Polina Zelmanova, Editor, Volume 13 (2020)
Unity in a time of separation, October 2020
I am thrilled to share the publication of our second volume of Issue 13 of Reinvention: Vol 13 issue 2 published on the 31st October 2020. It’s been a challenging six months since the last edition (13.1) and I feel like it’s important not to take for granted the fact that we’ve been able to pull the issue together despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly this time, I was really inspired by the extent of collaboration that takes place during the publication process between the authors, the editorial team, academic peer reviewers and our copy editor. A lot of feedback is given at each stage of the paper’s production cycle, which ultimately culminates in the final piece that our readers see published. However, being in a position where I see the entire ‘behind the scenes’ process of producing a paper, the work and effort from everyone involved is hugely admirable and every stage plays such a significant role in the end result.
This sense of collaboration really links in with our theme for issue 13.2 which is ‘Uniting the World’. At Reinvention the theme is usually chosen once all of the content has been finalised, rather than asking authors to adhere to specific themes, in order to facilitate the diversity of research published, focusing instead on the quality of the work. As I discuss in this issue’s Editorial, the idea of unity beyond any boundaries (whether national or those relating to identity) was really striking when it came to finding a common theme for the current issue. All of the research papers revolved around the subject of health in both a national and universal context, but also the theme of identity which extended into the exhibition reviews and book reviews. To further the theme, this edition had a particularly striking international spread of authors which made collaborating across these ‘national’ borders particularly exciting and really emphasised a sense of diversity within the issue, which was not only written from different parts of the world but was also about different parts of the world. This of course links a lot to the current circumstances of the pandemic itself and how it has forced communities and individuals to come together in new ways despite the barriers created by international lockdowns.
The idea of unity across national boundaries has also interestingly been reflected through other undergraduate research opportunities such as the recent ICUR conference in September 2020, which took place almost entirely over video conferencing for the first time, without local ‘in-person’ conferences. The international panels brought together multiple countries and universities, and were broadcast to a diverse international audience by webinar. This gave the conference and research a unique dimension, the possibilities of which have been reflected in the wider academic context, with many research seminars now being forced to be carried out in an online capacity. Whilst this is of course a challenge, it is undoubtedly also a huge opportunity to widen the reach of these events, something that we’re constantly seeking ways to do at Reinvention.
I hope that we are able to look at the positives of the shift in communication and make the most of the changes we have seen over the past months by taking advantage of the new opportunities which can help bring the research community together. As I hand over my role to our new Editor, Auni Siukosaari, I’m excited to see where the journal is taken in the next year and to follow the inspiring projects we have planned, which I hope will attract an even wider undergraduate research community.
The Benefits of Working Remotely, April 2020
In April 2020 we published the first issue of our 13th volume of Reinvention: An Undergraduate Research Journal. The experience of publishing during COVID-19 has been a particularly challenging one. The pandemic has caused a massive strain on everyone’s working lives around the world. Many have lost their jobs due to the inability to work remotely while others have had to adapt to the new routine of working from home. Like in many other work places and enterprises, the pandemic has made us at Reinvention reflect on our current practices moving forward. However, working remotely has always been the norm at the journal, which is why we found ourselves in an extremely fortunate position when the lock-down happened as the way we work and the means through which we communicate hadn’t been affected.
Having half of our team based in the UK and the other half in Australia makes remote working the best and only solution. Our bi-monthly meetings, individual calls and web-chat catch-ups allow us to stay in touch across time-zones and easily communicate and seek assistance and advice on the papers we are managing. The editorial roles largely involve a lot of research and emailing, especially when it comes to communication with our international authors and peer reviewers, emphasising the need for flexibility in our working hours which is supported through working from home. This existing system allowed us to navigate these difficult times with relative ease and helped us adapt other aspects of our lives swiftly, knowing that the work would remain the same and we’d still be able to publish in April.
The fact that we were able to stay on track and not experience initial delays also meant that we could react faster when obstacles did arise. Despite working on the issue months in advance, the month leading up to publication is usually the most crucial period as it is the time when the papers undergo copy-editing and therefore require further corrections. Some of our papers also need a final push over the finish line, requiring a lot of communication between editors and authors. During March of this year, however, we had to make staffing adjustments based on some editors being unavailable as various impacts of the pandemic began to hit. As well as facilitating remote working, Reinvention is also an extremely collaborative environment. While there is usually one editor managing each paper, there are many instances of working together and sharing reviewer contacts, as well as regular team updates during meetings and the upkeep of our shared tracking spreadsheet which allows to keep up to date with the latest life-event of a paper. Not only does this regularly prove useful for the leading editor to monitor the publication’s progress, it also turned out to be a key resource for short-notice handovers, which is what happened here. These practices allowed us to swiftly transition to working with a reduced team and allowed other editors to pick up papers with ease, emphasising the key role of these communication structures.
Our full team is now back and we have an incredible new issue behind us, and one on the way in October. As we work through this challenging period, we are keen to strengthen our existing practices, particularly in light of the currently changing working environments world-wide, both adapting ourselves and sharing our practices with other student-led initiatives.