UniServe Science News Volume 13 July 1999


From the Director

Ian Johnston
Director, UniServe Science

UniServe Science News is now in its 13th issue. We have been publishing articles, reviews, and reports of interest to tertiary teachers of science for over four years. In that time we have printed over 50 articles, contributed by teaching academics from all the sciences, representing all Australian states and many countries. And we still get others willing to write for us.

It seems to us that this shows admirable commitment to the ideal of sharing knowledge and experience among the community of their peers. Writing an article takes time, and time is what academics in modern universities do not have much of. Furthermore, we all know that there is precious little in the way of reward for writing an article, unless it is peer-reviewed. It seems wrong to us that many of the articles that we have published, which we believe have been of high quality and certainly of use to others, should not have been able to be added to their authors' CVs. We believe the time has come for UniServe Science News to begin publishing reviewed articles.

Now the idea of publishing another technical, archival journal is not something that should be taken lightly. The physicist, David Mermin has argued, quite vehemently, that the scientific world does not need any more journals. There are far too many already, and the number of published papers that scientists are expected to produce has got to the silly stage. He is fond of saying that, if the journals keep increasing in size and number as they are now, library bookshelves will soon need to be expanding at the speed of light. But that's all right. The information contained in them does not move at this speed, because no one reads them anyway.

Facetious though those remarks may be, they contain more than a grain of good sense. Why start another journal with peer-reviewing and all the extra work it entails, if the articles can quite happily be published in this form somewhere else? Surely there already exist journals to which the authors could submit the articles they want to write?

Well, there are journals devoted to physics education, and to chemistry education, and biology, and psychology, and so on. But if you publish in them no one will read your article, except physicists, or chemists, or biologists, or psychologists, or whatever. There are journals devoted to science education which tend to have a very broad spread of interests, from the most theoretical to the most narrowly detailed, but only a very small fraction of their articles have the relatively restricted focus covered by the publication you are now reading. We genuinely believe that there is no other peer-reviewed journal, certainly not in Australia, which concentrates on the pedagogical and developmental aspects of IT in teaching, while at the same time addressing issues of interest across the sciences.

And so we have decided, with the concurrence of virtually everyone we have talked with, to start publishing, next year, articles that have been through a formal peer-review process. There is work to be done. It will take time to set up the appropriate reviewing and editorial panels. We will certainly let you all know when we are ready.

Next year, we will have to start charging for this journal. Up till now, we have sent out copies to each science department in the country - one for our contact to archive, and one or two copies to be put on public access. We have also made copies available to anyone that asks. In future we will have to ask people to pay. Exactly when this will happen, or how we will proceed, is not decided yet. We will probably continue to send one copy to each science department - although we are not nationally funded, we still feel a responsibility to the original vision of UniServe Science being a nation-wide service. For the many of you who have asked to be on our regular mail-out, we will set up a subscription mechanism.

If you have any comments or suggestions about any matters I have raised here, please contact me at idj@physics.usyd.edu.au. In the end, the way we will go will be the way that suits as many of you as we can accommodate.

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UniServe Science News Volume 13 July 1999

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