On publishing in undergraduate journals

Today I received a document in my inbox that I have practically begged for and I am afraid to open it.  It’s a paper revision from students for an undergraduate journal.  This paper started out as a lab paper and I gave students the opportunity to work with me to publish it in an undergrad journal if they so desired.  This is the second time I’ve attempted this.  The first time I had an extremely organized student take the bait so I knew my job would be fairly easy.  What made the process difficult on that go round was the fact that the undergraduate editor changed about 3 times during the time we were working with the journal.  It took over a year (from Dec 18, 2012 until Feb 18, 2014) to complete the process.  The only reason I was able to stick it out for so long was because the student was a gem, even beyond graduation, keeping in touch and meeting deadlines I created.  Fast forward to our current situation.  This time I decided to go with an undergraduate journal with a more established history in hopes that the process would go faster.  For some technical reason that I still don’t understand, our submission wasn’t even in existence, according to the journal, for 3 months.  Once we got over that hurdle it only took them 5 weeks to get back to us with a decision (accepted with revisions) so I thought we were on our way.  In this case, the stall (it’s been 2 months since we heard the decision) is the students.  I am working with 2 students, one who graduated shortly after we received the decision and the other will be starting senior year in the fall.  Both are local/live in the state and the one that has graduated will be going to graduate school in the area so I wasn’t too stressed about the change in status.  I’ve given several deadlines and none have been followed.  What usually happens is that I give the deadline, ask if the timing works for them (and if not to suggest an alternative), they say “sure no problem”, and then the date we agree upon shows up and I get an email without an attachment and an excuse in its place.  This started when the recent graduate was still on campus and assured me that the revisions were no problem and surely they could complete them before graduation.  The students weren’t this shoddy in class, but obviously without a grade hanging over them there is no motivation (apparently an “accepted with revisions” publication isn’t a tasty enough angling morsel).  The last time I received a document from them they had focused only on the minor revisions requested–put a period after the 3rd sentence on page 5, etc.–and had done essentially none of the work for the major revisions (despite the fact that the undergraduate editor’s cover letter stated to focus on major revisions because it was likely most of the minor revisions would drop out if they made the requested changes).  I sent my feedback on their “revised” document with a firm statement that they should not waste my time again and actually do the revisions before they send me a document (in nicer words of course).  I also spent about an hour and a half with one of the authors going through my comments.  I am afraid to open my email because already a crucial item is missing–the cover letter back to the editor explaining the revisions that were made.  I hope that when I do open the email I’m either pleasantly surprised or at least I can remain calm as I explain the changes they have still failed to make. I recently read Terry McGlynn’s post on class projects as publishable research and it got me thinking… What about you?  Have you published in undergraduate journals with students?  What were the circumstances of the publication (e.g. it started as a class project, it was a side project of your lab, etc.)?  What are your feelings on publishing in undergraduate journals in general–more work than it’s worth or valuable work with students?


One thought on “On publishing in undergraduate journals

  1. Just an update for fun. It’s August 13, they told me they have it to me “sure, no problem” by August 1. I’ve been assured by them both that it is done, it just needs one more tweek. One of them has started school and is too busy now so has given it to the other one. School starts at our institution in less than 3 weeks. #stillwaiting #willthispapereverbepublished

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