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Open-access social work research journal launches

By Susan White and Michelle Rogers

UNC School of Social Work’s Mark Fraser is editor-in-chief of a newly created electronic journal published by the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR).

Fraser, the School’s John A. Tate Distinguished Professor, is providing editorial direction for the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research (JSSWR), an open-access publication that gives researchers the opportunity to publicly publish their work and retain control over the material.

The journal, available to anyone without a subscription, is expected to publish studies and reports covering a broad range of issues, including mental health, health, child welfare, poverty, employment, criminal justice and housing.

The first edition launched this month. Articles include “Bullying Behavior Prior to Incarceration Among a Sample of Young Offenders,” co-authored by faculty member Matthew Howard; “Building the Cancer Family: Family Planning in the Context of Inherited Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk,” and “Suppressor Variables in Social Work Research: Ways to Identify in Multiple Regression Models.”

Most academic journals are currently printed, copyrighted and distributed by private publishing firms, although they contain material that is largely produced by public institutions. Publication often takes as much as two years.

“Even though publication processes have worked this way for years, somehow it does not seem right,” Fraser noted. “When research is funded by public agencies, knowledge should reside in the public domain.”

Fraser said the new e-journal will “strive to provide peer reviews in the astonishing time of six weeks.” To accomplish that goal, he appointed a large number of reviewers and gave them access to manuscripts via an Internet portal.

“I am committed to rapid turn-around, high quality reviews,” Fraser said. “If we can accelerate the review process, we will help authors who often need to publish findings in order to qualify for a next round of funding.”

In selecting the publication’s new editor, Sarah Gehlert, president of SSWR, said the organization sought “someone who is both an intellectual leader in the field as well as a good manager.”

Fraser, who received SSWR’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2008, also has the experience of managing large research projects, she said.  He currently serves as associate dean for research at the School of Social Work.

“Dr. Fraser’s scholarship is characterized by keen attention to every aspect of the research process, from conceptualization through analysis and publication,” Gehlert said.  “He understands the issues involved in open-access publication, the challenges and merits of electronic submission and the importance of a review process that is both timely and in-depth.”

Fraser’s appointment is also a nod to UNC’s School of Social Work, said Dean Jack Richman.

“Having Dr. Fraser lead this highly accessible, innovative journal once again demonstrates how the School leads the profession in promoting research and evidence-based practice,” Richman said. “These remain the foundation of best practices for all social work professionals.”

Fraser, who has authored or edited nine books and more than 100 journal articles and chapters, said he was honored to serve as the e-journal’s first leader.

“I will do my best to make JSSWR a premiere interdisciplinary resource for both scholars and practitioners,” he said.