The Lethbridge Journal Incubator: Aligning digital open access scholarly publishing with the teaching and research missions of a public university.

July 17, 2013, 15:30 | Centennial Room, Nebraska Union

The Lethbridge Journal incubator is an experiment in the sustainability of academic publishing. The incubator attempts to ensure this sustainability by aligning the publishing processes with the research, teaching, and service missions of the University. Instead of drawing resources away from these central missions, academic communication under this model become a resource that materially improves the University’s ability to carry out these core functions.

The basic premise of the incubator is that the skills and experiences involved in contemporary scholarly journal production are both generalisable across disciplines and of significant value to graduate students whether they pursue post-graduate careers within or without the academy.

Through their work in the incubator, students will acquire training, managerial experience, and networking opportunities that are both of immediate use to them in their research domains and easily transferred to other aspects of their academic or professional careers. These skills are, moreover, highly sought-after by public and private sector employers, especially when combined with the higher-level analytic skills acquired in the course of their graduate studies.

The incubator works by training graduate students in technical and managerial aspects of journal production. On the one hand, academic journals are highly specialised publications that require high-level, research-domain-specific skills and knowledge from their authors, editors, and readers. On the other hand, however, the actual process by which journals are produced is relatively standard and requires very little research-domain knowledge

Under the supervision of academics, professional librarians, and a professional office manager, students are introduced to the core elements of the workflow that underlies the production of all academic journals and trained in detail both in one or more technical aspects of journal production (copy-editing, preparation of proofs, document-encoding, the use of standard journal-production software), and, more broadly, in the duties of an academic journal managing editor (supervising the progress of articles through the workflow from receipt to publication, corresponding with authors and referees, keeping minutes of editorial meetings, and the like). Students then assume managerial responsibility for one or two titles from their broad area of domain expertise while also working as production assistants specialising in one or more technical aspects of journal production across all titles, regardless of discipline, in the incubator as a whole.

The incubator has been in prototype for just over a year. This poster describes the basic approach and reviews the lessons learned from the first year as well as plans for the coming year, in which we will be working on librarianship and business-model issues.