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Special issues

Annual call for special issue proposals

Policy & Politics has been publishing seminal works on public and social policy, and politics for over 40 years. It is a world-leading journal that is committed to advancing understanding of the dynamics of policy-making and implementation. By exploring the interplay between political actors, governing institutions and policy issues, the journal contributes to theories of the policy process; and by reflecting on the evolving context in which these interactions occur, it provides critical insights that are timely and fresh.

The journal’s co-editors invite proposals for a special issue to be published online in 2021 and in print in 2022 that will make a significant contribution to our understanding of public or social policy and/or politics. We receive a large number of enquiries about and proposals for special issues which means that we are in the enviable position of selecting only the very strongest. To be successful proposals need to offer a coherent set of excellent original research articles that will reframe or develop knowledge on a topic which is at the leading edge of current debates and is clearly relevant to the journal’s worldwide readership. Proposals may include a mixture of theoretical, conceptual and empirical cases and a range of research methods, and must demonstrate how they will make a significant and lasting contribution to the field.

Special issues of this significance generally take at least eighteen months to two years from the acceptance of a proposal through to final publication. In return, we can offer a fast-track publication service for all articles with turnaround times of 2-3 months from delivery of the final manuscript to publication. In addition, we undertake significant article-level marketing for special issues, and all special issues are eligible for consideration for publication in book form, in the Policy & Politics series published by Policy Press.

Please read our guidance document attached on how to develop your proposal, to ensure that you include all the information we will need to evaluate it. If you would like to talk through any aspect of your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The timetable for evaluating proposals is set out below:

Call for proposals open; submit to sarah.brown@bristol.ac.uk: July 2019
Deadline for submitting proposals: 6th December 2019
Decision on selection of one proposal announced: 28th February 2020
Initial draft of articles submitted: By 26th June 2020
Peer reviews and feedback given: By 30th September 2020
Revised articles submitted and finalised: 1st qtr 2021
Articles published online as fast track: 2nd qtr 2021
Special issue print edition: 2022

Guidance on what to include in your special issue proposal


Policy & Politics views special issues as an important element of scholarly activity and publishes one a year. The aim of this document is to set out our procedure for reviewing proposals, selecting the strongest, and supporting guest editors in the development of the issue to final publication.

What are we looking for from a Policy & Politics special issue?

The aim of a special issue is to bring together a set of cutting-edge research articles that attempts to reframe or develop a specific debate or topic. This may include a mixture of theoretical, conceptual and empirical cases but must very clearly take forward an area of the discipline. This is a critical point. There is an expectation that Policy & Politics special issues will make a significant and lasting contribution to the field. Special issues of this significance generally take at least eighteen months to two years to develop from the acceptance of a proposal through to final publication.

All special issues are also eligible for consideration for publication in book form around two years after initial publication in the Policy & Politics series published by Policy Press.

A special issue proposal must include the following sections:
1. Title This should accurately reflect the subject and content of the special issue. Keep it short (8-10 words), literal and ensure it includes the key terms that researchers would use to search on.
2. Details of guest editors Basic contact details, affiliation and no more than 150 words for each editor on their academic profile.
3. Descriptor This should be a 500-word statement about the main intellectual ‘hook’ of the proposal, how the content of the proposed special issue engages with a set of significant issues, and its contribution to the field. Elements of distinctive ‘added value’ (theoretically, comparatively, etc.) should also be highlighted.
4. Draft contents page This should set out the structure of the special issue with a very clear statement of whether the named contributors are confirmed or speculative. An 150-word abstract for each of the articles included in the collection must also be provided. (Special issues are generally a collection of eight papers of 8,000 words each. One of these papers should be the editors' introduction.)
5. Planning statement The timetable for initial submission, review, re-submission, copy-editing, etc. This might also include ideas for reviewers or meetings.

Maximising impact

Please include a marketing plan telling us how you intend to promote this special issue (blogs, events, conferences, other social media, etc.). To help you to articulate your plans, we ask you to complete our special issue marketing questionnaire and return it to us with your special issue proposal.Please also read through our top ten tips to maximise impact for your main research messages.

Please also read through our top ten tips to maximise impact for your main research messages.

How are proposals assessed?

The team of Co-editors will review all initial proposals and come to a collective decision on whether they feel each project is viable. If a proposal is deemed by the editors to stand little chance of acceptance, the proposers will be advised of this immediately to enable them to approach other journals (or book publishers) without undue delay. In assessing proposals the following criteria are important.

1) Intellectual significance, originality and rigour
Questions that help inform this dimension include: How does this proposal seek to challenge dominant assumptions? How might this special issue set the agenda in terms of future debates? Does the proposal have particularly novel, timely or innovative dimensions? Is it attempting to fill a significant gap in the current literature? Will it have international appeal?

2) Profile of contributors
Policy & Politics is committed to supporting scholars from all backgrounds, disciplines and parts of the world. Therefore a special issue proposal might consider the following questions: Does this proposal contain a mixture of established scholars and ‘rising stars’ of the profession? Does it offer an appropriate gender balance? Is the proposal internationally inclusive?

3) Editorial leadership
Special issues are not an ‘easy option’. They are a challenging and yet potentially rewarding form of intellectual output. The editors of Policy & Politics will therefore consider the following questions in coming to a decision about a proposal: Are the proposed editors experts in the field? Do they have a track record in producing cutting- edge research? Is the timetable realistic? Is there evidence that the editors will play a proactive role in steering and managing the project? At a more basic level, do the proposed editors have the time and capacity to dedicate the required level of attention to this project?

If the editors feel that a proposal fulfils the criteria listed above it will then be sent out to review to at least two specialists in the field.

The editorial process

Once a proposal is accepted, a clear time-line and milestone dates will be established based on previous successful best practice and experience. The guest editors will normally manage the process of:

1. initially considering papers;
2. identifying reviewers and sending the papers out to review, in consultation with the editors of Policy & Politics;
3. communicating reviewers’ comments to the authors;
4. deciding whether revised papers need to be reviewed again; and
5. making a provisional decision to accept or reject.

However, the Co-editors reserve the right to make final decisions on all accepted articles for any special issue. While they will work closely with the guest editor/s in a supportive and constructive manner, the final decision rests with them.

Policy & Politics uses Editorial Manager, an online submission system to manage the peer-review process. We will provide full training to use this system. In terms of the final transition towards acceptances and publication the co-editors underline the fact that the final decisions to accept the articles lies with them. They have agreed in principle to a special edition but may decide to:
1. run the special edition in a later issue than originally planned.
2. accept only a few of the papers and put them instead in a themed issue, which also includes one or two papers from elsewhere.
3. accept only one or two papers and present them as regular contributions to the journal.
4. determine that none of the papers meets either the quality standards or targeted content of the journal.