Universiteit Leiden

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Scientific journal for and by students: 'We have to break habits'

Associate Professor Paz González had two things she wanted to improve for students: collaboration and publication opportunities. Her solution? A scientific journal for and by students. She received a Senior Fellow Comenius grant to put the plan into action.

'I have been working at the university for almost twenty years now and I am always surprised at the fantastic pieces of work that students submit. But, it’s extremely rare for anything to be done with a great thesis or an excellentessay. There are so many good works among them that could reach a wider audience. I want to give students the opportunity to have a broader reach,' González explains.

Breaking habits

The traditional way of working in Humanities is too individualistic, González believes. 'Until about ten years ago, it was very common for articles to be written by just one scientist. Fortunately that's changing now. These days scientists often work in groups. This same step needs to be taken with students as well.'

This often proves difficult. González is frequently asked by students if they can do a presentation on their own. 'That’s a habit we have to break. Cooperation can sometimes be a challenge, but it is something we all have to learn. Other faculties have been working on it for years and are very strong in it. We should be able to do it too.'

Getting started

González came up with the idea of combining both challenges, and to do that by creating a scientific journal for and by students. 'The project is aimed at third-year students. They follow faculty-wide thesis seminars. I want to create a lecture - or perhaps a lecture series - within these seminars so that students experience collaboration and gain the knowledge they need to be part of an editorial team,' she explains.

Now that the application has been approved, González is working on putting the course component together. 'I want to see exactly what students need to get started. Then I will issue a call for students who are interested to join the editorial team,' she says. 'So, in the first year, the focus is mainly on acquiring the necessary skills. In the second year, we will work on the first edition. After that, the intention is to publish a new edition every six months.'

Letting go

The project will run for two and a half years, and González will have the final responsibility as editor-in-chief during that period. Then she hopes she can let go of the project. 'It is for and by students. That’s why I want to leave a lot of responsibility to students as soon as I can, so that they can do it themselves. I hope that, this way, the platform will become a permanent fixture.'

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