New Horizons for the Journal of Research in Science Teaching
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dana L. Zeidler
University of South Florida–Tampa Bay
The year 2015 features a transition for the Journal of Research in Science Teaching (JRST). Beginning in January, the former editorial team passed the torch to a new cadre of colleagues, and we are in the process of transitioning the journal toward a purposeful future: carefully building on the strengths of those before us, while infusing new directions that attend to current trends and demands, as well as impending aspirations of the communities and stakeholders we serve. We believe it is beneficial to communicate our vision to the NARST membership and JRST readership, while also paying close attention to the current and future voices of scholars in our profession. In this editorial, we share our conceptual philosophy, strategies, and goals, and introduce the members of our editorial team, all of whom are pivotal to realizing our vision and goals for JRST.
The scale and complexity of the current, most urgent scientific questions and problems cross national boarders and cut across localized agendas. These questions and concerns relate, for example, to global climate change, energy production and consumption, ecological maintenance and restoration, bioinformatics, and worldwide health threats, along other fundamental questions, which range from unraveling the origins of the universe to uncovering the roots of humans. Such issues do not discriminate between geopolitical boundaries; they are global in nature.
Similarly, science educators are compelled to face questions and challenges of a global nature, and of increasing importance and complexity. It now is well understood that the prosperity of the global scientific enterprise—crucial to global health, security, and prosperity—hinges on preparing capable, diverse, motivated learners at every stage of the academic “pipeline,” as well as on providing wide-ranging social and cultural support for, and engagement with, science. Questions related to developing scientifically literate and engaged citizens, societies, and nations are of paramount concern, as are questions related to increasing the access to science for women, learners from underprivileged and minority populations, and individuals from developing nations—all of whom have been, and continue to be, underrepresented in this domain. We face issues of social justice, and challenges for making science and scientific careers accessible to all learners, regardless of socioeconomic status, sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, language, learning difficulties, or other factors. The science education community continues to negotiate a dual agenda: it focuses simultaneously on preparing citizens empowered to engage with science as a significant human achievement and multi-dimensional enterprise that touches on almost every aspect of their lives, while also supporting learners interested in, and capable of, pursuing academic scientific studies and scientific careers.
Addressing these questions and challenges means facing problems with further developing and strengthening science education theory, and fundamentally changing science education practice across sectors: pre-college, undergraduate, and graduate education, workforce development, informal settings, and the media writ large. Clearly, science education researchers are not short on significant questions and critical issues. The range includes: developing broad theoretical conceptualizations of curriculum; effecting systemic reforms in the practice of science teaching and teacher education to create authentic science learning experiences for all students; preparing future scientists and critical life-long learners; addressing social injustices centered around (and sometimes created by) the increasingly complex and multifaceted science, engineering, and technology global enterprise; improving access to science for learners historically alienated from, and underrepresented in, the scientific enterprise; and investigating more specific questions related to learners’ conceptions of specific scientific concepts or their responses to specific instructional interventions.
New Horizons – New Vision
Our vision for JRST is congruent with, and informed by, key areas central to the aforementioned questions and issues, which we aim to bring to the forefront of science education research. A number of themes anchor this vision: to approach science education as a global endeavor; to build broad scientific literacy and engagement; to bolster the health of national and global scientific pipelines; and to address issues of social justice, equity, and diversity in science education, including access to science and the scientific enterprise. During our tenure, we intend to nurture four critical and synergistic areas that engage these themes.
First, a goal of our team is to substantially increase the impact of NARST and JRST on educational policy by encouraging and substantially increasing the publication of policy-oriented research. We believe that JRST—our most prominent and influential asset and instrument, both as an organization and as a community—is underutilized in this domain. Research on policy, although present, has been severely underrepresented. We believe that NARST and JRST have considerable, untapped potential that can be increased substantially by doing what we do best: conducting, publishing, and disseminating research—focusing in this case, on policy-related issues and domains. Our policy-related advocacy efforts can then be grounded in a robust body of research, which would command the attention of policymakers, and enhance our impact.
Second, we recognize that JRST is clearly an outlet for premier, theoretically grounded empirical research, and thoughtful, rigorous literature reviews, both of which have contributed to building knowledge and shaping research in the field. We surely will maintain and reinforce this focus. However, we also aim to bolster the JRST portfolio by publishing robust theoretical and conceptual works that explicate and challenge dominant thinking, paradigms, and/or assumptions. We invite novel but cogent lenses to theorize and/or enact science education research and/or practice. We also wish to draw on various scholarly methodologies and tap the breadth of psychological, sociological, and philosophical traditions to enrich and deepen our research, thinking, and discourse in the field of science education.
Third, we are committed to the notion of “going global” as a much needed step to further strengthen JRST’s international reputation, leadership, and impact. JRST is, after all, the official journal of “NARST: A Worldwide Organization for Improving Science Teaching and Learning through Research.” In this regard, we have substantially increased the international diversity and reach of our editorial leadership team—with Associate Editors coming from seven countries across five continents—to strengthen our focus on dimensions of equity, diversity, and access, which have commanded relatively less attention from researchers based in the United States.
Fourth, we believe that JRST has an enormous, but underutilized, potential to help build the capacity of next-generation researchers in the field, as well as that of future JRST reviewers and associate editors. Such underutilization is consistent with a general trend in academia, whereby we do a poor job in the preparation and professional development of academic leaders at either scholarly or administrative levels. In response, we are building deliberate educational initiatives into our editorial operations by leveraging Guest Doctoral Student Reviewers and Guest Associate Editors.
Guest Doctoral Student Reviewers
Faculty members from the broader science education community may request that a small number (e.g., 2 to 5) of their doctoral advisees and students be allowed to serve as Guest Reviewers. These students will be invited a write a review for a manuscript submitted to JRST (with requisite assurances about confidentiality and anonymity, as well as author permission). More importantly, while these reviews will not count toward final decisions on submitted manuscripts, the Guest Doctoral Student Reviewers will get to examine, and compare their own reviews with, ‘official’ manuscript reviews and resultant editorial decisions. The sponsoring faculty member will—as a required part of the process—lead a student discussion about these reviews, decisions, and ways to respond to recommendations for revision and improvement. Once the student group submits a synthesis report about these discussions—endorsed by the sponsoring science education faculty member—to the JRST editorial office, they will be issued a formal letter acknowledging their Guest Reviewer roles. The student participants also will be formally acknowledged as Guest Reviewers in the corresponding end-of-year JRST issue.
Guest Associate Editors
Our Associate Editors will be empowered to invite members of the official JRST Editorial Board, as well as ad hoc reviewers with relevant expertise, to serve as Guest Associate Editors, where they will be able to examine the reviews for a submitted manuscript and draft a decision letter. That letter will be discussed with the sponsoring Associate Editor, to issue a joint recommendation to the Co-Editors. Again, the Guest Associate Editor role will be acknowledged in a formal letter, as well as in the corresponding end-of-year JRST issue. JRST Associate Editors are expected to sponsor two, but no more than five, total guest associate editors in any given year.
We believe these two initiatives will help build editorial capacity and leadership skills for the next generation of JRST reviewers and associate editors in the context of an authentic learning environment, and will help realize our vision to use JRST as an intentional instrument for high quality professional development of scholars in science education.
Notes on Our Editorial Philosophy
We are committed to maintaining JRST’s position as the premier journal in the field of science education, and as one of the top-ranked and cited journals in the broader field of education. We will focus on publishing high quality research aimed at answering significant and substantial educational questions pertinent to various constituents of our global science education community. We encourage a diverse and flexible range of research methods, including: experimental and quasi-experimental intervention studies, high-end statistical analyses of large primary and secondary data sets, conceptual analyses of philosophical and theoretical issues, and naturalistic studies of educational settings. Our standards for publication will emphasize the significance, rigor, and contribution of research that adds meaningfully to, and challenges, the existing literature, and addresses important educational questions. We wish to press the point again that we define ‘research’ broadly to encompass the whole spectrum, among which theoretical and philosophical analyses, position statements, reviews of the literature, and empirical investigations are part.
In this context, it is important to stress a guiding principle of our editorial philosophy: editors do not determine research trends in the field, nor should they. Editors do not serve their journals or fields by advancing their own priorities, commitments, methodological and research paradigms, values, or preferences over those of other researchers. Rather, editors respond to the field and, based on input from other scholars, make informed choices about manuscripts (especially the “gems in the rough”) most likely to have significant impacts on advancing knowledge and understanding, transforming practice and/or policy, achieving breakthroughs in terms of theory and research methodology, or inspiring fruitful new discussions and directions for research and practice in science education.
The best way we know to move the journal toward these new horizons is to traverse the publication landscape smoothly and fairly. Ensuring the prominence of JRST will hinge on the best researchers from around the globe making JRST their first choice for submitting their best work. This realization depends, first, on researchers’ perception and belief that JRST actually welcomes science education research undertaken with various lenses and methodologies and in various national/international contexts. Second, authors’ experiences with the timeliness and fairness of the submission and review processes—irrespective of actual editorial decisions and outcomes—are pivotal for encouraging the submission of high quality manuscripts to JRST from around the globe. Toward that end, we will strive to reduce the time frame for returning editorial decisions to authors substantially. We have implemented structural procedures to help achieve this goal. A refereed journal of JRST’s caliber, with the added advantage of a relatively short turn-around time for editorial decisions, is more likely to attract and publish high quality research of substantial import, further raising the journal’s reputation and impact. We are well aware of ongoing discussions in various scholarly fields about the merits and limitations, as well as benefits and burdens, of the blind peer review process. We are yet to be convinced that an epistemologically viable and robust alternative process has presented itself. Until such a time comes when decisive argument and evidence points to the contrary, we plan to apply the golden standard of double-blind peer review for all JRST submissions.
Team of Collaborators
The transition, and smooth day-to-day operations of JRST are ensured by the exemplary professionalism, impeccable technical skills, and congenial personality of our Managing Editor Elizabeth (Beth) Niswander. Her background includes teaching middle and post-secondary language in Japan, and preparing pre-service secondary teachers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For twelve years, she served as co-organizer for an Illinois-based grade 3-8 informal science learning and design lab. Beth has also spent fourteen years in higher education administrative management, encompassing research and programmatic design, development, and funding, along with research analysis, and reporting. Her own research interests focus on situated learning and social cognition, applied medical anthropology, and lifelong learning. We are fortunate to have her on board.
Finally, we are acutely aware that moving JRST toward new horizons would be impossible, were it not for the efforts of a conscientious team of stellar scholars. Our Associate Editors, we firmly believe, position JRST very well for the future, and we are very grateful for their exceptional commitment and dedication to the task before us. They comprise a cadre of established and emerging scholars committed to a collaborative effort to publish highly rigorous, responsive, and diverse scholarly research. The team is substantially international in its representation, and also reflects the diversity of perspectives, research methodologies and traditions, epistemological orientations, issues, cultures, and national origins that form the fabric of our global community. Our Associate Editors come from continents and regions around the globe, which have especially been engaged with NARST and JRST including North America, South America, Europe, Eastern Asia, Western Asia (or the Middle East), and Australia.
From A to Z – our team looks forward to serving you over the next five years!
Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Dana L. Zeidler, University of South Florida-Tampa Bay, USA
Elizabeth C. Niswander
Valarie L. Akerson, Indiana University–Bloomington, USA
Saouma BouJaoude, American University of Beirut, Lebanon
Lynn A. Bryan, Purdue University, USA
Cory A. Buxton, University of Georgia, USA
Chun-Yen Chang, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan
Michael Clough, Iowa State University, USA
Charlene M. Czerniak, University of Toledo, USA
Norman G. Lederman, Illinois Institute of Technology, USA
Felicia Moore Mensah, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA
Mansoor Niaz, Universidad de Oriente, Venezuela
Maria S. Rivera Maulucci, Barnard College, USA
Gillian H. Roehrig, University of Minnesota, USA
Troy D. Sadler, University of Missouri–Columbia, USA
Victor Sampson, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
Mike U. Smith, Mercer University, USA
Amy Taylor, University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA
Grady J. Venville, The University of Western Australia, Australia
Carolyn S. Wallace, Kennesaw State University, USA
Per-Olof Wickman, Stockholm University, Sweden
Anat Yarden, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Sahar Alameh and John Myers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Editorial Office and Contact Information
College of Education, Room 38
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1310 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61820, USA