Strategy of an Academic Journal: Success Factors for Foresight and STI Governance
Leonid Gokhberg, First Vice-Rector, Director of HSE ISSEK, Editor-in-chief of Foresight and STI Governance academic journal, describes its publishing strategy for Higher Education in Russia and Beyond issue covering the best practices of several Russian academic journals.
The Foresight and STI Governance academic journal has been published by the HSE ISSEK since 2007. The journal’s success was gradually expressed in a series of domestic and international evaluation exercises which resulted in getting included into the Scopus database (2013), receiving a grant from the program intended to support leading national academic journals administered by the Ministry for Education and Science of the Russian Federation (2014), and obtaining a stronger ranking position within the Scopus Q2 segment (2015). A growing inflow of articles from a more and more diversified spectrum of countries, increasing downloads and citations are also critical signs of the journal’s progress.What factors have contributed to this success?
Strategic Thematic Focus
ISSEK was developed as a HSE research unit specialized in the studies of science, technology and innovation (STI). Therefore, starting a journal was initially considered a natural stage to promote this research area. The journal was originally conceived as a platform for the publication, dissemination, and discussion of cutting-edge ideas, methodologies, and analytics covering a wide range of theoretical and empirical studies of STI, human capital, knowledge and high-tech product markets, methodologies and practices of long-term foresight studies, and the elaboration and implementation of STI policies. Despite the availability of several other high-ranking international academic journals in similar areas, the thematic focus of papers published in the journal remains unique, giving it a very distinctive character.
Intensive development of the institute’s academic activities has assisted the journal in monitoring both an evolving research frontier and important actors in the field. Discussions with the leading ISSEK scholars and international collaborators have been a valuable input to the journal’s agenda. The choice of a relevant subject area with dynamic and diverse global progress allowed for bringing in a significant and steadily growing audience of creative scholars and practitioners, the journal’s readers and authors.
Stringent Quality Requirements
The focus on global academic development patterns, a continuous effort to improve the journal’s content, stepping up professional communication, integrating ourselves into international research networks – all this allows us to stay at the core of the most recent academic discourse, quickly reacting to emerging prospective research areas, and frequently anticipating their professional discussion. The journal has become the first Russian platform to launch a debate over methodologies and results of international, national, regional, sectoral and corporate foresight studies, companies’ innovation behaviour models, open and inclusive innovations, knowledge-intensive services, centres of excellence, regional clusters, evidence-based STI policies, etc.
Readers’ and authors’ interest is supported by the advanced presentation formats and the high quality of papers we publish. Stringent quality requirements were seriously addressed even when compiling the very first issue of the journal. Initially, it demanded a lot of effort by the editorial board – communicating with the authors, ensuring the papers met all requirements for academic articles, finding and inviting domestic and international authors capable of producing appropriate papers. Largely as a result of this effort the journal secured a leading position among Russian academic journals, in effect, immediately after its launch, which is confirmed by its Russian Science Citation Index rankings in such areas as “Science Studies” and “Organisation and Management” (an undisputed impact-factor leader in both these groups), and “Economics” (never leaving the top ten stratum).
In 2016, the journal received over 200 papers (compared to 113 in 2014). However only 8% were included into our portfolio, another 10% were returned to the authors for revision. Major rejection causes refer to low quality and non-originality of articles, inadequacy to the journal’s profile, and sometimes even plagiarism.
About 40% of the papers published in the journal in 2016 were produced by our international colleagues. These are not reprints of previous publications but original texts written specifically for the journal. The editorial board never ceases its efforts in bringing in leading researchers, who publish in the most authoritative journals indexed by respective international databases. At the same time, this helps to accomplish other key objectives such as disseminating information about cutting-edge Russian research and promoting its international recognition.
Inclusion in International Databases
From the very beginning one of the journal’s strategic priorities was to build a strong reputation in the international academic and expert communities. An important success factor was excellence of the editorial board, which comprises of leading Russian and international academics and experts in relevant subject areas with a long-term record of collaboration with ISSEK in the framework of cooperative research projects, working groups of prominent international organisations, joint publications, etc. Board members contributed to setting clearly defined priorities for the journal, achieving an optimal balance between theoretical, applied, and analytical publications, streamlining the headings structure (Strategy — Innovation – Science and Technology — Master Class — Statistical Analysis and Indicators), and helped to attract influential authors and speed up the process of journal’s recognition and integration into international research networks.
Following the 2013 Macmillan Science Communication (UK) expert evaluation of Russian academic journals, the journal was selected among the top three leading Russian academic periodicals with the best prospects for inclusion in international citation databases. Subsequent consultations with Nature Publishing Group experts helped the journal to significantly improve the quality of management and communications with authors and reviewers. In 2013, Foresight and STI Governance was included in the Scopusdatabase (where only two other Russian academic journals specialising in economics were registered at the time). It made the journal significantly more visible allowing also to further raise quality requirements. A circle of renowned authors has gradually emerged.
A full-fledged English-language electronic edition has been published since 2015 (4 issues a year). It was also decided to change the title of the English version from Foresight-Russia to Foresight and STI Governance, in order to more precisely position the journal as a genuinely international (as opposed to regional) one. The English-language version is considered an independent edition, which allows to consolidate the journal’s archive in various databases.
As a result, in two years’ time Foresight and STI Governance has moved on from the fourth to the third, and then to the prestigious second Scopus quartile (Q2) in the Business, Management and Accounting category. The journal impressively holds second place in the overall regional Eastern European ranking.
Among our immediate objectives are inclusion on the DOAJ, ProQuest, Open J-Gate, and Emerging Sources Citation Index – Web of Science databases, significantly increasing citations, and then moving on into the Core Collection segment of the Web of Science.This will make the journal even more prominent on the “scientific” map of the world.
Advanced Publication Formats and Dissemination
The journal’s major priorities include implementing open access and digitalisation principles. Open access promotes free exchange of S&T results and international research cooperation. The journal is trying to pursue a careful editorial policy in this area.
Given the ever-changing and increasingly complex international journal industry landscape, we actively adopt advanced information formats, including online technologies. Bilingual mobile applications (Foresight and STI Governance, available in AppStore and Google Play) were launched to improve the accessibility of electronic editions and attract new audiences, particularly young people. We are currently mastering SЕО-optimisation technologies, and extending the website’s functionality (electronic editing, etc.).
It was also decided to better use the opportunities provided by the international reference linking system CrossRef to assign DOI markers to journal issues and specific papers. Inclusion in this system would provide wider international access to the journal’s content and ensure correct citation of papers on all electronic platforms.
Such efforts bring their fruits. The journal’s website was attended by 17 thousand visitors in 2016, including 52% of unique users (against 23% in 2014), from over 100 countries. Nearly 61% of the audience of the electronic version are below 35 years.
Making the Journal more Prominent
The journal is engaged in implementing a diverse public events program, including various forms of scientific debates, lectures, workshops, round table discussions, and conferences. It helps to extend a network of partners. Such activities are the best channels for identifying and engaging new authors, extending the journal’s portfolio, promoting its international standing, and receiving feedback from the audience – which in turn can become a source of new ideas. All this allows to overcome limitations born by the inclination (conscious and unconscious) to adhere to a customary set of topics and maintain the circle of familiar authors with the established reputations and stable research interests. The journal increasingly frequently publishes papers by new researchers who have never been among our authors before, some of them emerging from conference audiences. Thus, our readers become co-producers of knowledge. All this increases the journal’s competitiveness as a means of scientific communication.
Communicating with Authors and Developing Partnerships
An important mission of the journal is upgrading authors’ professional culture and raising a new generation of researchers focused on international academic standards, putting together a pool of promising young scientists – our potential authors.
Foresight and STI Governance actively cooperates with numerous Russian and international organisations as well as with other academic journals. Partnerships, exchange of papers, and launches of specialised joint issues also have been practiced with several leading journals, such as Foresight, Futures, Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Technovation, Science and Public Policy, etc.
Foresight and STI Governance has secured and confidently holds its own niche in the academic information environment. Though we still recognise the challenges ahead, such as keeping the portfolio to the rolling research frontier, engaging top-level authors, and attracting necessary funding.
Source: Higher Education in Russia and Beyond, №1(11) 2017