theatre, Identity and the Geographies of Performance (2015, published in Routledge’s Advances in Theatre and Performance Studies series).

Justin, now Lecturer in Human Geography at Cardiff University, discussed publishing from both his Cultural Geography MA dissertation on landscape and the cycling of Mt. Ventoux (completed in 2003) and his ESRC funded PhD on ‘Cycling the city: movement, meaning and practice’ (completed in 2008). These publications include chapters in edited collections on Cycling and Society, Geographies of Rhythm and Mobile Methodologies (co-authored with Katrina Brown), and journal articles in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Urban Design, Geography Compass, Environment and Planning A, Mobilities and Cultural Geographies. Justin confessed that he is still preparing a final piece from his thesis on courier cyclist film making, provisionally intended for Visual Studies.

Reflecting with honesty and generosity on their experiences, Amanda and Justin generated a thoughtful discussion about the many different ways they had ended up writing through their PhD work. Insights included:

  • Have a road map, but make it yours: It helps to develop a publication strategy and plan, and to keep revisiting this during and after the PhD. Don’t assume there is one template for how you should publish, though do take advice on how best to disseminate your work from supervisors, examiners and other mentors. Develop a publication strategy suited to your own materials, audiences and ways of writing and working. Not everyone publishes from their PhD in the same way and that is okay!
  • The journey continues: Whilst pressures to show an ability to publish during the PhD have increased, it’s helpful to think of the PhD as a body of work that can be published from for some time afterwards too, often running alongside other new projects.
  • People matter: The role of people and professional relationships in supporting and directing publication was a recurrent theme. It helps to recognize publishing as a social process, whether that be peers and mentors advising on how a piece reads, PhD examiners and supervisors seeing the potential contributions to be made by one’s research, conference audiences giving you a sense of what they find interesting in your work, conference session organisers soliciting papers for journal special issues, or editors and referees guiding on clarity of purpose, analysis and expression.
  • It’s emotional work: Publishing your research can pose emotional challenges: from nurturing and channeling the confidence of knowing one has something to say to the determination sometimes required in navigating review processes. That emotional work is something everyone has to do; it isn’t just you!
  • Publication is communication, and communication is a two way street: Publishing involves seeing your work as others might see it; understanding how your work intervenes in existing research conversations and agendas; and identifying the best outlets and places to make those interventions and to reach your desired audiences.
  • Engage with audiences but be yourself; as a form of communication, publishing your work means balancing the need to engage with audiences in terms that they can understand and value with the need to maintain what is original and distinctive about it. Practically, this balancing act is often at play when looking to revise publications based on reviewer and editorial comments. Review processes usually provide excellent advice, but often you cannot do everything suggested. Rather than seeing reviewers as judges passing sentence better to think of them as expert readers providing advice that you can weigh up and work with to improve your writing.
  • Less can be more: Particularly journal articles and book chapters often require a tighter focus than a PhD chapter or even a MA dissertation. Justin reflected on how translating his MA dissertation into a journal paper during the first year of his PhD involved focusing it down on to just one of the three main themes his dissertation had been exploring (kinaesthetics). Amanda noted how her ethnographic materials from her PhD require a very different handling when working on articles with typical guide length maximums of 8,000 words.
  • A PhD is not a book, but it may become one: A PhD thesis has different generic requirements than a monograph, but some theses can become books, and others lay the foundations for books later on. A PhD thesis has to demonstrate original materials and ideas that make an original contribution to knowledge. A monograph has to work as a coherent narrative, addressing an identifiable readership in a way that makes commercial sense to a publisher. Comparing theses and the books that emerged from them may be a topic for another landscape surgery session!
  • Communicating more broadly helps with publication: Giving conference papers, organising conference sessions, writing research blog entries on issues that your research engages… all these help to form ideas, see potential contributions, develop social networks. All help with the work of producing publications. Usefully, these many other forms of research communication feature in later Landscape Surgery sessions this year, so we will report more on those as the programme progresses!


Finally, as current Landscape Surgeons we extend our sincere thanks to former surgeons Amanda and Justin for giving up their time to come back to (a redecorated!) 11 Bedford Square to talk with us.  It was greatly appreciated.

Katy and Huw


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LS meets on Tues. 2-4:00pm, BSQ room 1-03 (please, note that due to space constraints, attendance to LS is by invitation only)


4 October Catch Up Meeting

18 October Writing Nature                      Amy Cutler & Lucy Mercer

1 November Publishing Your PhD         Justin Spinney (Cardiff) & Amanda Rogers (Swansea)

15 November Performing Urban Archives       Cecilie Sachs-Olsen

29 November The Artificial Cave          Harriet Hawkins & Flora Parrot [1pm start]

10 January  Finding Natural Selection at the Ends of the Earth: the collecting                                             journeys of  Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace     Janet Owen

24 January Curating a Research Exhibition        Phil Hatfield (BL) et al.

7 February Visual Methods and Visual Communication Eric Laurier (Edinburgh)

21 February  Research Blogs and Social Media Stuart Elden & Mark Carrigan (Warwick)

7 March  AAG Dry Run

Outreach Days Alert The Young To The Excitement of Geography

The Faculty of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London regularly undertakes outreach work in order to alert the local community and secondary school students about the opportunities within our subject, most notably through the annual Science Festival.

However, over the past two years, there has been an event which is far less known about, but arguably just as important, and has come about due to fusing the two component parts of my own working week. As well as studying on the MA Cultural Geography course part-time, I also work as a primary school teacher two and a half days a week. I wanted to see if it was possible to arrange a relationship between our Geography department at Royal Holloway, and my own primary school within the Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.

Several discussions with department outreach officer Dr. Simon Blockley in the Autumn  of 2014 were held in order to decide the viability of the plan, and what a day involving the Year Three class of my school (aged 7-8) would look like. As 2015 dawned, the jigsaw puzzle came together and the red tape cleared, and I boarded a train at Richmond Station  complete with 27 children, three parents and a teaching colleague. Once the class got over the apparent hilarity of the name of the station at which they were disembarking (Egham – they’re only young, after all), they boarded the student bus (where conversation turned to how ‘grown up’ they suddenly felt). The initial high point for one and all was the first view of Founders Building. The children knew that I went to university on the days I was not with them, but they didn’t realise that university looked like this…

Upon arriving at the Queen’s Building, Simon Blockley had arranged to give the children a tour of the labs which involved meeting the incomparable Pierre who gave them the opportunity to examine incredible bones, skeletons and other objects which remained topics of constant conversation over the following months at school. One of the integral parts of the day for me (as a student of Geography and a teacher of children) was that the class should be able to spend an hour in a seminar room actually doing some Geography – so that they would get a taste of actually learning the subject at University. I devised a lesson relating to our class topic of Rivers, and with access to some of the department’s OS Maps, the children set about producing colour coded maps of land use around the River Thames in groups. By the end of our session we had produced maps which could then be joined together back at school to produce a huge display of the land use of the Thames from source to sea – it was an epic piece of work which was a major talking point for all who would see it in school over the coming weeks.

Packed lunch in the quadrangle of Founders followed, before we returned back to school. The value of this trip was absolutely immense – the parents made a point of thanking us for arranging this particular visit (something that had never happened before) and some seven months later when the children were composing their review of the year which would go in their end of year school reports, over three quarters of the children mentioned the ‘Royal Holloway Geography Trip’ as the best thing they had done in Year Three. They also referred to wanting to learn Geography at university in ten years time – but only if they could learn it at Royal Holloway!

When I discovered that I would remain in Year Three the following year (2015/16 academic year), I immediately wanted to see if we could reprise the day – and the Geography department were more than happy to oblige. In April 2016, my new batch of 26 seven and eight year olds made the journey to Royal Holloway. Initially they were keen if only “to see what you get up to when you’re not with us”. This time, the taught session focus that I delivered centred around the importance of the River Nile to Ancient Egyptians, and we covered areas such as flood defences, dams and land use once more. Pierre and Simon’s tour of the labs was another high point, and once more, the trip featured prominently in the children’s End of Year School Reports. Another year for me in Year Three in 2016/17 will provide hopes that I can expose a third group of children to the importance of Geography and give them the aspiration to love the subject and want to attend university when they become eighteen years-old – hopefully as Geographers!

Ben Gilby,

MA Cultural Geography (Part-Time)


SoCo Artists: Showcase

SoCo Artists: Showcase

This is news of an exhibition which might be of interest to people interested in dialogues between visual art and geography, place and space.

I am an artist-member of Landscape Surgery, with a practice based in drawing. I’m also a member of ‘SoCo’, or South Coast Artists, a professional Hastings-based group. The society has produced a ‘Showcase’ exhibition of selected members’ work in which I am happy to be included – see here for details.

For some time now one strand of my work has been the visual exploration of ideas of self and community through the metaphor of dwelling, thinking of walls, windows, doors, passages, stairs, as built suggestions of mental barriers, mental openings, flights, traps, spaces which connect and those which separate. In this work I’m using a variety of materials such as earth, wax, silk and paper to investigate how such materialities inflect meaning in unexpected ways.

If anyone can get to the show that would be great! However, I’ll also be showing related work in London later in the year in Chelsea and Westminster Reference Library and in The Stone Space, Leyton. More news on those exhibitions nearer the time.

Helen Scalway

The Dystopia of Sodor: Thomas the Tank Engine and Neoliberalism

Thomas - the perfect neoliberal subject

Thomas – the perfect neoliberal subject

Thomas the Tank Engine, the popular children’s book and TV series, has been with us for 70 years, and still captures the imagination of children around the world. As a father of two rapidly growing-up children, trains seem to have some sort of mystic fascination with the preschool demographic. So it is no surprise that Thomas the Tank Engine is one of the world’s most recognised toy brands.

Thomas lives on the Island of Sodor, a mythical, small countryside island in the Irish Sea, just off the coast from Barrow-in-Furness. The trains are colourful, largely happy and busy, while the people go about normal lives in school, on the farm or on the railways. The trouble is, though, this surface-level utopian English-countryside-mid-twentieth-century idyll belies a far more sinister neoliberal allegory that pervades the daily minutiae of Thomas and his friends. The more of Thomas I watch, the more its ideologies of subservience, self-interest, prejudice and the constant imprinting of capitalist relations on everyday life ooze through the veneer of cutesy anthropomorphic trains. I would like to explore, here, just three ways in which Thomas the Tank Engine is far from a utopian idyll, but, rather, is a nightmarish vision of a society dominated by neoliberal capitalist ideologies. Continue reading

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Upcoming Event: HERITAGE FIGHT — passengerfilms

Join us for an evening of film and discussion in an exploration of protest, conservation and environmental values in our screening of award-winning documentary HERITAGE FIGHT (2012). Directed by Eugénie Dumont, HERITAGE FIGHT follows the citizens and traditional owners (the Goolarabooloo) of lands in a small town in Australia’s last great wilderness. The film documents […]

via Upcoming Event: HERITAGE FIGHT — passengerfilms


Like every year, the last LS meeting of term featured presentations by first-year PhD Surgeons, after which we also had the chance to hear about Patrizia Casadei’s project on fashion cities (Patrizia is a PhD candidate based at the Universities of Trento and Florence and she has been visiting our Department this term). Thanks to all the presenters for sharing their exciting (and very diverse) projects and to all the attendees for their constructive feedback.

Brief abstracts of the presentations follow in chronological order.



Nolli Piranesi 1748 La topografia di Roma

From his ascension to the throne in 1760, until his death 60 years later, King George III unceasingly collected maps, increasing the size of the Royal Collection – dating back to 1660 – to over 50,000 items. In 1823, his son and heir George IV promised the entire King’s library to the nation. Having passed over time into the care of the British Library, the maps and views of the Italian section of what is now known as the King’s Topographical Collection form the rich basis of this project’s focus. The primary goal is to investigate how the mapped representation of Italy affected British travellers’ perception of the land, and to what extent these attitudes changed throughout the Grand Tour years. In light of recent debates about the subjectivity of maps, the project proceeds on the basis that the presences and silences of the maps were able to mould the imaginations of Tourists in certain ways, and as such, iconographic analysis of their visuality is central. Part of the research will look into the written representation of place, situating the position of maps in relation to the Italy expressed through journals, guidebooks and Classical Roman texts, which were so important in seventeenth and eighteenth century education. As well as investigating the geographies of production and collection of cartographic knowledge, the project will explore the material role of maps, both in the embodied interaction with users, and in the representation of maps in other contexts (i.e. in travel diaries, portraits and engravings).



Repton pavilion (2)This research project will examine the way in which colonial plant acquisitions circulated as commodities in Britain during the first half of the 19th century, and will seek to locate plants within the literature on imperial commodity flows, as well as thinking about the ways in which exotic plants transformed the practice and content of horticulture during the 19th century, creating a new audience for `useful science`. This project will examine the mechanisms by which plants were introduced and the professional, trade and personal networks through which plants circulated. The period between 1780 and 1870 saw the largest volume of plant introductions as well as the emergence of a gardening press and a large-scale nursery business with a national reach. This focus will permit an analysis of the evolving circulation of plants as commodities alongside the evolution of imperial connections and domestic demand for gardens and knowledge about botany and horticulture. The research project will explore how plants as imperial commodities became part of the `taken-for-granted` of the British landscape.




The past decades have seen the rapid transformation of social life in Britain. The post-war institutions of the working men’s club and the vernacular local have been supplanted by the emergence of vast corporate PubCos, whose reach has become so extensive it marks every significant settlement in Britain with giants like J D Wetherspoon holding over 950 establishments across the country. Yet this state of affairs has not gone without challenge since the financial crisis. Innovative craft companies like BrewDog have capitalised on broader shifts in the zeitgeist, challenging the monopolisation of the brewing industry and establishing their own competing outlets. Meanwhile, changes to licensing laws in 2003 laid the foundations for the explosion of ‘micro-pubs’ – one room, community centred spaces governed by an ethical creed venerating simplicity, conversation, co-creation and independently produced real ale. My research tracks these phenomena primarily through the politics of design, exploring how shifts at the molecular level of experience intersect with broader dimensions of political and social change. The work is consequently concerned with a return to questions posed by the British New Left in its attention to the cultural dimensions of political hegemony, and aims to make a contemporary contribution to its intellectual legacy.



hattieI trained as a sculptor and for more than 25 years I have explored the relationship of environment and everyday behavior through exhibitions, public art, community projects, urban design schemes. In recent years my focus has been play in public settings and in particular the ways in which children inhabit and create space through playing. My PhD is concerned with geographies of play and the methodological and analytical insights artist’s methods can bring to an understanding of the affective and ambiguous dimensions of playing. Building on my MA study of play in an urban square, in which a dancer, a writer and a painter acted as co-researchers, I plan to investigate play in different public settings, drawing on a variety of creative methods. The challenge is to find ways of opening up informative and reflective spaces for doing and thinking around the on-going, everydayness of play, giving attention to its more-than-representational geographies. The spatial concerns of geography and the work of human geographers interested in how life is lived and performed make this a fruitful source of ideas for thinking about play. I am especially interested in the theoretical areas opened up by non-representational theories, which give attention to the performative and affective nature of being in the world, and in ‘creative geographies’, which bring together multi-disciplinary approaches that challenge assumptions of conventional ways of knowing and representing everyday life.



Image -  Research project on Fashion Cities

The idea of the ‘fashion city’ has received increasing attention as an important element in the promotion of cultural and creative economy, as well as in the future of creative cities. The fashion city has the potential to contribute to the development, growth and regeneration of contemporary urban environments. Over the past few years, local governments, policy-makers and academics across a number of disciplines have been paying increasing attention to this phenomenon. This research project is aimed at contextualising the fashion city within the existing theories of the ‘creative city’, ‘cultural and creative industries’ and ‘cultural and creative economy’. Its main purpose is to contribute to the academic debate on the fashion city definition, in an attempt to identify different ideal types of fashion centres which have developed in the world via a ‘manufacturing’ and ‘symbolic’ perspective. The comparative analysis of the globally acclaimed ‘symbolic-oriented’ fashion capital of London with the ‘manufacturing-oriented’ fashion city of Florence could possibly lead to the definition of different ideal types of fashion centres. This may focus on  the physical manufacturing of garments, the symbolic production of fashion, or on a combination of both. Another goal of this project is to explore how the process of globalization has changed contemporary fashion centers and how the fashion city is likely to change in the future, particularly in terms of its impact on local economic development.


Geography in Review: Historical Perspectives, Practical Advice.

Governing our scholarly output, the peer review system is a much-discussed component of the academy’s publishing nexus. Following our Easter break, Surgeons reconvened to explore the history of peer review as it manifested itself in the Royal Geographical Society’s Journal, before benefiting greatly from some excellent advice given by staff emerging from their experience as reviewers, editors, and authors.

The historical emergence of peer review and the value of considering the system’s historical development has been demonstrated in some excellent accounts by historians of science. The disparities of peer review’s emergence have been evidenced in the work of Alex Csiszar and Melinda Baldwin. Although Csiszar has dismissed suggestions that peer review began as early as the seventeenth century in the pages of Henry Oldenburg’s Philosophical Transactions, he has evidenced peer review emerging in the nineteenth century throughout London’s burgeoning learned networks and societies. Baldwin complicates the trajectory of peer review’s emergence by demonstrating how the respected scientific journal Nature eschewed a systematic approach to peer review until 1973. As such, the history of peer review is long, contested, and particular to disciplines and publications.

NPG D34914; George Bellas Greenough by Maxim Gauci, printed by  Graf & Soret, after  Eden Upton Eddis

George Greenough by Maxim Gauci.

I understand the term ‘peer review’ itself to be a twentieth-century creature. During the nineteenth century, reviewing, refereeing, and referee were the commonplace terms. George Bellas Greenough—a founding member of the Royal Geographical Society in 1830—is the gentleman whom Csiszar credits with introducing the term ‘referee’ to the scientific community, having done around 1817. Whilst Greenough is known for his work as a geologist, it was in his earlier training as a law student where he had first encountered the term. Throughout the 1820s, learned societies—including the Astronomical Society and Geological Society—had begun to experiment with reports on papers they received.

Given the Royal Geographical Society’s close and intimate relationship with London’s learned societies it is not surprising that reviewing existed in the Society’s publications from its establishment in 1830. The practice of reviewing papers submitted for publication in the Society’s Journal can be conceptualised in two distinct periods: 1830–1850 and 1850–c.1900. Quite how reviewing took place in the first twenty years of the Journal’s history is difficult to establish. Reviewers typically wrote a letter to the editor conveying their thoughts on the manuscript, some reviewers were involved in direct correspondence with authors asking them to answer a series of questions about their manuscript, and, I suspect, other reviews were delivered orally at the Council’s meetings. In this early period having a paper published in the Journal was not simply the product of receiving a favourable review—some manuscripts passed into the pages of the Journal without being subjected to independent evaluation. Even when receiving a favourable review, publication was ultimately decided on by the Council who voted on each paper. Reviewing at this point was largely in the hands of those closest to the Society, often council members themselves.

The arrival of Norton Shaw as Secretary of the Society and Editor of the Journal in late 1849 brought a change to the Society’s reviewing practice. Shaw proposed a so-called ‘referee’s circular’ at the Council’s meeting on 14 January 1850. The minutes of the meeting record that with “some alteration” it was to be printed. Shaw’s circular asked reviewers to evaluate the paper on the basis of four predefined questions that related, variously, to the manuscript’s originality, its potential for publication, its possible abridgement, and whether it should be accompanied by any illustrations. Now each manuscript—whilst still being reviewed by a single fellow of the Society—was subject to the same evaluation criteria. Before sending the circular to the reviewer, Shaw would write the title of the paper and the name of the author on the sheet, and as such any notion of anonymity was largely lost in this closed network of geographers.

Shaw’s circular and the increasingly formalised networks of review at the Society continue into the twentieth century. Here, then, we begin to see the emergence of system which resembles our contemporary practice—this also extends to author’s and editor’s frustrations and anxieties. One referee, George Long, returned his circular complaining that the manuscript that had been sent to him was too long and “had taken up a great deal of his time”. Occasionally authors objected to suggestions or corrections. On return of his manuscript marked with reviewer’s corrections, Robert FitzRoy penned a letter to the editor stating:

Some of your suggestions I have more or less adopted with thanks—but others I not only cannot concur in but should entirely oppose if I thought anyone would interfere in matters of opinion or statement for which I alone am responsible. We look at things through various glasses—& I may have reason for my views which do not occur to another person.

Other referees complained of being overworked or that the refereeing practice was antiquated. In 1845 one anonymous contributor to Wade’s London Review launched an attack on the reviewing system of the Royal Society (a system similar to that of the RGS). The Review saterised the internal reviewing culture of the Royal Society and the process by which papers were communicated and accepted. The critique culminated with a description of the possible fate of a manuscript in the hands of a reviewer:

The paper is referred, of course, to some person of the same class of pursuits, a rival for fame in the same line of inquiry, carrying on a similar course of investigation, meeting perhaps with obstacles which the ‘referred paper’ itself may have successfully removed; possibly, too, intending to make these topics important elements in his own communication to the society. The referee may be a man of integrity in general matters; he may have no personal animosity, no ‘green dragon’ in his eye; he may even soar above all personal feelings, and with a noble disinterestedness give a fair and candid report…On the other hand, he may be a very different person; he may be full of ‘envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness;’ he may, in fact, wish to ‘Burke’ or ‘Bank’ the paper which is submitted to him, and what is there to prevent him? His enemy is in his hands, the darkness of night covers the deed, no record can exist of the part he takes in the matter, and he is overcome by the temptation!

Following on from the discussion of peer review’s historical emergence and its nineteenth-century frustrations (which appear remarkably contemporaneous) we received helpful advice from around the room. Some of the top tips for academic authors included:

  • Before you begin writing think about the focus of your article, where you want to publish, and how the two fit together.


  • Keep your submission well within the word limit as it is likely that a revise and resubmit will require you to add words.


  • Remember that you do not have to respond to every comment made by reviewers. When you are responding to comments, remember what the core of your paper is to avoid making so many alterations you receive another R & R.


  • When first receiving feedback it can be helpful to bullet point the report to unpack the comments. This way you can make notes on the points you have addressed.


On the history of scientific peer review, see: Alex Csiszar, “Peer Review: Troubled from the Start,” Nature 532, no. 7599 (2016): 306–8.


On the history of peer review in the journal Nature: Melinda Baldwin, “Credibility, Peer Review, and Nature 1945–1990,” Notes and Records 69, no.1 (2015): 337–352.


On contemporary frustrations of peer review as an editor, see: Stuart Elden, “Editorial: The Exchange Economy of Peer Review,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26, no. 6 (2008): 951–3.


On the popular press and peer review, see: Elaine Devine, “Why Peer Review Needs a Good Going Over,” The Guardian (UK), October 28, 2015.