Undergraduate Research Initiative launches student-run journal

A team of students working with the Undergraduate Research Initiative have recently launched Spectrum, the first interdisciplinary, student-run, peer-reviewed journal at the University of Alberta.

The journal was created to provide a publishing platform that could accommodate all forms of research produced at the undergraduate level, from the visual arts to the physical sciences.

“We’ve been observing a shift in the academic world towards interdisciplinary work,” said Liuba Gonzalez De Armas, associate editor for Spectrum and a fourth-year art history and psychology student. “There isn’t a place yet in the undergraduate publishing world for that type of work, so we have to create that space for ourselves.”

Currently, the only active undergraduate journals at the U of A, Constellations, Compass, and Invoke, publish  within the fields of history, classics, anthropology, and sociology. This leaves many students in other academic fields without the opportunity to participate in undergraduate publishing. However, Spectrum is open to all current and recent undergraduates of any discipline who are interested in presenting their research.

Chris Chan, managing editor for Spectrum and a fourth-year biology and history student explained that the team had deliberately chosen to publish the journal online as opposed to in print so that they could better accommodate a wider range of research, including those produced in non-traditional mediums such as video or audio.

“The online format also allows us to open up our journal to readership outside our university without worrying about printing and shipping charges,” Gonzalez De Armas added. “We’re looking to get submission from other post-secondary institutions across Canada.”

By providing a platform where all kinds of research can be presented regardless of discipline, the editorial team hopes more students get a chance to participate in the publishing process during their undergraduate studies.

“People tend to undervalue undergraduate publishing,” Gonzalez De Armas explained. “It’s frustrating because what we do is real, there is no difference between the research we do as undergraduates and what’s being done by other academics.”

The publication was made official through the U of A libraries and is hosted through their online system. Crystal Snyder, the URI’s team lead and acting journal manager for Spectrum explained that while the URI created the initial idea and provided the framework to get the project rolling, it was ultimately up to the students to set up the journal.

“Everything from the design, building the website, coming up with the editorial policies, were all done by the students,” Snyder said.

The process took over 2 years, and required the students to thoroughly study the many technicalities of publishing, such as developing author guidelines and establishing copyright policies.

“There are so many ways to publish,” Gonzalez De Armas said. “This process has really allowed us to look at the publishing process much more closely and tailor it to fit the needs of undergraduate students.”

The journal is set to be released on a yearly basis and submissions for the first winter 2018 issue will remain open until November 10. The editorial staff is also looking to recruit students to join their team as reviewers.

“People are coming in from all field and disciplines,” Chan said. “I can’t wait to see what students are going to submit.”

Calvin Chan

Calvin Chan is a cell biology student with a keen interest in science writing.

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