CBP on Academic Writing and Publication Processes: prologue

Nandan Nawn
6 min readMar 5, 2023
Collage of selected images by Tajamul Rehman Sufi (PhD student) and Nandan Nawn (Teacher) at , Dept of Economics, JMI. Top left photo was taken by the official photographer of JMI

The very idea of a capacity building programme (CBP) on Academic Writing and Publication Processes originated from a discussion among Kanchan Chopra, Pranab Mukhopadhyay, Vikram Dayal (the then members of Editorial Board of Ecology, Economy and Society — the INSEE Journal; EES henceforth) and myself (the then Managing Editor) in late 2020/early 2021. We were reflecting on the fact that a large share of submissions to the journal were not satisfying the requirements connected to logical consistency and more importantly, expositional clarity evenwhile scoring moderately (if not high) on the academic rigour (see, the last paragraph in Aims and Scope, here).

To put it differently, dismal expressions, poor structure and form, significant extent of plagiarism (not just similarity), almost complete disregard to citation rules, among others, were causing a very high rate of desk rejection (i.e. before the review process). This was alarming, to say the least. After all, one of the reasons to launch an open access and peer reviewed journal, namely, EES, was to provide an avenue to the young researcher-writers for sharing their thoughts with the readers.

We started looking for ‘training’ programmes or even a template to address this ‘existential’ problem. We could find Ph.D. level courses on Research Methodology offered by Universities as a part of compulsory coursework mandated by UGC or optional ones sponsored by ICSSR, and even Master’s level courses on Methods of Research but rarely a course on Academic Writing. Of course, notable exceptions like ‘Academic Reading and Writing Course’ (see, pp. 34–35 here) ‘Reading, Writing and Reflexivity’ (see, pp. 40–41 here) are there. Exceptions prove the rule by definition, but more importantly both these courses are offered by Departments of Sociology in two central universities located in Delhi. One may note that unlike display items (maps, figures and tables) for an academic worker located within Geography and allied disciplines that focus on space or equations and ‘beta’ coefficients for an mainstream Economist, words are the most (if not only) important ‘tool’ for a Sociologist to express her/his thoughts.

In short, we could not find many courses providing an in-depth training on writing for a variety of academic or/and professional purposes across disciplines. Our collective experiences told us that during M.Phil./Ph.D. students learn how to write a dissertation/thesis — at the most — with support from their supervisors and members of Research Advisory Committee (RAC) — albeit to a greatly varying degree — yet not for writings in shapes and forms other than the thesis. We could also note that ICSSR CBPs (see, the general programme template here) makes an attempt to inculcate writing skills and provide exposure to some (but not all) stages of the publication processes.

The consensus reached at EES called for organisation of a CBP — with support from ICSSR — to provide a holistic exposure on academic writing and publication processes, jointly by INSEE (Indian Society for Ecological Economics; that owns EES) and Department of Policy Studies, TERI School of Advanced Studies (SAS), New Delhi where I was working then. Due to reasons beyond my control (and better left unsaid) there was no further progress for next 14 months, however.

In late March 2022, conversations resumed at both EES (Sudha Vasan joined us) and TERI SAS (involving Seema Sangita, Gopal Sarangi, Bhawna Bali, Chander Kumar Singh and myself). Ravi Chellam, Coordinator at Biodiversity Collaborative and Nilanjan Ghosh, then newly elected President of INSEE was approached to join this endeavour as institutional knowledge partners; both readily agreed. After several rounds of drafting and modifications, the application was submitted to Training and Capacity Building (TCB) Division at ICSSR in early April 2022, with me as the Director and Seema as co-Director. An (conditional) award letter reached us in early May 2022. But yet again, the idea remained at the level of ideation only, due to reasons beyond my/ our control: this time, it was an offer to me from Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) to join its Department of Economics as a Professor!

I joined JMI in June 2022. It took me some time to ‘settle down’. In consultation with ICSSR, a ‘new’ application was submitted with Savyasaachi (then just retired from the Department of Sociology, JMI) as the co-Director in late July 2022. Formal sanction order reached us in mid-August 2022. After several rounds of consultations, first fortnight of December 2022 was zeroed in for transacting the CBP, to coincide with the end-semester examinations as per the then prevailing academic calendar.

The idea was to generate as much ‘co-benefit’ as possible (positive externality in the language of mainstream economics). ICSSR CBPs, by design, are meant only for in-service teachers and researchers. This makes a large number of potential beneficiaries — such as Ph.D. students — ineligible to even apply. Least cost option to address this was to open the CBP to the students.

Image taken at Computer Laboratory, Department of Economics, JMI on 09.09.2022 by Anjum Naqvi.

A significant number of Ph.D. students actively participated in the programme; some ‘self selected’ themselves to volunteer. For several weeks, every Friday between 10:00 and 12:00 hrs they received some ‘training’ on various aspects of ‘academic management’ (see image above). Some of them liaisoned with outstation participants, some captured moments in still and moving formats, many served as a rapporteur in several sessions and submitted reports. Some others extended helping hand to participants to install (and run) software, plug-ins, connect to Wi-Fi, among others. As and when the participants or resource persons asked for help, it was there, thanks to them.[1]

Classes did take place during December 1–14, when the CBP was held. But many PG students found their way to attend the programme (some sample images below; more will be uploaded on image gallery over time on the programme webpage).

At the end of Inaugural Function of CBP, 01.12.2022 outside Mir Anis Hall, JMI. P.C. Official Photographer of JMI
Session 1.2: Academic Writing and Publication Processes: A ‘scoping exercise’ by Savyasaachi and Nandan Nawn, Mir Anis Hall, 01.12.2022
Session 5.1. Writing for different sections in a Journal, by C Rammanohar Reddy, 06.12.2022, Model Classroom, Department of Economics, JMI
Session 3.1. Organising and Presenting an Argument: a general introduction by Anup K Dhar, 03.12.2022
Session 2.2. Linking different components of a proposal: the Logical Framework matrix for an action-research proposal, 02.12.2022
Session 5.2. Writing Op-Eds, by Ravi Chellam, 06.12.2022.
At the end of Valedictory function, 14.12.2022, Mir Anis Hall.

This CBP was one of the last in the series of programmes to mark the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Department of Economics, Jamia Millia Islamia (see, link1, link2, link3, link4, link5, link6, link7 for some details of other programmes). Being the ‘youngest’ faculty member I wanted to contribute in a way where I would be both comfortable and confident. The latter comes from the rich ‘network’ of my co-walkers and co-workers across the country — experts in the respective domains — to join this endeavour towards creation of a ‘public good’, as resource persons. I am grateful to them, personally as well as institutionally. The formal appreciation by the resource persons, participants and non-formal ‘gift’ from the PG students (see, images below) said it all.

A ‘gift’ from the students, office of Nandan Nawn, Department of Economics, JMI, 15.12.2022
Top: part of feedback by a participant | Bottom: collated comments (excerpts) from resource persons.

A narrative will follow, based on recordings, reports prepared by the rapporteurs, slides shared by the resource persons (besides my own notes). The purpose of this is wider dissemination among the researchers willing to listen and learn (even unlearn) to express themselves to be heard, read, noticed, debated with, appreciated, cited and so on.

[1] “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” A Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling.

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Nandan Nawn

An economist by training, and reasonably familiar with political, social, regulatory, institutional, social and ecological dimensions of Nature.