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Access Permitted: Developing Open Access Journals for Early Career Researchers and Staff Development

Teaser

This case study focuses on the development of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the shape of an open access journal in a staff development context in UK higher education. At the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), the Centre for Research Informed Teaching and the School of Languages and International Studies have developed a number of in-house, peer-reviewed open access journals aimed at providing high quality forums for early career researchers. Combining with a current UCLan project funded by JISC's Digital Infrastructure track to develop open access e-journals, one journal in particular – Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research (JSLT&R) – has been established to provide peerreviewed, open access resources aimed at early career researchers (in their capacity as both authors, editorial staff and readers) in second language learning and applied linguistics, both within the University as well as internationally.

Background

While the annual cost of UK higher education to the Government is approximately £2.2 billion almost £200 million of this sum is used by universities to cover the costs of accessing increasingly expensive peer-reviewed journals (Jha, 2012). Recent high profile reports of academics at the universities of Harvard and Cambridge calling for revisions to the current model of commercial publishing have given the open access movement renewed prominence in the popular press as well as in academic forums (Faculty Advisory Council, 2012; Jump, 2012; The Cost of Knowledge, 2012). The UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, has likewise recently called for a new culture of collaboration and openness that will result in a “seismic shift” in public sector research (Willetts, 2012). It is perhaps no surprise, however, that these debates about the merits of open access are taking place against the background of the latest UK Government Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) and its first double-dip recession since the mid-1970s as well as significant global economic austerity measures. These wider socio-economic trends are set to have a tremendous effect on the shape of higher education over the next decade, particularly in the area of research funding.

While the history of the open access movement can be traced back to the 1960s, it has achieved more widespread prominence and relevance since digital technologies became more popular during the 1990s and then subsequently with the advent of Web 2.0 and social media collaborative technologies dating from around 2005. Transitioning from print based to online archives of articles has made digital content available to researchers via the web from any location at any time around the clock, yet it is often based on a pay-per-view principle that can be particularly restrictive for early career researchers and postgraduate students. The current system is dominated by three large global publishing houses (Elsevier, Springer and Wiley), owners of many of the world’s high impact peer-reviewed journals and approximately 40% of all purchased journal articles. While this system still provides huge profits for commercial providers, it is based on the labour of public sector academics who act as editors and peer reviewers, often free of charge, and profit merely as a result of a journal or publisher’s perceived reputation.

Context

This case study focuses on the development of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the shape of an open access journal in a staff development context in UK higher education. At the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), the Centre for Research Informed Teaching and the School of Languages and International Studies have developed a number of in-house, peer-reviewed open access journals aimed at providing high quality forums for early career researchers. Combining with a current UCLan project funded by JISC’s Digital Infrastructure track to develop open access e-journals, one journal in particular – Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research (JSLT&R) – has been established to provide peer reviewed, open access resources aimed at early career researchers (in their capacity as both authors, editorial staff and readers) in second language learning and applied linguistics, both within the University as well as internationally.

Approach

This case study focuses on how the JSLT&R can provide a platform for the professional development of early career researchers by defining a framework of support to transition them into the publication culture of higher education. It is built on the assumption that teaching and research are indivisible and that a research-informed approach is required to develop the professional skills early career researchers need in higher education today. Part of this process also involves research mentoring to provide support for early career researchers who are unfamiliar with modern publication requirements, key terms and expectations. Emphasising the professional development opportunities afforded by open access solutions, it is argued, are important factors in making the wider case for transitioning from traditional commercial solutions, and should not play a mere secondary role to the economic case for open access.

Where postgraduate students and early career researchers find themselves using libraries that no longer have the funds to purchase expensive journals, they suffer from being denied access to primary research. The aim of the case is to identify a solution enabling these researchers to use open access publications and resources to aid their academic development and to foreground how open access can contribute to communities of practice to support the research process. The case intends to identify good practice to stimulate participation in research and publication and to aid understanding of academic impact and public engagement. The case draws on an auto-ethnographic approach from the perspective of the journal’s general editor, based on regular collaborative discussion and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders about the developmental process in face-to-face meetings as well as through the maintenance of a development team blog hosted on a secure internal sever.

This extract is from a case study by Michael Thomas, published online at https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/oer_cs_michael_thomas_access_permitted.pdf under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence.

Michael Thomas, Access Permitted: Developing Open Access Journals for Early Career Researchers and Staff Development, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence