Written by Davies, J G.
In October 2014, within the first weeks of starting a PhD at the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage University of Birmingham, one of the senior lecturers proposed that a journal be established by the new PhD researchers. The aim was that by establishing a journal it would create a sense of community amongst the department’s full time and part time postgraduate students. Furthermore as one of four Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded PhD researchers working through a collaborative doctoral award programme, it meant that there would be four full time students based at the Institute who would be able to lead such an initiative.
Setting up the journal
With the idea being positively received by students, the first step was to hold a meeting to discuss the format, scope and management of the journal along with a brand name and logo. It was decided that the four AHRC funded postgraduate would take the lead and form the editorial board. Full time and part time students would contribute by writing articles and book reviews along with being anonymous peer reviewers who would assist in the editorial process.
In terms of scope given that the Institute is one of cultural heritage, it was only right that the journal compliment this. Given the diversity in research undertaken in the department from built heritage to historic landscapes, museums and heritage sites, world heritage sites, intangible heritage and digital heritage, the scope of the journal was the follow the holistic understanding of cultural heritage. To provide a focus, each issue of the journal was to be on a specific cultural heritage theme chosen by the editorial board.
The name furnace was chosen to reflect the heritage of the Institute. The Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage was founded in 1980 as a result of a partnership between the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and the University of Birmingham. Given its origins in Ironbridge, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, we sought to echo this in the brand name. The name furnace derived from the Darby furnace which is one of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site inscribed monuments. This is also reflected in the logo which mirrors the pyramid shaped cover over the Darby furnace.
Given the international composition of the department’s postgraduate community and the global digital age in which we live, we wanted to reflect this in the nature of the journal. Firstly we aimed for each issue to include papers by authors and on research from all over the world. To achieve this we would need to attract submissions from beyond the department and therefore we would advertise the call for papers globally through social media (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and existing digital postgraduate and cultural heritage networks. Whilst the journal would be the Institute’s postgraduate journal it would not be solely for current students but would aim to be a space for cultural heritage postgraduates globally edited by Ironbridge students.
Secondly in today's digital age in order to achieve the international aims, a printed journal would not suffice. Given the high costs involved, a printed journal was always out of the question, as there was no budget for this initiative, only our own time and energy. Furthermore printed journals are a thing of the past; open access digital journals are not only the future but the present. It was decided that our journal would be a free open access online journal. To achieve this, a simple Wordpress site was set up for free by the author (Figure 1). The site would be used to host the call for papers, submission guidelines, editor biographies and the journal issues themselves. The format of the online journal would be downloadable pdf articles and an interactive and downloadable full issue through the website ISSUU - https://issuu.com/furnacejournal (Figures 2 and 3). The advantage of Wordpress is that is free to set up and run and that it's easy to use interface allows for a quick setup and management. This ease of use is essential for the legacy of the journal as it will enable those lacking in digital confidence to take over control.
The webpage was designed with interactivity in mind as it includes a countdown widget to the deadline for the next call for papers and a feed from the furnace journal Twitter feed (@furnacejournal), as illustrated in Figure 4. The ISSUU version includes hyperlinks and bookmarks also.
An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) was obtained to professionalise the journal. An ISSN is an 8-digit code used to identify newspapers, journals, magazines and periodicals of all kinds–print and electronic. A link to the journal was included in the University’s library catalogue also.
The first theme for the journal was decided as ‘Cultural Heritage in an International Age’. A call for papers was issued in November 2014, emailed out to students in the Institute and those within the University and beyond. The Twitter account, set up in December 2014 (now with 361 followers), was used to promote the call for papers, an approach which was very successful. Submissions were then read by two different peer reviewers from the Institute (full time and distance students) to assess if it met the call for papers criteria, before the lead editors responded with corrections to be made. Once the corrections were made they sent back to the lead editors who checked the articles, before sending them to myself (the copy editor), to standardise the formatting and get them ready for online publishing (individual pdfs and full interactive version), as illustrated by Figures 4 and 5. In June 2015 our first issue of furnace Journal was published online. The 46 page issue included an introduction by the head of the Institute, editorial by the lead editors, a keynote article by a member of staff from the institute and four articles. The journal was a success, with crowd sourced articles from postgraduates from Thailand, Germany, China and Australia.
Following the same format, but with different lead editors, a call for papers for the second issue was published, this time on the theme of ‘Cultural heritage in a digital age’ in February 2015. We were able publish it online in October 2015. This issue was double the length of the first edition, and included a keynote article by a Professor from the University of Birmingham’s Department of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, confirming the interdisciplinary scope of the journal. The issue included six articles and an exhibition review, by authors from Australia, Turkey, Italy, Israel and the University of Birmingham. The journal also included an exclusive statement by the new International Council on Monuments and Sites UK Digital Technology Committee, as a result of contacts by the lead author.
The third issue was published in June 2016 on the theme ‘Industrial World Heritage’. It is the start of a run of four issues based upon the research of and edited by each of the AHRC studentships (who form the editorial board). The issue contained a keynote article; five crowd sourced articles and a book review. The keynote article came from a Professor from a university in America, with whom the Institute has a strategic partnership. Articles came from postgraduates from Austria, China, Brazil and the UK.
The fourth issue (edited by the author) is on the theme ‘World Heritage Education’ and will be published in September 2016. This issue includes three articles by authors from the UK, Botswana and India as well as World Heritage Youth summit reviews from the UK, Germany and Ghana. A keynote statement by the Focal Point for UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme has also been secured. It is the first time a journal has focused on World Heritage Education and the first time World Heritage Youth Summit participants have published work together.
The current call for papers is for the fifth issue on ‘World Heritage and Communities’ and the theme for the sixth issue will be ‘World Heritage Tourism’.
The advantage of an online journal is the wealth of statistical data available to evaluate the success of the journal. The 3 online ISSUU publications have been read a total of 1694 times, but has reached 9,340 people (June 2015-August 2016). The average reading time of the interactive editions is 1:31 minutes for the 1st issue, 2:44 minutes for the 2nd issue and 5:24 for the 3rd issue. The interactive journal has been read mainly on desktops (81%), followed by mobile devices (16%) then tablets (3%).
The furnace Journal Wordpress blog which includes the call for papers and individual issues has been viewed 12,794 times by 4,989 visitors since November 2014. Figure 6 shows the geographic reach of the journal as it shows the number of views by country. This data shows how successful this initiative has been.
The success is down to the significant time and energy put in by the postgraduates of the editorial board. The key challenge has been the editing of submissions by English as a foreign language student. Whilst it was always the aim to promote international publications and we were aware of the disparity in standard between English speaking and non-English authors, the reality was that a lot of time was spent working with authors to correct language and grammar.
The challenge for the future is the sustainability of the journal. Following the four themed issues based upon and edited by the Institute’s AHRC researchers, which will take the journal to six published issues by the end of 2017. However as the researchers will have completed their PhD’s and may not be at the Institute, a new editorial board is sought. The Institute has no undergraduate students only taught and research postgraduates, therefore the challenge is finding enough new PhD students who will be at the Institute for up to three years to take over the editorial board.
furnace Journal has shown that in today’s global digital age, free open access online journals are an essential mechanism to engage the postgraduate community and ensure research is published and accessible for all (both academia and the wider public). Whilst this may be a successful example of a low cost initiative, with no monetary costs, it is very labour intensive. furnace Journal has succeeded beyond a doubt in terms of global reach, digital engagement and issues published, however its true success will hinge upon its longevity, for which only time will tell.
About the Author
Davies, J G.
UK, Teaching Fellow in Cultural Heritage and PhD researcher at the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, Univeristy of Birmingham, email@example.com
Jamie is a Teaching Fellow in Cultural Heritage and a PhD researcher at the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham. The PhD is on Education at World Heritage Sites- How are World Heritage Values communicated within the formal learning process. Jamie holds an Archaeology BA and International Cultural Heritage Management MA from Durham University.