Are We Recent and Relevant?

Lyn Gattis and Sean Herring

Sean Herring (pictured on the right) is the new editor of Recent & Relevant, the compilation of scholarly abstracts that appears in the online version of Technical Communication (TC). In this blog article, Sean and Lyn Gattis, outgoing editor, discuss the column and its role for TC online readers.

Sean: Lyn, what was the inspiration behind creating Recent & Relevant?

Lyn: For readers, R&R is an efficient way to keep up with technical communication scholarship in a variety of journals that readers might not have time to check individually. For authors, R&R provides one more way to get the word out about what they’ve published recently. These goals have been very consistent over the years. The column was published in print issues of Technical Communication for around 40 years—going back at least to the late 1970s. Since 2011, when I became editor, the column has appeared in the online issue only, but the objectives are the same.

Sean: What have been some enjoyable aspects of editing for Recent and Relevant?

Lyn: First, I’ve appreciated working with the monitors who regularly check journals for the column. For the past couple of years, eight monitors have submitted abstracts to the column—faculty in several states, tech writers and project managers in software firms, and one science communicator in a medical school. Their wide-ranging contributions have made the editor’s job a lot of fun.

Second, I’ve also enjoyed the chance just to browse tables of contents and skim articles to see what’s out there that R&R readers might find interesting or useful. The column has made me more aware of the changing research interests in our field.

Lyn: Sean, how do you foresee Recent & Relevant staying “recent and relevant” for years to come?

Sean: For some abstracts, I found myself questioning if they fit certain R&R categories or if some journals were appropriate for R&R; however, technical communication has so many facets and even uncharted areas that may not be on the radar, yet. From that point of view, expanding research categories in the column is key to staying recent and relevant in the 21st century.

Lyn: Although we have worked together on Recent & Relevant for several years, the May 2020 column is the first one you have produced as R&R editor. What challenges have you experienced with that first column?

 Sean: The monitors submitted so many interesting abstracts, from various fields of research, that I became distracted momentarily from editing to read many articles that were not submitted as part of R&R. But the biggest and fun challenge consists of editing the monitors’ submitted abstracts to provide consistencies in APA guidelines and style-sheet layouts before the column is submitted to the R&R copy editors. Then, their requirements are another level of precision to satisfy for page proofs of R&R.

 Lyn: How would you encourage prospective monitors to get involved with Recent & Relevant?

Sean: First, prospective monitors should peruse Recent and Relevant for an idea about the platform. Second, contact me at seanherring@missouristate.edu with their interest to become a monitor.

Dr. Lyn Gattis is an Associate Professor in the Professional Writing Program of the English Department at Missouri State University. Dr. Sean Herring is a Practitioner-in-Residence and Coordinator of Online Students in the Professional Writing Program of the English Department at Missouri State University.      
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