Major publisher embraces ‘researcher journey’ journal format

Journals that are part of Cambridge University Press’ Research Directions ‘will better reflect the research lifecycle’ and interdisciplinary research

November 2, 2021
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A major university press has launched a new journal concept that better reflects “the research lifecycle”.

Cambridge University Press has created Research Directions, which will launch journals that tackle “fundamental questions” and publish results, analysis and impact reviews as separate outputs, which are also open access, peer-reviewed and citable.

Fiona Hutton, executive publisher and head of STM open access publishing at CUP, said that she had created the concept partly in response to the growth of open research. “We want to make sure that the research is reproducible and transparent and if we open up each part of the research journey, we provide a venue for the research community to do that,” she said.

The UK’s main funder of research, UK Research and Innovation, has recently announced that all publicly funded research must be made freely available at the point of publication from April 2022 onwards.

“The traditional journal really wasn’t created for the open research journey. If academia wants to open up to it then the journal has to evolve,” Dr Hutton added.

Researchers can contribute to different stages of the process, submitting results or analyses of other researchers’ findings. The review articles will bring together work responding to each question and will describe “the context and the impact of what has been published”, according to CUP.

The questions tackled by Research Directions titles will “cut across traditional disciplines” and have been informed by feedback from hundreds of researchers, the press says. The academic community will be consulted on future questions for each journal, that will then be chosen by the journals’ editorial boards.

“We’re doing a lot of things with Research Directions,” Dr Hutton added. CUP is also creating a community-based site on Cambridge Open Engage “where we’ll bring together different academics to debate the questions, to debate the research, to really input into that sort of informal conversation that goes around research that you don't normally see in a traditional journal”, she said.

UKRI itself is funding the development of a new publishing platform, Octopus, that will record research “as it happens” by breaking down outputs into smaller chunks.

“There is a revolution under way in scholarly publishing,” Dr Hutton said. “There’s an awful lot of wastage in research; people waste lots of time repeating things that somebody else has done before…[It’s more helpful] if they can adapt much quickly and try different things at a much earlier stage.”

Dr Hutton said it was “really important” that content on Research Directions was led by experts and subject communities, via the editors and editorial boards, making it different from other some other open-access platforms where scholars upload content themselves.

By answering questions, rather than focusing on subjects, it will be a boost for real interdisciplinarity, she said. “It’s about trying to do interdisciplinary research much more smartly, not just doing it as a sort of tokenism.”

She did admit there were some research fields that were not suited to this format. “We’re not trying to replace the journal altogether, we’re trying to provide a different solution for different communities that would fundamentally benefit from this kind of approach,” Dr Hutton said.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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