Using Open Journal System to discuss human development and international cooperation: the experience of Universitas Forum

Roberta Pellizzoli, Sara Swartz

Full Text: Presentation


Universitas Forum - International Journal on Human Development and International Cooperation is a new electronic and multilingual journal that offers critical analysis of current approaches to international development cooperation and practice-based research concerning global and local human development and the role that international cooperation can play in fostering such processes. The journal provides a forum for debate and the exchange of ideas and experiences among practitioners, academics and policy shapers coming from different developmental, cultural and institutional contexts. Universitas Forum is published in four languages: English, French, Italian and Spanish. The full texts of articles, however, are published in the original language only, unless translations are provided by the authors.

The journal aims at meeting the need for a systematization of the experiences of many actors that, in numerous countries, have been involved in development practice with a specific focus on a human development approach; that is, an approach which is territorial, participatory, intersectoral and interdisciplinary. In the experience of the editors, many excellent and potentially innovative experiences developed over the past years have not been adequately documented or shared beyond the actors directly involved, and thus have not been translated into “knowledge”. There are several reasons for this: time constraints of many development actors, an often stereotyped dichotomy between those who write about development in the academy and those who practice international cooperation and implement development projects and policies, the existence of a dominant body of knowledge about development and international cooperation that has tended to privilege the perspective of certain actors and institutions, marginalizing those from different cultures and developmental contexts. Furthermore, communication across different languages and their respective social and cultural references is often difficult. The editors also consider that increased partnerships between local and international development actors, and between researchers and practitioners from the South and the North could help nurture the co-construction, articulation and dissemination of knowledge for human development. Universities are called upon to respond to this challenge and to effectively contribute to knowledge' sharing, taking in particular consideration potentially innovative experiences coming from the South.

The Open Journal System provides a crucial opportunity for accessing and disseminating knowledge and meets Universitas Forum’s need for giving as many people as possible the opportunity to freely read, download, copy, translate, distribute, and print articles and other materials published in different languages. However, given the journal’s aims and audience, some OJS characteristics have proved to be a limit rather than an opportunity: the system privileges English as a default language, relegating other languages as secondary. Navigating the site from one language to the other is complicated, and tends to discourage “non-academic” users; customizing options are limited; the whole submission procedure can prove very complex for those who are not highly computer-literate.

The paper aims at discussing the possibilities that OJS offers for creating and managing an “open-space” where different development actors can debate and exchange ideas and experiences, while at the same time discussing constraints and room for improvement of the system.



development; knowledge; OJS