The Atlantic Student Research Journal (ASRJ) has traditionally focused its efforts on STEM fields. Recently, however, the team has expressed interest in expanding toward the arts. The ASRJ’s mission has always been to highlight groundbreaking research being undertaken in Atlantic Canada, as well as making research, “accessible and comprehensible to undergraduate students and the public.”
Last week, the Brunswickan spoke with the ASRJ’s senior editor Daniel Smith to discuss the journal’s move to include more non-STEM articles. Smith first walked me through the process of being a writer for the ASRJ. “You start with a topic idea. What you’ll do is reach out to a local researcher in any field,” he explained. “You have an interview base and just ask them questions, pick their brain, gather some more information and kind of go through a draft of this process. Then, obviously, we publish.”
Smith went on to elaborate on the types of articles written for and edited by the ASRJ. “There’s really a variety of different ways you can write your article. You can have a researcher’s journey, so maybe the path that they took to get to where they are now,” he told me. “We have research content which is usually what prospective writers go through and that’s as it sounds. You write on what the researcher is doing, which is pretty common and can be really interesting. You can do a review of the literature and the surrounding information in the field and try and hone in on one spot for people looking for information in a niche area. Sometimes that information is really scattered so it’s nice to have it all in one place. Lastly, we have our ‘other’ section which is really up to the writer. What we do is really emphasize the creativity of our writers. We want to highlight them because really that’s what makes us run, is having creative, unique, diverse writers from everywhere, because it best reflects who we are and what we want to publish.”
Smith highlighted a need for further diversity in content: “The ASRJ originally was started up by some now medical students, and at the time that they started it, it was really just STEM, STEM, STEM and chemistry, chemistry, chemistry. We’ve started to drift away from that, which is awesome, and something that we’re trying to do now,” he explained.
“We want to have a good portfolio of articles to really draw in readers from everywhere. Something we try to do is bridge the communication gap between science and literature and the reader. For example, I’m a fourth year medicinal chemistry student so maybe I’ll be pretty articulate in chemistry but if I’m reading something in astrophysics or economics or psychology, I may not know a whole lot. So what we try and stress to our writers is, yes you want to present correct information in a creative way, but at the same time you really have to bridge the communication gap between the reader.”
I asked Smith to further elaborate on why the ASRJ has decided to branch out beyond STEM. Smith said he had been discouraged by a few “unfortunate” individuals in STEM who tend to talk down on the arts. Smith denounced this type of attitude. “That is completely inappropriate and wrong because that’s what makes society function… having someone good in every different field. I think that’s who we are as the ASRJ – we really want to reflect our entire community and all of the research being done in that community, not just one specific area.”
Smith continued: “There are really great professors in all disciplines. We really want to highlight those people and we want to highlight them in our community. Maybe we say that there’s really good economists in Ontario, Toronto… but there’s also really great economists in Fredericton.”
Highlighting the Fredericton area and the Atlantic provinces remains central to the ASRJ’s mission. “We really stress Atlantic Canada because there are some tremendous things being done in our province in terms of research,” he offered. “It’s unfortunate that there isn’t always exposure on it, so we really want to highlight what’s being done here.”
We can all look forward to the variety of articles coming out of the ASRJ in the near future. If you want to participate with the journal, or know someone whose research deserves a wider audience, you can submit an article or contact the Atlantic Student Research Journal.