The New JRST App
During 2015, the staff of Wiley—our longtime, dedicated publisher—initiated, developed and released the JRST App, available for iPad and iPhone. The app allows JRST subscribers to enjoy an entirely new browsing and reading experience, and swiftly to keep up to date with the most important developments in research on science teaching and learning. The app also is available to non-JRST subscribers, providing them with limited access to some of the aforementioned functionalities.
The JRST App enables members of our community to:
- Stay current with the latest articles through Early View;
- Receive alerts when new issues are available (opt in);
- Download articles and issues for offline perusal;
- Browse issues before deciding to download them;
- Access the full-screen figure and table viewer; and
- Share article abstract, links, figures, and tables via email.
We owe sincere thanks to Eric Piper and his colleagues at Wiley for working closely with the JRST Co-Editors during 2015 to develop the app interface and design, and for coordinating with Bill Kyle and NARST staff to introduce the app in time for the 2016 NARST annual international conference.
You can download the JRST App for free from the App Store by searching for “Journal of Research in Science Teaching.”
Full details, including download links, are available on the Journal of Research in Science Teaching page in iTunes.
Pioneering the JRST Doctoral Student Mentored Reviewer Initiative:
Bolstering the Contributions of a Top-Tier Research Journal to Graduate Education
To appear in JRST, 53(7) – September 2016
Conventional contributions to the education of doctoral students by premier, refereed research journals—such as the Journal of Research in Science Teaching—have been, and continue to be, both substantial and critical. Research manuscripts published in such journals often populate the reading lists for doctoral level courses, seminars, colloquia, and independent studies. These manuscripts introduce doctoral students to both classic and paradigm-setting works in a disciplinary research field, as well as to research at the cutting-edge of scholarship in that field, including studies that, in retrospect, become viewed as paradigm-shattering scholarship. Premier research journals also enculturate students into state-of-the-art methodologies and current patterns of discourse and genres of writing in a field. These journals often are the first choice for publishing high-quality dissertations by students near the conclusion of their doctoral programs or shortly thereafter. Like its peers, we believe JRST has, and continues to, contribute in these major respects to doctoral education in the field of science education and beyond.
Nonetheless, we believe that JRST and its peers have an enormous, and as of yet unrealized, potential to make additional and unique contributions to doctoral education. In particular, in partnership with academic faculty, our journals can provide doctoral students with an authentic experience that will enable them to be connoisseurs of scholarship, and to better negotiate the process of peer-refereed publication. This process often remains a black-box for a majority of doctoral students, who typically get to engage in the process only after they launch efforts to publish their doctoral dissertation.
Our team’s proposal to NARST for the JRST editorship explicitly identified this need and promised “building a deliberate educational component into the editorial operations of the journal, which would take the form of two initiatives.” One of these initiatives will specifically target the education of doctoral students in science education. During the past several months, we have refined the process, and have worked with Wiley, our publisher, to develop the requisite infrastructure in the ScholarOne ManuscriptsTM system to formally launch a pilot of the “JRST Doctoral Student Mentored Reviewer Initiative” (the initiative).
We start by distinguishing our new initiative from other graduate student guest reviewer programs sponsored by research journals. JRST has had a similar, longstanding program: Indeed, one of the co-editors had served as a guest reviewer for JRST during his doctoral program many years ago. Most often, journals elicit student reviewers, or permit students to initiate contact with journals, asking to serve as guest reviewers. Students are assigned manuscripts and write reviews, which to the best of our knowledge, rarely, if ever, count toward the final editorial decision on the manuscript in question. (As noted below, this latter feature will be upheld in our initiative.) Students might or might not eventually receive a copy of the ‘expert’ reviews and/or editorial decision letter sent to authors. These programs most often do not go beyond this point. From personal experience, we attest to the substantial value of these programs in terms of engaging doctoral students with an important facet of the peer review process, that is, the critical assessment of manuscripts submitted for publication, and the provision of constructive feedback that is helpful to submitting authors. Moreover, these programs are very useful in terms of building the capacity of the next generation of field reviewers, and eventually editorial board members, for our journals. However, we wanted to extend and deepen the experience of doctoral students with other crucial facets of peer review, as well as provide faculty partners with opportunities to engage students with meaningful discussions about research, and to apply what they learned and developed during doctoral level research and cognate coursework.
We believe the potential contributions of our initiative to doctoral education are best understood by outlining the associated process:
(1) The process is initiated when a graduate faculty member, along with a small group of two to five advanced doctoral students, approaches JRST with a request to participate in the initiative. (More than one faculty member could choose to collaboratively facilitate and support the process.) The request entails sending an e-mail to the JRST Editorial Office (the e-mail address is listed on the JRST inside cover and the Wiley JRST website) with the subject: “JRST Doctoral Student Mentored Reviewer Initiative.” The e-mail should list the names and e-mails of the faculty member and doctoral students.
(2) The JRST Editorial Office will contact NARST to establish that the interested faculty member and doctoral students are NARST members in good standing for the year during which they will engage with the initiative. Faculty and/or doctoral students who are not NARST members will need to join the organization for the year before they approach JRST to participate.
(3) If they do not already have accounts, the JRST Editorial Office will help the faculty member and/or students set up individual User Accounts in ScholarOne ManuscriptsTM, providing them system access as reviewers (and authors). As part of setting up these accounts, participant group members should select among standard keywords and phrases that describe their research interests (e.g., conceptual change, nature of science, learning progressions) and methodological preferences or expertise (e.g., qualitative, quantitative).
(4) Next, participants will receive an invitation to review an actual blinded manuscript, which has been submitted for publication in JRST. While we will try to match the selected manuscript to the research domains and/or expertise of the participant group members, the fit—as is the case in actual practice—is rarely perfect, especially given participants’ varying interests and/or expertise.
(5) The doctoral students would, as JRST field reviewers or editorial board members do, individually examine the manuscript they are assigned, and write a detailed review as specified in the “Manuscript Review Criteria,” which could be found on the Wiley JRST website under “JRST Information for Reviewers” in the “Special Features” section. Wiley’s publisher guidelines for reviewers are also posted on our site, under “For Referees.” Consistent with our policies, students would upload their individual reviews into ScholarOne ManuscriptsTM within four weeks from the time they accept the invitation to review. During this process, students would shoulder all the responsibilities and observe all the ethical practices that professional journals expect of their reviewers.
(6) Once the official review process of the manuscript in question is completed, the participant group members will receive a copy of the editorial decision letter (drafted by the co-editor and associate editor overseeing the review process) along with the formal reviews of the manuscript.
(7) At this stage, the unique features of our new initiative come into play. The partner faculty member will engage his/her students in a discussion of the formal editorial decision letter and reviews. These discussions could focus, for instance, on the ways in which the student reviews and publication decision(s) align with or diverge from those resulting from the official review process. Dissecting points of divergence, especially as these relate to critical strengths and issues that were highlighted or missed by either the student or official reviewers, could provide a powerful context for learning about—among other things—the development of robust theoretical frameworks; conducting critical and comprehensive reviews of the literature; rigorous research designs and data collection and analysis methods; high quality writing, especially in terms of deriving claims grounded in the data and aligned with the scope of inference allowed by the study’s design, as well as presenting streamlined arguments that meaningfully connect various aspects of the manuscript. The duration, extent, and format of these discussions would be determined by the supervising faculty member.
(8) Next, and probably most important, the students should work as a group to generate a report that addresses the issues outlined in the editorial decision letter. The faculty member would facilitate development of this report and ensure its quality. In case the official decision for the manuscript at hand was a “Reject,” the students’ report would outline changes to various aspects of the study as these pertain to issues outlined in the decision letter (grounding the study in relevant literature, modifying or adopting an alternative research design, revising or using different data analysis procedures, etc.). In the case of manuscripts with “Revise and Resubmit,” “Accept with Major Revision,” or “Accept with Minor Revision” decisions, the student-generated report would, in essence, simulate the cover letter that the actual author(s) would send to JRST along with their revised manuscript. The cover letter would outline each of the various comments and recommendations for revision from the co-editor, associate editor, and reviewers explicated in the decision letter, and systemically detail how the students would go about revising the manuscript to satisfactorily address each of these concerns and shortcomings. Again, the extent and arrangement by which students work together to generate the final report would be determined by the partner faculty member. Once approved by the latter, the report should be uploaded to ScholarOne ManuscriptsTM. The report is due no later than 90 days from the time the participant group receives the decision letter (which is the same timeframe allotted by JRST for authors to resubmit revised manuscripts when accepted with major revision).
(9) Once the final report is received by the JRST Editorial Office, it will be logged in and reviewed. The Co-Editors will send formal letters to the participant faculty member acknowledging his/her valuable mentoring contribution, and to the students, attesting to having engaged with the peer review process. The names and institutional affiliations of all faculty and student participants also will be listed in the final JRST issue for the year to enable them to officially list this engagement as a professional service on their vitae.
We hope that, at this point, the authenticity and potential contributions of this experience to the education of doctoral students in science education are apparent. Short of writing the original manuscript or revising it for resubmission, participant students would have experienced, under the professional guidance and supervision of their faculty mentor, the various facets of the peer review process. Students would have engaged not only with the review of a manuscript, but also with thinking about possible ways to revise it to address the critical and constructive feedback that is a hallmark of the peer review process. Doctoral students would also have experienced, firsthand, the social and negotiated nature of the double-blind peer review process and, hopefully, thereby come to realize its value. In particular, we hope that students would internalize the fact that a finalized published manuscript comes into being as the result of a process that engages the collective minds of a number of individuals in their research community who mindfully participate in critical discourse through a well-established process featuring a set of practical conventions and ethical standards. The depth, and/or breadth of approach and experiences, for which the lead faculty member would assume responsibility, would be up to him/her. The experience could take the form of informal meetings, an independent course of study, a professional seminar, or even a formal 1-credit hour course.
In this context, it is important to recognize that many science education faculty members have designed and implemented similar experiences for their students. These valuable experiences most often pertain to the manuscripts that the faculty members had authored themselves. The difference with the present initiative is that the manuscripts in question are concurrently being considered for publication by JRST and, at the time of their engagement, like the manuscript author(s) and journal editors, the participant faculty members and students will be working with a ‘live’ submission, so to speak, whereby the final editorial decision is yet to be determined. This feature adds levels of authenticity, immediacy, and relevancy that are hard to replicate with manuscripts that have already seen their way to publication, and where students could easily Google “the right answer” for the question before them as to whether a manuscript merits publication or not. Faculty and students should expect the whole process to take about 5 to 7 months depending on how long they engage with the writing of their final report. They should anticipate receiving the editorial decision letter for the manuscript they are assigned in about four months from the time they express interest in participating.
The initiative could create a unique and authentic learning experience for doctoral students. Yet, as valuable as this educational experience might be we, as editors, are very sensitive to the burdens that may be associated with the very creation of such an experience. We were keenly aware, throughout the development process, of the crucial need to maintain full integrity of the review process for manuscripts that are used for this initiative. Thus, we have carefully built a set of measures and safeguards to ensure that editorial decisions issued for manuscripts will not be impacted (either negatively or positively) in any shape or form as a result of the above process. Toward that end:
(1) We will create two separate and isolated records within the ScholarOne ManuscriptsTM system for each submitted manuscript used for the initiative. The first is the regular record that the system generates automatically for each submission to house all original manuscript files, communication, and audit trails associated with the manuscript review process. This record will house official peer reviews and editorial decision letters, as well as related communications with the author(s). A segregated, parallel record will then be created, under a different identification number, to house materials related to the initiative, which include the same original submission files, but paired instead with student peer reviews and the final collaborative report submitted by participant students. Students will be invited to review the manuscript by the JRST Managing Editor and, when uploaded into the system, their reviews will reside only in this parallel record. In this manner, the Co-Editor and Associate Editor overseeing the peer review process for a manuscript will be partitioned from, indeed, will not be able to ‘see’ the doctoral student reviews. Thus, the official decision for a manuscript included in the initiative will draw only on the assessment of the formal reviewers invited by the Associate Editor, as is the case with any submission to JRST put through the peer review process. Student reviews will not count or have any bearing on the official editorial decision.
(2) Additionally, we want to ensure that submitting authors who might, for one reason or another, elect not to make their manuscript available for the initiative will be empowered to do so. Thus, we have built a feature in the ScholarOne ManuscriptsTM submission interface that allows submitting authors to opt-out of allowing their manuscript be used for the initiative. Each author is now presented with this option as a standard step during the manuscript submission process.
We are excited about launching and piloting this initiative, and hope that faculty and doctoral students in our global science education community will take advantage of this experience and will fashion it in ways that best serve their education and professional development. We do have limited capacity and will be only able to accept a limited number of applicant groups per calendar year.
Our editorial team surely is committed to keeping JRST at the cutting-edge of scholarship and as the premier outlet for highly rigorous and impactful research in science education. Through our “Doctoral Student Mentored Reviewer Initiative,” we also hope to place JRST and NARST at the forefront of peer refereed journals that play an expanded and integral role in the doctoral preparation of the next generation of researchers and scholars.
The initiative web page is available in the Special Features section of the JRST Wiley website, including a copy of this editorial and important links; initiative news and updates will be posted there as needed.
Fouad Abd-El-Khalick & Dana Zeidler
Editors, Journal of Research in Science Teaching