Our paper on the fly-in/fly-out work regime at the uranium mine in Saskatchewan is now published with open access. Click here to access the paper via the homepage of the Journal of Rural Studies.
Our paper on the remote uranium mine in Saskatchewan, Canada, has just been accepted to the Journal of Rural Studies (JRS). It’s a relief, since we’ve worked a long time with this paper and worked hard to improve it after every setback (see the posts from April 2018 or December 2018). JRS got the best version! As soon as the paper comes on-line first we’ll make another post to notify you. Meanwhile, here’s the abstract:
The article presents a case analysis of the work regime at a uranium mine, located on indigenous land in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. All the miners are flown in and out (FIFO), and with nearly half the workforce coming from different indigenous communities. We ask how the miners participate in and experience life as FIFO workers, and enrol the community concept in the analysis. Defining community as not merely a group of people or a place but also, in the wake of Tönnies’ classic work, as a matter of attitude, the case analysis reveals a community at work but fragmentation of indigenous communities off work.
In a sister-project to Organizing rocks, funded by Handelsbanken’s research council, we take a historical approach to mining. One part of the project includes a comparison between the iron ore regions in Malmfälten (with the mines in Kiruna, Malmberget and Svappavaara) and in the Pilbara, western Australia. The Pilbara comparison is based on a collaboration with Professor Bradon Ellem at the University of Sydney. Recently a comparative paper from the project was published in the European Journal of Industrial Relations with the title “Neoliberal trajectories in mining: Comparing Malmfälten and the Pilbara”. It gives our Organizing rocks project more of a context and historical grounding. Although we’re completely biased here, it is a nice read! Click here to access the paper on the journal’s homepage (and if you don’t have open access, e-mail Johan at firstname.lastname@example.org). Here’s the abstract:
We compare the iron ore sectors and mining regions of Malmfälten in Sweden and the Pilbara in Australia. Both are physically isolated and the product is economically vital, but we find differences in industrial relations which accord with what would be expected in coordinated and liberal market economies. A closer examination, attentive to history and geography and in which changes in institutional form and function are highlighted, reveals, however, that these differences are more apparent than real, and that there is a common neoliberal trajectory. This analysis also suggests that changes in these sites at times drive transformations in national industrial relations.
The headline of this post is also the headline for our scientific paper on the Kiruna case in Organization. While waiting for the proofs, we thought we’d write a paragraph, extended abstract-style, on what it is about.
Based on our ethnography of the Kiruna mine, the paper aims to strike a conversation with Actor-Network Theory’s (ANT) theorizing of space. ANT is one of those academic literatures that we have followed since the late 1990s. Many times we have told ourselves to stop thinking of it, stop using it, move on, but it has in various ways found itself back into our heads and laptops. Reading ANT triggers this mixed feeling of (i) yes, there is something original and insightful here, (ii) nah, this is common sense dressed in difficult words, and (iii) shit, we have no clue what they mean. It’s a good combo for not getting rid of a literature. Our best efforts to engage with ANT is probably two of our previous papers on codes of ethics, one in Organization in 2009 and one in Business and Professional Ethics Journal in 2015, not to forget Tommy’s dissertation from 2004. But why ANT and the Kiruna mine? We were battling with spatial complexity, of the mine being enacted differently wherever/whenever we went. Enter, again, ANT. But, while seeking ‘thinking-help’ we found ourselves in that mixed feeling. Out of it therefore came not only a use but also a critique of ANT, particularly what has emerged as a risk of drifting into spatial pluralism. ANT wasn’t suppose to. Not to our understanding anyway. Our hand to hold in the paper became Annemarie Mol’s The Body Multiple (2002). What a book. Read it. Period. It’s not about a mine, but about atherosclerosis(!). Mol sets out a space multiple approach in which seemingly disparate enactments of the mining operations can be understood in terms of coexistence and difference, inclusion and exclusion. Such an account casts aside a kind of neatness that jeopardizes what makes ANT great – its empirical openness, and openness for complexity, that things might not just add up, not possible to sort out, which might be stressing to some. So, this is what the paper is about. Very empirical, very ANT.
The paper on the Kiruna case has been accepted! On January 2, 2018, we submitted the paper to the scientific journal Organization. After a couple rounds of reviews and revisions we got an acceptance letter from the editor yesterday, February 27, 2019. It’s been worth waiting and working for. In a way, it’s the least conventional paper we’ve written and we really want the paper out-there to be picked up by you and/or other curious people. We’re also happy that Organization became the outlet.
When will the paper be available to read? Well, for those of you not familiar with the system, there is now a proof-reading and formatting process with the journal, and then it will be published ‘on-line first’, before it gets a dedicated issue of the journal to figure in. As our project is funded by a research council (Forte), in turn funded by tax payers’ money, we have a budget for paying for the paper to be ‘open access’ once on-line first. How long this process might take is difficult to say, but in the meantime we’ll release small ‘teasers’ on the blog.
We are eager to share our paper on the Canadian case with you, but the paper is dividing reviewers, and editors have so far gone with the more critical one. It is a bit frustrating. Below you’ll find an extract from the last reject of the paper, with a focus on what the two reviewers think about our case study:
Reviewer 1 (inviting ‘revise and resubmit’ where we must re-work how we theorize the case):
This is a well written paper and presents a fascinating and engaging case analysis of a Uranium mine in the far North of Canada. The empirical material is brilliantly captured to present a nuanced analysis of the intersections of class, ethnicity, geography and the overlapping of workplace culture and wider social divisions. It is certainly worth publishing this empirical material and this would be a great case for teaching, as well as for future research, on the extractive industries, cultural identity at work, shift-working, and social divisions within the workplace.
Reviewer 2 (advocating a reject of the paper):
The Methodology section was very hard to read and it did not give a strong sense of the paper’s purpose. Despite the author(s) tried to explain the rational for the selection of the study samples, the information presented was less focused, and all the information was mixed together. The author(s) may wish to consider employing appropriate headings in order to better outline the structure of this section.
More specifically, the reader needs a great deal more information regarding the format and details of your analysis, as well as justification for the selection of informants. In addition, a more detailed description of the analysis of the interviews is needed. For example, interview protocol: Was there an interview protocol? Who conducted these interviews, several researchers, only one, different in the interviews? When were the interviews conducted?
Were the respondents provided the questions before hand?
Please provide a step by step protocol covering all aspects of the interviewing process.
Transcriptions: How were the digital recordings transcribed?
How were the transcriptions verified and checked for errors?
Who did this?
For example, who coded and analyzed the data?
Was there just one coder, or were there multiple coders?
If there were multiple coders, how was inter-coder reliability addressed?
Did the author(s) leave an audit trail?
Data analysis: How was data analyzed, software or manually?
In either case provide how the results were evaluated based on prior codes and categories?
Were any other codes identified for the assessment? If not, how was the data categorized to evaluate across respondents?
I strongly recommend the authors read books or papers on qualitative research, particularly the chapter on trustworthiness in qualitative research. I think it might be helpful in providing fodder for your methodology section. Addressing these issues may also then provide a framework by which you can justify/clarify your informant selection.
The editor concludes:
The manuscript is far from being ready to be published in its current form, as you can see from the reviewers comments below. It is not possible for me to ask you to do major revisions, as I have had great difficulties finding reviewers. Three reviewers agreed to review the manuscript, but only two has delivered so far, and I could not wait for the last one to deliver as I have been unable to get in contact with the person again. Of the two remaining reviewers, only one is willing to continue to review the manuscript. To put it simply, it is not possible to let you revise the paper under this submission.
A decision letter from the editor, handling our Canadian case-based paper, had a ‘reject’ in it, but also comments from two reviewers (none from the editor).
After a first reading, some of the comments seem very helpful (must say, though, we are not our best us when reading comments in a reject for the first time; they sort of have to sink in): choices/re-choices we probably must make, readings we probably should engage in, nuances leading the reader the wrong way that must be changed etc.
However, we couldn’t also help feeling that we were not really read for who we were claiming to be, feeling a bit like lost miners. If allowed:
Scene 1: The feeling when submitting the paper – we have drilled and blasted, created cavities, and a lot of waste for sure, but managed to sort out and crush (it’s a metaphor, remember) that high-qualitive material that could be sent up to the Dream factory above ground where the findings in the shape of a small but genius little pellet was produced and sent away through the electronic manuscript submission system, a pellet that beyond any doubt would change contemporary thinking about the world of work in mining.
Scene 2: The feeling when receiving reviews and the reject – we drilled and blasted in the wrong area, the cavities were apparently created two hundred meters to the side of where we blasted (and didn’t appear until recently), for some reason we managed to sort out and crush mostly waste, not iron ore, though we did send the crushed waste to the Dream factory okay (hey, high-five!), where the pellet produced in the end was more un-shaped than round, way too porous for others to handle, fell apart too easily when put under pressure, way too light to carry any weight.
Scene 3: The feeling when getting back into re-writing the paper – unknown, to be written, we’re now on vacation.
Framing scenes 1 and 2 in a song, but not one of our own, we quote two verses from the seven dwarfs and their mining song “Heigh-ho” (from the movie Snow White and the 7 dwarfs), where the end of the second got us a bit hooked:
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the whole day through
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we really like to do
It ain’t no trick to get rich quick
If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick
In a mine! In a mine! In a mine! In a mine!
Where a million diamonds shine!
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig from early morn till night
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up everything in sight
We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don’t know what we dig ’em for
We dig dig dig a-dig dig
More academic publishing: first nothing, then two ‘Decision from the editor’ in a matter of days. This time concerning our paper on the Kiruna case.
This time we knew we weren’t desk rejected, but sent out for a triple-blind review. The letter says: “The reviewers and assigned Associate Editor have recommended major revisions before publication could be considered.” In other words: the foot is in the door! Two reviews are short and one is a bit longer; all raise good points so we’ll see. We’ll give it our best shot.
As this post is very short, we extend it somewhat by telling briefly about the picture heading the post. The sign is of a “kick”, used as means of transportation during Winter. It was more common when we were young, but you still see them now and then, and they are very handy when the snow and the ice have landed. During our last visit to Kiruna, however, it was evident, the kicking season is over!
Again, this is a post more towards fellow academics, but with some relevance for the ‘universe’ outside academia as well.
We just got a decision from the scientific journal Work, Employment & Society that our qualitative paper on the Canadian case was not sent out for review, a so-called desk reject. This is not the first time it has happened to us(!), but it always brings out the bad-loosers in us. Then things usually calm down and we re-work and submit it to another journal. Sometimes this ‘cycle’ takes years, which is also where the practical relevance comes in: it is very tempting to just publish the paper here on the blog so it is up to all of you to decide its relevance and usefulness. Maybe we’ll do this eventually.
Why was the paper rejected then? Here is the letter-from-the-editor in full (anonymized):
Thank you for submitting the above manuscript for consideration in Work, Employment and Society, which I read with interest. I have decided not send it out for review, and will set out my reasons for this.
This is a well written paper about a an interesting topic. You have located it well in the sociological context and in terms of current debates, and no doubt the research will at some point form the basis of a good paper.
However, there is a significant problem with your methodology, insofar as it can be understood from your paper. Firstly, I was unclear as to how many interviews had been conducted, with the demographic profile of the participants, and with the form of the interviews. It was not clear how interviewees were selected, nor what the ‘meetings’ constituted, nor whether interviews with contractors were recorded.
Secondly, interviews with ‘people’ at the mine were described as informal and therefore not recorded, although the sentence setting this out appears to contradict itself on this point. If these were miners, as distinct from managers and administrators, we need to know if they were invited to participate in interviews and declined. More generally, we need to know whether participants gave any sort of informed consent to the use of their words, and whether the quotations used were from transcriptions or from the notes you say were made shortly after the informal conversations.
These are important points, and as it stands the lack of clarity regarding methods means that the paper is not suitable for publication in WES.
There is clearly useful material in your research, and I would encourage you to address these points in preparing a paper which is closer to being in a publishable form, whether in another sociological journal or in one dealing with industrial relations or human resource management.
I am sorry not to be the conveyors of better news, and wish you well with redrafting the paper for submission elsewhere.
Our view is that these objections/questions can be viewed as fair (and highly manageable) reviewer comments, but not grounds for a desk reject. We looked forward to a discussion on the actual substance of the paper, its ideas and contributions, but missed this opportunity, based on objections/questions more on form than on content.
This might be a post more towards fellow academics and more in tune with what we, as academics, are supposed to do today – publish articles!
As for more ‘scientific deliveries’ we’ve promised two articles and a book from the project. One article (the one about Kiruna) is already out for review and today we managed to submit the second article, the one about the Canadian case. Let’s hope the editor and the reviewers find the article interesting enough to offer it to the readers of the journal. We’ll be able to tell more about what it is about once it has made it through this, or X number of other, review process!
Oh, by the way, we must confess that submitting a paper on a Friday, before embarking on the weekend, is not a bad feeling, particularly for us who have spent more time doing empirics and writing blog posts than working on producing scientific articles.
Oh, by the way, the book will be in Swedish… It’s been decided now. Finally. We think.
Have a nice weekend – rock on!
We’re writing a paper on the Kiruna case. We’ve been going at it for quite some time and although we’re nudging it forward, we never seem to remember that each paper is a quagmire.
And, as soon as we’re writing, we don’t blog. Why? Because you wouldn’t be interested in the writing process perhaps. Or perhaps we don’t know how to write about our own writing process…
One try: we start with an original idea (from our point of view), carefully drafted, and planned out on a hand-sketched piece of paper. Then, off we go to writing! But then, always, a quagmire and a computer hard drive full of ‘previous versions’. It is as if nothing good could come out of a smooth and rational writing process, and that we never seem to learn and just surrender to this fact. Writing is art, writing is struggle, writing is never smooth, writing is pain and pleasure, and it always, always, always becomes something else!
We could probably apply the same conceptual and methodological ideas going in to the paper on the Kiruna case (inspired by some writings on Actor-Network Theory) on our own writing process. The paper, this singular paper, to paraphrase Annemarie Mol (2002), will be more than one but less than many, full of difference but in some way or another it hangs together.
Present state of the paper: version 27, and counting. We’ll be back.
Blogupdates have been less frequent during the last couple of months. We believe its because we’re in the writing-up phase. It’s not easy to invite you to the analytical mess we’re in. But on the other hand, that’s probably the reason why we should share more.
We’re conceptually tearing our hair (oh well, we’re both almost bold), sometimes splitting hairs, around the concepts of space and time. In the application for Organizing rocks, as sources of inspiration, we cited the work on “action nets” by Barbara Czarniawska, but we haven’t really returned to this concept during our empirical endeavors. Since a couple of months back, we’re digging into it and are finding ourselves back into the actor-network theory literature.
In 1999, we took a doctoral course together that introduced us to this literature. Johan used it lightly in his dissertation while Tommy went deeper and developed part of this literature in his dissertation. He also ended up spending a year at the sociology department (with John Law, a main contributor to ANT) in Lancaster, UK. Together, we’ve since then also written two articles on codes of ethics with ANT as main body of reference (also co-authored with Sven Helin). So, here we go again, older and wiser, we thought…
Nah, if it is one thing that the ANT-literature manages well, it is to simultaneously inspire and confuse the reader. There is a mixed feeling of ‘there is something here’ and ‘what the h-ll do they mean?’ How about (our constructions): a ‘flat mine in fire space’ or a ‘mine as a mutable mobile in fluid space’? Czarniawska’s writings help out to some extent here, predominantly because she develops her own ‘dialect’ of ANT that is useful to organising studies. We must follow her in that ambition, although our ethnography of the Kiruna mine in particular also challenges her previous ANT-inspired theorising on space-time. Which is good of course, it’s how it should be!
The picture heading this post is of the Hjalmar Lundbohm house, part of the area that at the time of writing is moved to another location in Kiruna due to the expanding mine. In the background, you’ll see the famous clock at the city hall. This clock is also being dismantled and moved to the new city centre.
Our logbook has been updated. And by the way, Tommy has released a solo album in Swedish with some of songs also relevant to Organizing rocks. Click here to listen to it on Spotify.
Three days of sensemaking on ‘what is this about?’ and ‘so what?’.
A Baldrick-style idea for one article and a h-ll of a lot stories with which to cook a book.
As noticed from all the storytellerposts perhaps, we’re in the process of writing-up our empirical material. The feeling of having too little material is quickly changed into a feeling of having too much…
At the outset of the project we aimed at writing two scientific papers and one research monograph. The two papers are now in process. We sent one extended abstract of a paper on the Kiruna mine to the European Group of Organizations Studies (EGOS) conference in Copenhagen, early July. We just got accepted, which is great news. EGOS tends to be a high quality conference. For us, this means a clear deadline, which is also great news (how else get things done?!). We’ve also sent one extended abstract on the Canadian case to the Swedish society for working life studies (FALF) conference outside Malmö in mid-June. Hopefully, they’ll give us the green light, and another deadline. Maybe we see some of you at one or two of these conferences?
The research monograph, however, is debated between us at the moment. It’s not a debate on whether or not we should write it – we will – but in what format (traditional or more ‘thick magazine’ like) and in which language (English or Swedish). While quarrelling, the massaging of the empirical material continues. Either way, we look forward to come out and speak with more ‘traditional’ scientific products in the near future.