Category: Open Access

Publishing open access research in healthcare

Publishing open access research in healthcare

As part of our our #OAWeek series we caught up with the Editor of the British Journal of Pharmacy, Hamid Merchant, to find out why he is so passionate about open access in healthcare research and what some of the challenges and achievements have been for the journal in its first year.

Why is open access important in healthcare?

Open access is the future of research! Think about a fantastic piece of research that cannot be accessed and read freely across the globe, how this could benefit society?

The more we would like patients and carers to get involved in their treatment, the more access to reliable scientific resources is needed. The inability to access scientific literature freely by the public can be a major obstacle.

Let’s take an example. Malaria is a massive public health issue in African countries, and the top research in Malaria is published in journals which are far beyond the reach of those nations. Open access publishing bridges this gap and allows anyone to access recent advancements in science and literature which are particularly for the benefit to the public health, safety and their well-being.

Bringing accessibility and credibility together

Many open access journals in the field lack credibility and a rigorous peer-reviewed process, and may accept poor quality publications if authors agree to pay their fees. The reputable journals offering optional open access incur a substantial upfront payment to cover their publication costs, and hence many authors cannot afford to publish open access in a journal with a credible reputation. The BJPharm bridged this gap in reputation and quality, yet offered a free service to authors and readers across the globe. The next month also marks the first anniversary of the journal.

The first year of BJPharm

The fee free model for Open Access publishing is not easy. No income from publication means the journal would need an incredible level of voluntary support. The success of the BJPharm lies behind the honorary team of editors, peer reviewers, and the University Press. The journal would not have been possible without invaluable contribution from the whole team.

BJPharm has successfully published two issues over the past year. We have been proud to maintain the integrity of the quality peer review process BJPharm and have attracted good quality submissions across the globe over the past year.  The journal has also teamed up with the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Great Britain to publish the proceedings of the 8th International PharmSci meeting held in September 2017 at Hertfordshire in a special issue. For the first time, this will enable a fee-free access to the research presented in this prestigious meeting of pharmaceutical scientists in the UK.

You can access all of the BJPharm content online via the University Press

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Ways in which a writer approaches poetry

Ways in which a writer approaches poetry

Ford Dagenham is one our authors published in I You He She It – a collection of short stories and poems developed out of the Grist project. As part of #OAWeek we asked him to discuss his writing processes and and how he keeps himself on track when writing poetry.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

You can read more around the author on their blog.

The Poetry Process

(readings prose submitting etc are another story)

I write poetry waking up. Not weekends. Days off are ok.

After a day or two off I get the itch. Without being dramatic, who I am unravels.

I post the mornings poem on the blog then I pat myself on the back.

I keep notebooks for poetry and story ideas. I use Notes in my iphone. People assume I am another addict to the glass. I enjoy this misconception.

I look OUT and IN.

I wrote rules down. Its like a blueprint, a distilled list of elements.

I often ignore it.

If I write something that feels dead, it probably is. Its unlikely to merit a funeral.

I resuscitate dead work. Halve its word count. Then its bones show. Then I add flesh and hats.

The delete key is liberation. Often a way out of the swamp.

I repurpose bad work. A bad line ON PURPOSE is ok, even funny.

I delight in accidental rhymes.

Rhyming on purpose is a forced endeavour, lending an expectation that can destroy natural flow.

I find a neighbours minutiae a gift on dead-end mornings.

I stop and start something new. Freshness is spring air and old work can improve like ignored wine.

Distractions can be material. Also they are distractions and inevitable.

Better to not read others work at all, than read it with a mental red pen.

Beware the vacuum, tho it can be informative, like a mirror.

If I write just bare branches, then I add flowers and leaves.

Sometimes a poem is done before you are. Notice this.

I try to be universal and personal. Brand names, song lyrics, ad tags are reality.

I sometimes try for a new language, which sounds poncy.

I enjoy a good typo.

I use no punctuation. When I do use punctuation, its either like a day at the seaside or a horrible school trip.

Writing is a state born of continued trying.

Writing is HEALTHY. That tortured genius lark, I don’t buy it.

My blog says ‘a poem or pic a day until I die or don’t’. This gives me discipline and flexibility.

My blog is the one most important thing that keeps me writing.

I write for me and my dozen regular readers and occasional zines. This is enough.

Moving water is good for inspiration. Like fire. Constant motion. The bath counts and washing the dishes.

Rejection letters/emails are difficult for editors to write. Have empathy. I thank them for a good rejection. I been read. Good.

Rape yourself with kindness.

I dig deep. I skim light.

If I go stale, its often because the music has stopped.

Read poetry. Lots is just guff. Read anyway. Broadly. Dart and prod. Reading poetry on the toilet one morning (counts as running water) I wrote six poems none of which was shit.

I try to be aware of my thoughts. They are journeys.

Songs stuck in my head get new words for the melody.

If I borrow or steal, I credit it in the poem or in the title.

I try not to judge. If I judge I make it clear I’m judging. Then I judge myself.

Have an opinion. Don’t be blind to other opinions.

I have realised I am writing this in the voice of Alan Partridge.

Beware of voices in your head. Or be aware of voices in your head. They are not all for you.

I think in my gut. Head-space is chaotic, don’t spend all day there.

Rarely am I writing the worlds most important poem. But I try to.

There WAS a thousand excuses to not sit down and tap anything out.

There IS a thousand reasons TO sit down and tap something out.

I try not to write about writing. Sometimes I of course do.

I attempt authority. Probably it is fake. We are not all Moses. Its important to believe what you write. Or how will the reader? Don’t be Dan Brown.

I don’t worry about titles. I make it up at the last minute. They can be changed.

If you have a good line that won’t fit, there’s your title.

Use the first line as the title, then the reader hits the ground running.

No title is fine.

A number as a title hints at a secret order.

A title of a COLLECTION is more important. Be understated. The work will fly higher.

Imbibe what you need to. But its YOU that writes, not blended chemicals.

Today I am a sober poet. No one has ever done a harder thing.

I keep calm. Too angry is fine. I wrote one of my best poems when angry with the council housing office.

I read Ferlinghetti’s 2001 inaugural address.

Finding your voice as a poet

Finding your voice as a poet

Tony Watts is an author published in our Grist collection of poetry and prose: I You He She It. As part of #OAWeek we asked Tony to talk about his writing processes and how other writers have influenced the way he approaches his work.

I tend to describe my creative life as a state of permanent writer’s block occasionally interrupted by a poem.  I normally feel so uninspired that my total output of about six hundred poems is a constant source of amazement to me.  I’ve no idea how I did that: it feels as though they were written by someone else – someone much brighter than me.  On the other hand, I don’t just sit around waiting for inspiration (that way lies madness): I keep my oeuvre in a constant state of revision – that is to say, I keep going methodically through the lot looking for what can be improved or rejected.  And when I get to the end, I go back and start again (Sisyphus comes to mind).

As a young aspirational poet I puzzled about how or where I could “find my voice”.  I was led to believe that “finding your voice” was something important that you had to do before you could be a proper poet.  The trouble was that whatever I wrote tended to look like an exercise in the style of the poet I was currently reading.  “In that case, just stop reading”, you might say.  And how wrong you would be.  The solution is to do the opposite – to read as much and as widely as possible – and your “voice” will gradually emerge all on its own.  Billy Collins hit the nail on the head: “The source for a poet’s voice is external, not internal.  It lies within the poetry section of a library.  It is the voice of all those other poets who influence you and are ideally ‘recombined’ in a way that the reader can’t identify very quickly.”  He might have added that there is a catalytic factor involved in this alchemy – and that is the unique set of memories that constitutes your experience of life on earth.  A.E. Housman, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Robert Graves, Ted Hughes, R.S. Thomas… these are just some of the favourite poets who, in my case, were fed into the top end of the funnel.  What comes oozing sluggishly out the bottom end is “my” voice.

When asked why he climbed Everest, George Mallory famously replied, “Because it’s there”.  If you asked me why I’m writing a poem, I might say, “Because it isn’t there”.  As a poem begins to take shape in your head, there comes a moment when you become simultaneously aware that there is a poem-shaped hole in the universe and that it has fallen to you to make good this serious deficiency by filling it.  Philip Larkin thought that the reason we write is that everything that’s been written so far is somehow inadequate.  He was right.  While it may seem the height of hubris to imagine you can fill a gap carelessly left vacant by every great writer of the past, the fact remains that the universe has changed – it now has you in it.  And that makes all the difference.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

Exploring concepts in fiction writing for #OAWeek

Exploring concepts in fiction writing for #OAWeek

Martin Nathan is an author published in our Grist collection of poetry and prose: I You He She It. As part of #OAWeek we asked Martin to talk about the theory underpinning some of his current work. In this post he discusses the concept of narrative, or psychic distance, and how it can inform his writing.

I have been exploring John Gardner’s concept of Narrative Distance or psychic distance recently.  He includes it in his section discussion common errors by writers in ‘The Art of Fiction’, but I have found useful throughout my writing, both as something to be aware of when reviewing drafts, but also as a device to be aware of and control during in the initial writing.

His concept of psychic distance is essentially the closeness of the narrator to the action that they are narrating; how much the narration is in their head, so to speak, and its importance is that

jolts in this distance will disrupt the narrative from the reader’s perspective and should be avoided.    Point of view is who carries the narrative observation.  Psychic distance is how much they can see, know and how much they are emotionally involved in the narrative.

His examples of different levels of psychic distance are:

  1. It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.
  2. Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
  3. Henry hated snowstorms.
  4. God how he hated these damn snowstorms.
  5. Snow. Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul

Obviously, the psychic distance is reducing as you go down this list.  There is a shift to second person in the fifth in these examples but this is not inevitable.  Similar lists can be devised with all in the first-person.  In this, the lowest position is a stream of consciousness.

Using a photographic analogy, the psychic distance can be considered similar to focal length; you can observe a scene from a close-up view, or you can be a distant telephotographic perspective.  But it is important to be aware that there are other elements buried in this concept.  There is also the degree of participation in the action – they can be a non-participatory observer, or a heavily involved participant.  On top of this, there is the interpretive level – if they are closely involved in the action they may have little power to analyse and understand events.  There is also an emotional closeness.  Gardner does not separate these elements out, but I find that there can be an advantage in this. Each can shift independently.

Gardner’s concern is about sudden shifts in psychic distance, but this does not mean they cannot change.  It is a matter of being aware when you want this shift and you may want to control the change and shift it gradually.  If you want to trigger a sudden shift, it may be more effective to provide a trigger – some reason in the narrative, or just a clue to the reader that the change is happening.

As I indicated, I have been using it as a conscious decision to set up patterns of psychic distance.  Variety in the psychic distance can provide a relief – an extended period at a single extreme point can be wearing.  Selecting an appropriate level or pattern of engagement through psychic distance can be helpful in differentiating characters; fourthly, a novel is about a controlled release of information, and consciously setting the psychic distance gives you this means of control.

My current project is an epistolary novel based on a divided family in Malaya and England.  A problem with letters is that they impose restrictions in terms of interaction – and their communication is divided by time as letters went by sea.   By consciously manipulating psychic distance, subdivided as I have described, I set up a call-and-response between the correspondents, either accepting or rejecting level or pattern of levels offered. Whether Gardner would recognise this as his original concept, I don’t know, but for me it works.

Often the body of a letter will start with a fairly distant description of an event, but will then get drawn into their emotional response to it.  The respondent will then respond at that close level and try to draw the level back, diffusing the emotion.

An important element in a novel is the controlled release of information, and the exchange of certain types of information will only occur at the appropriate level.

I am using letters between the three daughters and their parents, and for each of them I consciously set patterns of psychic level and the jumps in level as defining character.

A letter is interesting because it makes you think about these levels, and often sometimes the correspondents are trying to shift each other’s level, either getting them to engage more closely with events around them, or drawing them back when it gets too close to be comfortable.

To summarise, there are, for me, the following elements which can be buried within psychic distance:

  • Observation distance
  • Involvement in action
  • Emotional involvement
  • Interpretive level
  • Time span of the moment within the narration (is it the immediate undigested experience or a longer processed time frame).

It can be advantageous to separate these out, and manipulate them independently, and thinking about and analyzing them.

I am not trying to push my interpretation of this generally, but I would advocate reading Gardner, and more generally around this subject and see how other people have interpreted this, and working out what is useful for your writing.

It is also worth reading Genette’s Narrative Discourse and checking what he says narrative or diegetic level and being clear on this in relation to psychic level.

To read further about psychic distance, see John Gardner – the Art of Fiction and Emma Darwin’s blog.

Martin’s novel, ‘A Place of Safety’ will be published by Salt in spring 2018.

John Beresford is one our authors published in I You He She It – a collection of short stories and poems developed out of the Grist project. As part of #OAWeek we asked him to discuss his writing processes and and how he approached the challenge of a short story.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

Dealing with ‘writer’s block’

My Grist anthology piece is part of a “100 Day Writing Challenge” I set myself during a period of writerly inactivity following the publication of my first novel in 2012. I had several ideas for a second novel but while I was trying to decide on a direction, I hadn’t been doing any actual writing. A conversation with my daughter about how important it is to keep your hand in with artistic endeavour, flex the creative muscles, and not worry too much about the quality of the output (at least initially) but instead concentrate on getting it done and trying new things, uncovered obvious parallels between the painting challenge she was working on at the time, and my writing.

Writing as a challenge

Working from a list of 100 themes my challenge was to write for thirty minutes without editing or revision of any kind on whatever the theme suggested to me. There are many examples of such “theme lists” online. The one I used can be found here. Feel free to reuse it if the idea of the challenge piques your interest.

I didn’t intend to restrict myself to narrative fiction. If the theme evoked poetry then I was happy to rhyme for the period instead – I think there’s one example of this; an amusing bit of doggerel (what do you expect in 30 minutes?) entitled Never Again – or if it triggered a personal memory the writing took the form of a blog entry, but the majority of the 100 entries are fictional.

At the outset I expected there to be a large number of unfinished pieces, but it didn’t turn out that way. With some kind of innate writer’s clock I very quickly developed a feel for how much text could be contained in half an hour, and with the exception of three or four early attempts I was able to bring each entry to a satisfactory conclusion in the time allowed. I also hoped to come out of the challenge with a few gems – maybe a scene or two I could use in that novel I was heading towards, or the germ of an idea for a short story. In the end I did use adapted versions of several entries in Gatekeeper, and also began to develop an idea for a collection of short stories with a narrative link.

What I didn’t expect was empirical proof that writing becomes easier the more you engage in it. During the course of the Challenge my average word count for each piece rose from 550 to almost 900. At nine hundred words a day, in only thirty minutes a day, you could have the first draft of a decent length novel in the time I took to complete this challenge.

An absence of editing

I submitted ‘Stirring of the Wind’ to Grist exactly as it stood: still unedited. Looking at it now, to me it’s an object lesson in first drafting. I’d clearly been able to silence my inner editor for those thirty minutes. The piece flows quite well and, if you’ll forgive the self-critique, has some nice descriptive passages. The idea of Neil’s reflection turning into mourning for his lost first love only occurred to me during the writing, and I think brings added poignancy to what was already a subdued piece, with its parallel between the autumn of the year and of Neil’s life. With critical hindsight, it suffers from the lack of editing in what for me is a common slip – the reuse of similar words or phrases in close proximity. ‘Shook – or shaking – loose’ appears twice in the early part of the second (non-dialogue) paragraph. ‘Handfuls’ is not a word you would want to use more than once in a piece of this length, and even ‘leaves’, with some judicious journeying through thesaurus and dictionary, could have been spared its current exhaustion.

But that’s the point of first drafts. As Shannon Hale says: ‘I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.’ And the point of the 100 Day Challenge exercise is to let loose your creativity and try new things, where a degree of discomfort with the theme is probably a Good Thing.

With those few scenes in the bag, I completed Gatekeeper and it was published in 2015. I’m currently working on a sequel, which is proving to be several orders of magnitude more challenging than writing a novel in the first place, but that’s probably a story for another time.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

The Press joins OASPA just in time for #OAWeek

The Press joins OASPA just in time for #OAWeek

After a lot of hard work on our application and submission process, we are delighted to announce that we are now official members of OASPA – the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

An international organisation with members including the Open Library of Humanities, Ubiquity, Portland Press, BMJ and Springer (to name just a few), OASPA is at the heart of the open access publishing community:

Editing an open access student research journal

Editing an open access student research journal

Paul Ward is Professor of Modern British History and Head of the Department of History, English, Languages and Media at the University of Huddersfield. He is also the current Editor of Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past – our postgraduate research journal based in the History department. As part of #OAWeek we invited Paul to talk to us about his experiences of publishing a student-focused open access journal.

Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past is a journal run from the research-intensive history department at the University of Huddersfield. With about 10 staff, 20 PhD students and 20 MA by research students, we are quite a large research community. Staff publish their research in a number of journals and we wanted a way to introduce our research students to the world of academic publishing. Each year we have a postgraduate conference, including many speakers from other universities. To develop the academic employability of speakers we decided to encourage them to submit their revised conference papers to the journal, which is then normally published once a year.

Many people have horror stories about the academic peer process – anonymous comments from academics to whom the editor of the journal send a submitted article. Some peer reviews are simply unacceptable, but many others are emotionally bruising and undermine confidence – and worse, since mental health issues are increasingly common in academia ruled by league tables and precarious employment.

A supportive publishing process

We wanted our journal to be different. Essays in PPP are published after a supportive peer review process, in which an established academic and a PhD student each comment on the submissions, returning them to the authors for revisions as appropriate. They then go for a second round of peer review, to academics at universities across the UK, in order to guide the authors through the stages of the journal publication process. At each step, the editorial team encouraged positivity alongside rigour to ensure that the essays are of high quality and suggestions for change are made with the feelings of the authors in mind.

There seems to me to be nothing unusual about this way of working, yet it was picked up by Times Higher Education as a (brief) story, who thought keeping authors’ feelings in mind was newsworthy.

For a long time, academia believed in the invisibility of the author as corollary to the belief in ‘objectivity’. In fact, it often led to exclusivity and, in anonymous peer review, to a lack of sensitivity to the humanity of the author. A more supportive approach fits with the mood of the digital doctoral age. Social media and digital technologies connect PhD students in ways that were unimaginable to previous generations. It enables them to publish the results of their research easily and readily, but it also provides support networks so that what they publish is often well developed, well thought out, and results from collaborative effort.

Dealing with rejection

We have faced some problems, one of which is that the encouragement to publish has led to some authors submitting articles too early on in their learning and researching. The advantage of peer review is that it provides quality assurance against under-researched and under-analysed ideas and interpretations. Like all difficult tasks, writing for an academic journal is challenging. We have rejected a couple of articles, even after the peer review process. And some authors have not made the revisions that peer reviewers have suggested, possibly because the scale of the task has seemed to great alongside completing a Masters by research or PhD thesis.

Nonetheless, publishing PPP has been very valuable. We have had an enormous range of articles, covering medieval jousting, female combatants in contemporary Colombia, army reform in Edwardian Britain, terraced housing, psychiatry in imperial India and witchcraft in early modern England. It enables potential authors to dip their toes in the water of academic publishing and, hopefully, also encourages them to be supportive of other academics as they progress in their future careers.

Read all issues of Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past online, open access.