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Why Overlay Journals for University Repositories May Increase the Visibility of Research in Small Scientific Communities

    Aim

    The development of digital technology has created new tools and opportunities in the world of scientific publishing, which is why many universities today have moved from their traditional roles as passive supporters and customers of established publishing models to creators of digital publishing platforms (1,2). The possibility of scholarly publishing through institutional repositories has led to the emergence of overlay journals which can transform the repository into a proper scholarly publishing medium since they add a guarantee of quality to the content by providing peer review (3). The University of Split recognized the value of an overlay journal and readily supported the creation of online open access overlay journal ST-OPEN by providing full financial support for the editorial office. Overlay journals usually derive their content from preprint servers or they collecting already published articles in standard scientific journals in order to increase awareness (4). On the other hand, ST-OPEN has been created as a new type of overlay journals that has a broad, multidisciplinary scope, which we hope may promote interdisciplinary collaboration across university schools and departments. In order to increase the overall quality of research of the University of Split and strengthen its role as a research university, this journal will focus on graduate student research from Masters and doctoral programmes, selecting the best student-supervisor research work for publication.

    ST-OPEN is organized as an online open access overlay interjournal which will extract most of its content from the documents deposited in the national platform DABAR – Digital Academic Archives and Repositories (https://dabar.srce.hr/en/repositories). This is a national repository of all bachelor and master theses, doctoral theses, other types of specialist college diploma work and other publications, including original scientific reports from conferences, and research data from Croatian universities. At the moment, ST-OPEN focuses on selection and peer review of graduation theses from the University of Split, but will invite other Croatian universities to join efforts in building a national overlay journal. We will also consider direct submissions from researchers, who can deposit their work in DABAR and contact the journal with a submission letter.

    The process of article selection will be somewhat different from, but definitely more complex than, the usual practice of overlay journals because all graduation theses are published in Croatian. Members of the ST-OPEN Editorial Board select a thesis or other work of interest for the journal, and the ST-OPEN editors approach the supervisor and the student and offer to work with them on transforming the thesis into a manuscript in English. ST-OPEN does not restrict the length of the manuscript, and the only requirement is that it presents research results. The ST-OPEN editors work with the authors, using the author-helpful policy developed in the Croatian Medical Journal (5). The manuscript in Croatian deposited in DABAR is first sent for an official intramural review by the Editorial Board or experts in the research field. After the revision of the manuscript in this first peer review step, the manuscript is translated into English by ST-OPEN and sent out for external peer review (external of the University and in most cases external to Croatia). If the reviews are favourable, the manuscript is sent back to the authors and accepted if the final revision is adequate. After acceptance, the article is deposited in DABAR and published in ST-OPEN as the final published version of the manuscript.

    ST-OPEN is a multidisciplinary journal not restricted to a specific research field. We hope that this multidisciplinarity will bring researchers from different research fields and perhaps give them ideas for interdisciplinary collaboration – within the university and with the other Croatian and international research groups. The first aim of ST-OPEN is an indirect but concrete practical training of students in scientific publishing (5). This will prepare future researchers for their research/academic careers by training them in standards and practices of the scientific publishing process (6). The second aim is to increase the scientific production and global visibility of scholarly research of the University of Split. ST-OPEN does not aim to publish „great“ research or to achieve a high academic impact, but to serve as a tool to advance research education of university students and the visibility of a small research-oriented university. It will be a large and multidisciplinary journal, so our Editorial Board is large, including at least one member from each university school or department.

    Conclusion

    Some 2000 students per year graduate from the University of Split and we estimate that, if we manage to transform ten percent of their theses into research articles, it would be a good result. Without the existence of ST-OPEN, most of this work would never be published outside the theses written in Croatian. We hope, however, that the positive experience of students from our collaboration and the visibility of their work to the international community will encourage students and even create some form of competition to publish in ST-OPEN. The key basis for this hope is our author-friendly policy, which proved to be an effective method to build the research capacity in a small scholarly community (5-7). The full text of the article describing ST OPEN is published in the European Science Editing (8) and includes more detail information about the journal.

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