A closer look at the University of Guelph’s undergraduate research journal
By Sameer Chhabra
In 2007, an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph had a curious idea.
Matt Teeter, now an associate professor of medical biophysics at the University of Western Ontario, approached members of the Office of Research to find a way to launch an academic journal aimed at showcasing research specifically conducted by the undergraduate student body at the University.
Through a collaboration between the Office of Research and McLaughlin Library, Teeter launched Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph (SURG). The first issue was published in the fall of 2007.
Today, SURG publishes twice-yearly, and the publication’s team of student editors accept article submissions throughout the entire school year.
SURG’s current editor-in-chief, Jack McCart, explains that unlike many other academic journals, SURG is distinguished in two ways.
First, the publication features a bevy of multi-disciplinary research, including animal biology, English, history, mathematics, and everything in-between.
Second, SURG is available exclusively online.
“SURG is freely available and accessible both to students and to interested readers around the world,” says McCart, a fourth-year history and philosophy student.
However, SURG’s eponymous and most notable quality is that it allows undergraduate students --- usually the academic demographic that is least likely to be represented in published research -- an opportunity to have their work featured in an accessible and widely available format.
“Undergraduate researchers typically work within a very limited timeframe, and this means that long-term studies or internationally-conducted research aren’t usually options, for example,” says McCart. “SURG recognizes this, while at the same time introducing students to the academic peer-review and publication processes.”
The publication process typically begins when a supervising faculty member – sometimes the primary investigator on a project -- submits one of their student’s research for consideration.
Karl Cottenie, for example, is an integrative biology professor at the University. He has co-authored two articles in SURG, both featuring research conducted during a two-week-long field course in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park.
“I try to actively identify research projects that would be suitable for SURG, and help students with transforming their course projects into a manuscript,” says Cottenie.
Once an article is received by the SURG editorial team, the editors assess the submission’s suitability.
If an article is deemed suitable for publication, faculty members and other researchers are asked to assess the article and provide feedback for the author.
By involving members of the University faculty, SURG guarantees that each piece of research published in its pages receives the requisite peer review.
Once an article has been appropriately reviewed, the authors are informed that their work will be featured in an upcoming edition of the journal.
However, SURG is more than a boon for undergraduate would-be academics looking for a place to publish their work. As a publication aimed at increasing accessibility for student researchers, the journal’s editor-in-chief and two associate editor positions are all staffed by students at the University.
Additionally, SURG provides a number of volunteer opportunities for students looking to gain experience in academic journal editing and publishing.
The SURG editorial team also works alongside Director of Research Communications Owen Roberts, Manager of Research Communications and Marketing Liz Snyder, and Research and Scholarship Librarian Wayne Johnston.
The SURG advisory committee is also comprised of professors that represent all of the University’s seven affiliated colleges.
SURG is currently working on the Fall 2016 issue. A call for submissions has already been released, but McCart and the SURG editorial team will be accepting articles through the first week of October.