Proposal for Editorship of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior

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Howard Freeman
Howard Freeman

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Proposal for Editorship of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Submitted by Gilbert C. Gee, UCLA.
November 1, 2012.
As a current Deputy Editor of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (JHSB), I
have had the privilege of seeing the key foundations of a leading journal – quality
submissions, a fair and timely review process, and committed reviewers. The editor
plays an important role in all of this by broadly promoting the journal to attract strong
submissions, writing cover-letters to authors that signal that the editor has seriously
considered the submission, and by continually monitoring the day-to-day operations of
the journal. All of these components help maintain the journal’s leading status in the
JHSB’s excellent reputation is reflected in high impact scores, and its broader
influence at funding agencies, in the policy arena, and reach into multiple intellectual
communities that include sociology, psychology, anthropology, public health, and
medicine. Some examples of this influence include the conceptualization of
fundamental causes and models of health care access, derived from JHSB publications,
that have diffused into the broader national dialogue. Although the journal shares an
emphasis on rigorous methodology and high quality data with competing journals, JHSB
is distinguished from these journals by its focus on sociological theory. The journal
publishes diverse methodological traditions, and the dual presentation of quantitative
and qualitative techniques represents the discipline well. If selected to be Editor, I would
strive to retain all of these excellent features of the journal. In addition, I propose the
following plans to strengthen the influence of an already excellent journal.
1. Expand outreach and networking. Editor Umberson has done a wonderful job
in promoting the journal by adding one-page policy statements, instituting podcasts, and
creating Facebook and Twitter accounts. I would continue these efforts and create a
moderated blog to promote a dialogue about JHSB publications and their content areas.
In addition to showcasing outstanding articles, the blog would pose a “question for the
field,” asking readers for topics they would like to see covered in the journal. This
activity is not meant to solicit special issues, but rather to encourage people to submit
articles related to the areas identified in these exchanges. It also constitutes another
way to connect multiple communities to the journal by promoting debate and extending
the published research beyond the usual limited means of letters and rejoinders. Finally,
the blog would contain one section that would be written at an 8 th grade reading level to
encourage young students and a more general readership.
Additionally, past editors have reached out to other research communities, both
within and external to sociology. I would continue this tradition by promoting the journal
at conferences, and placing statements in newsletters and listserves to encourage
researchers from other disciplines to submit to the journal. This activity would be
enhanced via the large networks of medical sociologists at UCLA as well as social and
behavioral scientists at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
2. Promote an awareness of the long tradition of sociological scholarship
represented in the 50+ year history of JHSB. Currently, the JHSB website only provides
citations from 2004 to the present. Older articles are noticeably absent – not even titles
are available. Although there are contractual issues with Sage Publications that
complicate access to articles housed in JSTOR, I would work with Sage and ASA to
develop alternative ways to list these articles, or at the very least provide citations and
annotations. This might entail, for example, periodically featuring a classic study that
has had a major impact on the field
3. Increase subscribership. Currently, the journal has 2700 institutional and
individual subscribers. I believe we can increase the number of subscribers by
promoting the Associate Member status. This category of membership is open to
persons who do not have full-time appointments in sociology department, and would be
an appropriate way to attract subscribers from other disciplines. Although Associate
Members do not have voting privileges, they pay dues at a reduced rate ($100) and
gain a subscription to one journal. Currently only 10% of the 1,507 individual
subscriptions to JHSB are owned by associate members, and there is certainly room to
grow. Promoting this membership category via listserves and other media would help
increase subscribership to the journal and to ASA more generally.
The journal is in good shape with its operations due to the efforts of the current
editor and her predecessors to shorten the review time by moving to electronic
management of submissions, and avoiding a large number of reviews when possible.
Currently, the journal has an excellent record with an average time of 39 days from
submission to a first decision and 5 months from acceptance to publication. I would
strive to continue this short turn-around time.
The Journal of Health and Social Behavior has been widely influential, not only
within sociology, but also in other disciplines and in the policy arena. This influence is
seen in the current framing of health disparities, debates over health care access and
finance, and in the study of social stressors, to name just a few among many examples.
A key contribution of the journal is the dissemination and debate of ideas that move
other fields towards a more sociological analysis of health.
Currently, this sociological analysis is more important than ever. Funding
opportunities have become more competitive and scarce. Perhaps as a result of this
scarcity or as a symptom of it, funding agencies are becoming more conservative by
focusing on diseases and technology. As one example, the National Institutes of Mental
Health (NIMH), has shifted from a comprehensive understanding of mental health to
one that is much more narrowly focused on clinically-diagnosed psychopathology. The
overall effect of this shift is to place the locus of analysis on personal troubles rather
than social issues.
A medical intervention that focuses on treating one person is an easier pill to
swallow for many policy makers and ordinary people than a societal-level intervention
that prevents illness among the population. But it is this challenge to tackle difficult and
sometimes controversial issues that lies at the core of the work of medical sociologists.
For example, sociologists continue to play a key role in raising crucial questions about
how to think about epigenetics, the expression of genes based on changes in the
environment. Similarly, sociologists exert pressure on the national health agenda on
how to conceptualize, measure, and evaluate health disparities and their multiple
causes across numerous social categories. Sociologists continue to take leadership
roles in many areas, including: the health impact of the criminal justice system; rising
patterns of social inequality; changes in the structure and functioning of the family; the
aging of the population; shifts in the meaning of health, illness, dying, and death; the
financing of health care; advocacy and social change related to health; and the
globalization of information, pathogens, and products.
If chosen as Editor, I would want this flagship journal to continue to lead the
debate around these and similar issues. Given JHSB’s track record and selectivity, I
would not seek to change the journal itself. Instead, I would continue to encourage the
best submissions, and facilitate a quick and fair review process. I would retain the
activities established by Editor Umberson and her predecessors (e.g. policy brief,
Twitter and Facebook pages, podcasts). I would add a moderated blog to highlight
publications. One section of the blog would be written to be accessible to an 8th grade
reading level to encourage a broader readership, including young students. The blog
would also ask readers to pose a “question for the field”, with the goal of generating
further engagement with the journal and to encourage new ideas for investigation.
While looking to the future, we must not shortchange the past. A notable
omission is that the journal’s webpage does not list articles preceding 2004. To rectify
this shortcoming, I would work with ASA and Sage to at least provide the citations of
older articles.
Finally, I believe we can increase the number of subscriptions to the journal by
promoting the Associate Member category. This category is open to people who do not
have full-time appointment in sociology departments. Associate Members pay a
reduced rate ($100), and gain access to one journal, but do not have voting privileges.
Currently, Associate Members comprise 10% of the JHSB’s individual subscriptions. By
advertising this membership category in the listserves of other disciplines (e.g. public
health, gerontology), we can increase the number of subscribers to the journal and
promote ASA more generally.
I have considered many other changes that have appeared in some other
journals, such as by adding new subsections, adding pictures on covers, inserting
historical anecdotes and similar activities. All of these may be additions worth
considering, but I sincerely believe that JHSB is in a very good place. As a current
Deputy Editor of JHSB, I know that the journal receives a large number of excellent
submissions, has a fair and timely review system, and receives the support of
substantively diverse reviewers with deep expertise in their respective areas. These are
the foundational ingredients of an influential journal and I would do everything possible
to continue this tradition.
Medical sociologists have institutionalized sociological theory and analysis into
the training of many generations of scholars, both formally within and outside of
sociology departments. For example, Sol Levine became the founding Chair of the
Department of Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public
Health. Levine later moved to the Department of Health and Social Behavior at
Harvard. His books, Society and Health and Handbook of Medical Sociology have been
widely influential in the field. Similarly, Leo Reeder helped establish the Behavioral
Sciences unit, now the Department of Community Health Sciences, within the UCLA
Fielding School of Public Health. Reeder and others at UCLA, including Howard
Freeman, were founding members of ASA’s Medical Sociology Section and key
contributors to the development of JHSB. Today, UCLA continues to have a critical
mass of sociologists who study health using diverse methodological approaches.
My own scholarship has been influenced heavily by these traditions. I was
trained in the department that Levine formerly chaired and now work in the one Reeder
founded. My program of research studies the social origins health disparities related to
racial, ethnic, and immigrant status. Much of this work focuses on the role of racism,
socioeconomic position, and other forms of social and economic inequality. The
majority of my work emphasizes statistical analysis of large datasets (e.g. hierarchical
linear modeling, differential item analysis), but also includes other methodologies
including content analysis, and neuroimaging. One of my current NIH-funded studies
includes a longitudinal study of immigrants, with the collection of data before and after
migration to the U.S. Above all, I believe that methodological tools are meaningless
without a strong theoretical foundation. These efforts have been recognized with a
Merit Award from NIH on the development of new theoretically derived measures of
racial discrimination and with a Scientific and Technical Achievement Award from the
Environmental Protection Agency for a conceptual model on health inequities. The latter
was particularly fulfilling because it was designed to help environmental scientists
understand and use sociological concepts related to residential segregation, social
capital, and socioeconomic position. Thus, my work not only applies a sociological lens
in understanding health, but it also seeks to pass this lens to others.
As noted previously, I am a current Deputy Editor of JHSB and also on the
editorial board of other journals, including Society and Mental Health (the official journal
of the Sociology of Mental Health section of ASA). I have also guest-edited special
issues in other journals. My own publications have appeared in venues including JHSB,
Social Science and Medicine, and Social Forces. Additionally, I teach a graduate class
on publishing peer-reviewed journal articles. I would bring all of this experience to
JHSB. To provide additional support to the journal, I have assembled a team of Deputy
Editors who have agreed to serve should I become Editor. They were chosen to bring a
diverse skill set that minimally overlaps with my own (please see attached CVs).
Carol Aneshensel, UCLA, specializes in the sociology of mental health and the
stress process. Her recent research focuses on neighborhoods and mental health. She
has served on the editorial boards of several journals, including JHSB and Society and
Mental Health. She is the lead editor of the Handbook of the Sociology of Mental
Health, Second Edition (Springer, 2013). Her book, Theory-Based Data Analysis for the
Social Sciences received Honorable Mention for Best Publication in 2003 from the
Sociology of Mental Health Section, and the second edition is in production. She has
also received the Leo Reeder Award for Distinguished Contributions to Medical
Sociology and the Leonard I. Pearlin Award for Distinguished Contributions to the
Sociology of Mental Health from the Sociology of Mental Health Section.
Anne Pebley, UCLA, studies fertility, family organization, and children’s health.
Her body of work has spanned multiple countries, including Guatemala, Mexico, and
Sub-Saharan Africa. She was past president of the Population Association of America
and is the current Director of the California Center for Population Research (CCPR) and
the Bixby Center on Population and Reproductive Health. She is also the Principal
Investigator of the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Study (LA FANS). She was a
member of the founding editorial board of the Maternal and Child Health Journal when
Milton Kotelchuck was the editor. She has also edited four books, including Data
Priorities for Population and Health in Developing Countries, published by the National
Academy Press (1996).
Stefan Timmermans, UCLA, conducts research on the U.S. health care system,
particularly with regards to medical technologies, the health professions, and health
care financing. His work draws upon ethnographic and historical methods. He is
currently the medical sociology editor of Social Science and Medicine and has served
on the board of many other journals, including JHSB, and AJS. His book Postmortem
won the Eliot Freidson book award from the Science, Knowledge and Society section of
the ASA, and also the Sociology of Health and Illness Award from the British Sociology
Association. Another of his books, The Gold Standard won the Robert K. Merton
Professional award. He is currently the Chair of the Sociology Department at UCLA.
Pamela Herd, University of Wisconson-Madison, studies aging, policy, and
health inequities. Herd co-authored the 2007 book Market Friendly or Family Friendly?
The State and Gender Inequality in Old Age with Madonna Harrington Meyer. The book
is part of the American Sociological Association's Rose Series on Public Policy and was
the winner of the Gerontological Society of America Section on Behavioral and Social
Sciences Kalish Publication Award. She was also the winner of the National Academic
of Public Administration/Wilder School Award for scholarship in Social Equity in Public
Policy Analysis. She has served on the editorial board of the Poverty and Public Policy
journal, and was an Associate Editor of JHSB. She is the Principal Investigator of the
Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and on the Board of Overseers of the General Social
Structure of the Editorial Office
The Editorial Office would be comprised of an Editor, four Deputy Editors, and
two managing editors. This model has been used successfully by Editors Umberson
and Pavalko to process the 260 submissions per annum and the 11% of accepted
papers (based on the current rate).
The Editor would assume primary responsibility for managing the editorial office,
overseeing the peer-review process, selecting reviewers, deciding on the manuscripts
for publication, and communicating with Sage and ASA. The Editor would be supported
by a team of substantively and methodologically diverse Deputy Editors. I would ask
the deputy editors for the names of potential reviewers when appropriate, and for input
on papers with split recommendations. Further, I have included Pamela Herd at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison, not only because of her expertise in policy and aging,
but also to handle articles that may present a real or perceived conflict of interest (e.g.
manuscripts submitted from UCLA or from former mentees of the editor).
I would split the managing editor position into two part-time positions. One
managing editor would be in charge of processing submissions. Their duties would
include recording the submissions, communicating with reviewers and authors, and
requesting final drafts. The second managing editor would be responsible for articles
that have been accepted for publication. These duties would be to keep track of the
scheduling of articles, coordinating with the copy-editor, and performing other duties
necessary to see the manuscript to its final form in print.
In addition, JHSB has employed a professional copy-editor who has worked with
the past three Editors. I would seek to retain this person if possible. Should it not work
out, there are many qualified persons in the Los Angeles area who would be excellent
My application for the position of Editor of JHSB has been met with enthusiastic
support from UCLA. My school will provide the physical office space and furniture (see
letter from Steven Wallace). The office will be large enough to accommodate two desks
and filing cabinets. In addition, my department will provide course release time for two
courses during the first year of editorship to ease the transition, and a one course
release thereafter. The journal will have access to UCLA’s many resources, including
the computing and internet infrastructure.

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