by Egenaz Kiraz

“It is a journal run by students and for students.”

The Journal of European Psychology Students (JEPS) is a peer-reviewed journal that has been publishing the articles written by psychology students and promoting open science since 2009. JEPS is a student-run, open-access journal that helps psychology students gain publishing experience and advance their careers. We talked to Leonhard Volz and Eva Štrukelj, the current and previous editors-in-chief of JEPS, to learn about how it all works in a student-centered journal that values open science greatly.

Can you introduce yourselves? What are your roles in the journal?

Leonhard: I’m Leonhard Volz, the current editor-in-chief of JEPS. I’m ultimately responsible for the whole journal right now. Some of my roles are communicating with people, distributing the work on manuscripts to editors, and training new editors. Given that it’s a student journal there might be more administrative work than other journals for the editor-in-chief, but I think that’s my role in short.

Eva: I’m Eva Štrukelj. I was the editor-in-chief prior to Leonhard. I’ve been in the journal for three years, from being an editor to slowly moving up this ladder. Even though I’m not related to JEPS at the moment, I have experience in different roles. 

What Journal of European Psychology Students is? What are its defining features?

Leonhard: I think that the most defining feature is that it is a journal run by students and for students where research is for research. It’s different from the traditional scientific journals but as compared to other student journals we follow the traditional journal infrastructure much more closely. We do offer peer review by researchers from the field and we work with international experts. While most student journals are also more local at a given university or country, JEPS is a European project and is open for students from all over the world. I think that people who submit to JEPS are also more international than with any other student journal. The open science advocacy focus within JEPS is very defining as well. “We are the only student journal that offers and professionally peer reviews Registered Reports for students.” We have been one of the first ten journals in the world to do that. 

Since you both shared the same role in the journal, how was the experience of being the editor-in-chief?

Eva: It was completely different than when I had the role of an editor because as an editor-in-chief you’re not reviewing as many articles. Your job is more to make sure that things are done on time, that no contacts get lost, that you have an overview of all the projects that the journal is doing. So, you are left with little time to read the student papers. The role of the editor-in-chief is much more administrative. 

Leonhard: In general, it’s interesting to read literature, but the way in which you read a paper is of course different than when you read it as a student. You evaluate how it can be improved. I think it helped me get better at writing scientifically myself. It’s also interesting to learn about different topics. Because we’re a general-purpose psychology journal, there are submissions from various areas. You learn about different topics. Also methodologically, you have a wide range of different approaches to psychology. It has been a valuable learning experience for me: Transitioning more to an administrative role, thinking more about the journal in long-term, getting into the scientific publishing world, and learning much more about open science… Because that’s what we are implementing. I was always interested in looking for different initiatives in open science and publishing. Now as editor-in-chief, I also have to train new people and lead the team. Being part of a student organization, you learn how to manage or motivate people, to work together to achieve a common goal. It’s probably one of the biggest learning opportunities in the world of science just because of the variety of things that you do.

What was your motivation for becoming apart of the team?

Eva: I actually discovered JEPS through its Facebook group, where people were very helpful to other students. Also, I was always pretty meticulous about the APA norms and this motivated me. I saw being an editor as the perfect opportunity to learn something new, to read papers for a higher purpose and not just for myself, and to get better at scientific writing.

Leonhard: I’ve always been interested in research, that’s what I am studying. I first joined the European Federation of Psychology Students Associations (EFPSA) by attending the conference. I probably took the more traditional route where I first joined the EFPSA and attended their events. At the Congress, I also heard of JEPS in a presentation by Fabian Dunlander and Sophia Crüwell. Because of my research interest, I applied to JEPS when there was a call and got selected. That was what got me into JEPS, and I somehow climbed the ranks quickly.

There were different learning experiences and I think that makes my experience in JEPS very valuable.”

You mentioned that you’re looking out to implement different open science practices. How do you encourage these in the journal?

Leonhard: I think that pre-registration is one of the most important things. We offer Registered Reports for student research and have it reviewed by experts. I think that’s probably the most unique thing about JEPS in the sense.

Eva: In addition to Registered Reports, we are active with research summer schools, especially those connected with EFPSA. We deliver talks about how important Registered Reports are and why we encourage them. We also offer special guidance to 

the research school in EFPSA.When you ask someone to write a paper that is structured differently, it’s easier to be motivated if you have someone who shows you the way. 

Leonhard: I think the most important thing is Registered Reports in open science promotion as a journal. We are currently transitioning to introducing the TOP guidelines. Most importantly, we promote open science to students.In the research summer school, we have workshops on open science practices and doing science more generally.

We also have our blog where we promote open science in addition to other scientific topics and do interviews with people in the open science world.We are attending student conferences and giving talks and workshops, primarily about JEPS, and secondarily about open science practices. Eva recently wrote a nice blog post under the name “Writing a Systematic Literature Review”, which I can definitely recommend. Also, it’s very nice if you write about science in more accessible formats. 

In your Registered Reports process, you give expert reviews to students. How does this work given that most students are bound to their supervisors or schools? 

Leonhard: We are working on just getting it out there more, letting students know that we offer Registered Reports and that getting expert reviews on your projects is a valuable experience. But I think that’s one of the issues that research is often tied to university cycles. Publishing research in Registered Reports format takes time and that might not always fit the structure. That’s why we connect to the summer school more closely in the context of Registered Reports. Because it is a student research project that’s not tied to the university so it’s more flexible.

Eva: Also, it is important that the author of the manuscript is the person who is in direct contact with the journal. Students don’t only learn how to write the papers, but they also learn how to communicate with publishers. To us, it’s important that as an editor you’re not talking to a supervisor and trying to negotiate the time frame with them. We let the students do that on their own and decide what is best for them.

That’s really student centred!

Leonhard: I think that’s exactly the idea of JEPS. The original idea, going back over a decade, was that students do a lot of valuable work in their research projects that just doesn’t get out there. Back then, it wasn’t getting recognized for what it is and it’s also just research that is wasted because no one can access it. So, EFPSA decided to establish a journal for students that would help them get their work recognized and give students the experience of publishing, in an open science ideal to have the work accessible.

Publishing is a very important step in the research process but a step that is basically not taught within universities. Therefore, publishing in JEPS is also a nice way to transition into a researcher role during your studies and gaining valuable experience that we wouldn’t get otherwise in a more constructive manner than it would be in other journals. I think that’s what is unique about JEPS as well. Our goal as editors is not deciding on whether this should be published or not but to give feedback to students until the work is ready to get published. 

There are no desk rejections with the JEPS for example, for the reason that we want to give this learning opportunity to students. JEPS is providing a learning opportunity to students both in terms of being part of the research process you wouldn’t within the university and also receiving valuable feedback on things you did learn in university such as writing and arguing in a scientific manner or reporting your methods and results. The way you best learn this is applying the knowledge and many students don’t have this opportunity in their universities.

“A journal for students to help them get their work recognized and give them the experience of publishing, in an open science ideal to have the student work accessible”

How long does it take for you to get an article ready to be published on average?

Eva: I would say from six months to a year. There were a few exceptions, obviously when the manuscripts were exceptionally good. There was for example the time when a manuscript got published within three months. But it usually gets stuck in the process of finding experts from the field. It’s the same problem that most of the journals face. When looking for reviewers from the specific field, it’s sometimes hard to find someone who is really suitable or someone who has time. I would say between six months and a year is the usual.

Leonhard: Our goal as a journal is to have quality standards for our published articles that match the best practice in psychology. Unfortunately, on the other hand, if you are a student you’re still in the learning process of how to do research. So, compared to more experienced researchers you need to go through multiple rounds of review because we need to get to a stage where it meets the quality criteria. That unfortunately prolongs the process a bit, but if you plan to publish research it takes time. 

How do you select the articles that you want to publish? What is the criteria?

Eva: The general requirement is to follow our template. Until the manuscript is in a template form unfortunately that’s usually a straightforward rejection. That’s also because when you ask the authors to change it, it shows their motivation. If they’re prepared to work on the template, it shows that they really want to go forward with the publishing process. We only accept literature reviews, Registered Reports and research articles. Besides that, we check for general methodological standards, but we don’t go much into details as student editors.  We leave the content to the associate editors, but we go through the papers before we send it to them.

Leonhard: I will start with more general points for anyone who’s not familiar with how publishing works. You as a researcher first submit your work to the journal. The editor-in-chief, then assigns this article to an editor, who checks whether the article meets the requirements. The article goes to peer review where at least two peer reviewers who are the experts in the field give feedback and do their review. It then gets back to the editor, who makes a decision on the manuscript which involves asking “Do we reject this manuscript because it’s qualitatively not good enough? Do we let the authors revise it or do we just accept it at this point?” We don’t want this rejection and that stands for us. We usually want to continue with the process. What is specific about us is that we have a two-stage process where first a manuscript arrives at us as student editors. We do a first review called a “technical review”. If we think that a manuscript is good enough so that we can’t give any feedback anymore, it gets to our associate editors, who are later stage PhD students or early postdoc researchers. They have more research experience, and they handle the “content review”. They then assign the article to reviewers and do a review themselves. This two-stage process is different but allows us to have a more feedback-oriented process. It also narrows the area of expertise, because we are just students. That’s how we get more content expertise to the authors. At this stage the reviews come back from reviewers and the associate editor decides whether it’s fit for acceptance or what it needs as revisions. In both stages, the technical review and content review, we usually have multiple rounds until it meets quality standards. While submitting to JEPS is not specifically limited to psychology students, the topic of your research should be psychology related. 

Do you think that the article processing charge of 250 euros that you ask for demotivates students to submit their work JEPS? 

Leonhard: It discourages students unfortunately. That’s probably one of the most frequent questions we get. I frequently answer a mail with the same question about how to get a waiver for the publication fee. I think it’s important to realize that it’s more of a nominal fee rather than an actual fee because we don’t want students to pay article processing charges. We’re also currently trying to transition to a free publishing model, called the “Diamond Open Access”. It’s free for both researchers and the readers, which is a financial question for us at the moment. The article processing charge will only apply for students who can get it covered by their universities. Some universities do offer funding for the students but unfortunately most don’t. If you submit work where you had a supervisor, they would usually be a co-author of your paper and would also be applicable for publication funding at your institution. I think that this unfortunately does discourage students and we’re trying to get to a model where this is not an issue at all anymore, but you will in JEPS not have to pay out of pocket. On the other hand, it might be an interesting experience just to go through this stage of the research process and learn how to get the money to publish your research in the current system.

Eva: To be honest, in a lot of cases when people can’t find the information about how much we charge for the publishing costs, a lot of students were also surprised. Because in comparison to other journals it’s still a relatively cheap price. So, some of them would even opt for this option, they would be willing to pay at least for our internal communication because it’s still a way to get published, a way to get your work recognized and for a relatively cheap price in comparison to bigger publishing houses. 

How can a student become part of the JEPS community? 

How can a student become part of the JEPS community?  Leonhard: Of course, everyone is invited to submit to JEPS as an author. If you already wrote your manuscript, why not just submit it to JEPS as well? Second, if you are very passionate about research and writing, you can apply to us for becoming an editor, at the end of your bachelors or during your master studies where you gained enough research experience. For this, we have a mandate structure that’s tied to EFPSA, which goes from April to April. In April, there is a call for our editors, and you would then apply for this position with a motivation statement. We’re currently debating how to restructure this process but right now it’s the motivation statement and interview. Then you can become an editor. Alternatively, we have JEPS Ambassadors” which is a campaign to promote JEPS, but also student research and open science practices. We would work together with you for you to give workshops at your university to other students or engage with open science in student research more locally. You could also become part of one of the other teams in EFPSA and work together with us on specific projects. For example, together with the policy team in EFPSA, we’re working to have a more policy-oriented approach to open science. We also work together with the research program team on research projects. There are a couple of other teams for psychology students in EFPSA as well, where you can do interesting volunteer work. They are always open to work together with us on science and open science related projects. 

Did you experience any challenges because of the current health crisis? How did COVID-19 affect you as a journal?

Eva: The whole EFPSA community including the JEPS team have this tradition of meeting in person at least twice per year because we always see each other virtually. It’s important that, at least once during your mandate, you meet the team you’re working with in-person. This year it couldn’t happen. That’s usually a week. One is called the “Congress”, where the new mandate starts, and the new team is selected and presented. The second is around October-November, where only the working community of EFPSA meets without any externals. It’s usually one of the most productive weeks of EFPSA because you have everyone and all the services at one place and you don’t have to write emails. So, the communication is a bit smoother but this year this unfortunately couldn’t happen in-person.

Leonhard: Structurally not that much has changed because we have always been working online with editors from all over Europe. So, we didn’t have to switch to just working online but those two meetings changed. There is “the Annual EFPSA Congress” where the mandate kicks off and to which most of the editors usually attend. A semi-scientific congress, where you would meet with other psychology students from all over Europe. It’s in general an amazing opportunity for psychology students to meet other students, have engaging conversations and present scientific work. I think that’s another nice opportunity that you can submit posters to poster presentations, you can give workshops, engage with other people both on a scientific but also on a personal level. In the middle of the mandate, there would be an in-person working meeting again with everyone from the EFPSA working community. We as JEPS would also prepare content for the Congress such as presentations or workshops that we would like to give as editors to educate other students. Unfortunately, this year the Congress was cancelled altogether because it would’ve been in April. They planned it to be in-person and they couldn’t make the switch to online in the amount of time they had. Next year’s congress in April will be online and hopefully from the end of next year on will be able to meet in person again. 

What’s in the future of JEPS? Do you see the journal moving into a certain direction?

Leonhard: There are a couple things! We would definitely properly implement the Diamond Open Accessand the TOP guidelines in the near future, so more explicitly encouraging open science practices. We’d like to also award the open science badges for articles that meet those standards hence more actively promoting open data, open materials and pre-registration. Another goal would be connecting to other open science-oriented student organizations, such as SIOS, to more generally work together on promoting open science. Also connecting more to the scientific community as well, for example by attending more conferences to introduce JEPS. In February, there will be “The Open Science Conference” organized by the Leibniz Centers where I will give a talk about JEPS and connected it to student research more generally. There are a couple of things but those are the most important ones to implement open science practices even more within JEPS. 

“Another goal would be connecting to other open science-oriented student organizations, such as SIOS, to work together on promoting open science.”

If there is anything else you would like to share. This is also the time to get something out for the community if you want to promote anything.

Leonhard: Follow JEPS on social media to be up to date with everything. Engage with open science in one way or the other. For example, SIOS just published a step-by-step guide on how you could implement your own student open science initiative. Follow SIOS on social media as well. We would also be happy to work together with our ambassador program. If you’re interested in doing research later on, probably now is the best time to start. Opportunities like EFPSA and JEPS in particular are amazing learning experiences for that. 

Do you have any questions or anything you want to add?  

Eva: When you were asking about how we can motivate students, I think it’s really hard to do it from so far away so it’s important that there are student organizations that know about JEPS and directly help the students at their university. I think it’s really important and it makes it a lot easier and more effective if there is someone at the university who can help other students with this kind of publishing or with JEPS in particular. 

Leonhard: If you support the idea of JEPS, just reach out to us. If you’re, for example, teaching students and you see that someone is interested in the scientific career then encourage them to submit to JEPS. I think our Registered Reports format is something we’d like to further implement in the future as well. This could work very well with university courses. For example, supervisors can encourage their students to do their thesis in Registered Reports format. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any ideas or questions. 

The links for some open science related events and pages mentioned during the interview can be found below:

A Step-by-Step Guide to creating a Student Initiative for Open Science (SIOS): https://osf.io/5a637/

EFPSA Congress 2021 website: https://more.efpsa.org/congress2021/efpsa/

EFPSA website: https://www.efpsa.org

JEPS website:  https://jeps.efpsa.org

The Call for Ambassadors of the JEPS: https://www.efpsa.org/2019/07/23/the-call-for-the-ambassadors-of-the-journal-of-european-psychology-students-is-now-open/

The Open Science Conference 2021: https://www.open-science-conference.eu

Website of JEPS Bulletin (the official blog of JEPS): https://blog.efpsa.org

Writing a Systematic Literature Review (blog post by Eva Štrukelj): https://blog.efpsa.org/2018/01/03/writing-a-systematic-literature-review/#more-5166

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