Editor’s note: When we changed the 2020 Library Publishing Forum to a virtual conference format, we gave presenters the option of converting their presentations into blog posts. This is a guest post in that series.
By Jonathan Grunert, SUNY Geneseo, @j_grunert
Note: Nicole Callahan, a student editor for Proceedings of GREAT Day, contributed to the proposal and planning for the presentation at LPF 2020. The COVID-19 crisis limited her involvement in writing this short essay.
Proceedings of GREAT Day is an undergraduate research journal that shares research presented at SUNY Geneseo’s annual undergraduate research symposium. GREAT (Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement, & Talent) Day has been a campus staple since 2006, and the Proceedings began highlighting research from the symposium in 2009.
Producing this journal has, since its founding, been a student-centered endeavor. Student editors have been the primary creators of the journal, as they communicate with authors, suggest article revisions, copyedit texts, and format the journal. Though the faculty supervisor has overseen these operations, students have been central to doing the work of publication.
An internship program makes the publication of these Proceedings sustainable:
First, the timeline for publication works well within the structure of the academic year. GREAT Day happens every April, and we publish the journal on that day, a natural end date for each cycle. Faculty sponsors nominate work between GREAT Day and September, and the student editors decide which articles to include by the beginning of October. During the Fall semester, the editors work with their authors to address any changes to their content, ensuring that the articles are concise, with taut arguments. During this semester, students learn about the value of peer review. Though what we do is not blind peer review—the reviewers and authors know who’s responsible for the writing—it’s an important piece in understanding a key aspect of research as a conversation. In the Spring semester, editors work with formatting the articles. They copy edit articles, format them according to specific guidelines, and learn a publishing software. The natural break between semesters allows for bifurcating our focus into content and format, though of course there is some overlap.
Second, students learn to read and critique research conducted in disciplines outside their own majors. Though these students are engaged in a liberal arts education in their undergraduate coursework, working through articles by their classmates is an enriching experience, especially as these editors are in the later years of their undergraduate education, entrenched in their disciplinary majors. And students benefit from this different kind of approach to other fields of study—Psychology, English, and Biology students read papers from History, Math, and Communications students with perspectives that encourage different kinds of clarity from those articles.
Third, students receive academic credit for this different kind of academic experience. Yes, they do work that creates a product the College anticipates each year, but they learn a great deal along the way. Academic credit provides some incentive for completing the work well, and their experience couples with learning outcomes related to scholarly communications, library publishing, and the research lifecycle.
This model relies on an internship for student editors, a model that is inherently sustainable, despite students working for only one or two years. This is accomplished by self-motivated interns, who know other self-motivated students who can continue the project. The faculty supervisors have worked very little on the practical measures of creating the journal; their work is in guiding students through the process.
Finally, open access publishing is a sustainability-minded practice, both in terms of environmental impact and project longevity. A limited number of journal issues are printed: some go to the library and administrators, others to student authors and their faculty sponsors. But the journal exists primarily online. For years, its online presence was in a publicly available drive; now, it exists in an institutional repository. Students see the value in publishing the work in an open format, so they can share their work, whether as an editor or author, with their family and friends instantly, without any imagined geopolitical or financial barriers.
In this way, students learn that the value of information production and distribution is not only in what the research says; it’s in the labor of presenting that research. When the research is presented in a format that relies on subscriptions, that sets up a boundary that some readers cannot overcome. But when their work can be presented in an open platform, researchers can dismiss insistence on traditional publication with an “OK Publisher,” and sustain an openness for research.