York University brings emergency management journal in-house

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

The Canadian Journal of Emergency Management (CJEM), once published independently, has migrated to York Digital Journals (YDJ) – along with its back catalogue – to pursue a shared goal of providing practitioners and academics a resource to advance their efforts to manage disasters and save lives.

CJEM was launched in 2020 to promote awareness, knowledge and best practices of emergency management in Canada. That goal was one reason that, two years later, it formed a partnership with the York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response, & Governance Institute (Y-EMERGE), the largest and strongest emergency management initiative of its kind Canada, to become its official journal.

Eric Kennedy
Eric Kennedy

When CJEM joined Y-EMERGE, it gained a new editor-in-chief in Professor Eric Kennedy, a leader in the field who is also associate director of Y-EMERGE and one of six speakers in York’s award-winning Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living. One of Kennedy’s goals to open up the journal – to other fields and contributors – was to build on something CJEM had already established: being open access.

“We’re wanting to do this in the right way and make it accessible to different audiences, including those who can’t pay for a journal subscription or might not have it in their budget to afford to buy an article,” says Kennedy, who stresses that – given the often life-saving value of the latest knowledge in the field of emergency management – it’s essential to remove as many access barriers as possible.

To keep doing so, Kennedy had the idea to approach a potential key partner: York Digital Journals.

An electronic journal-hosting service run through the York University Libraries, YDJ looks to help community members create new journals or migrate existing ones online through a platform called Open Journal Systems, which can streamline submissions, peer review, editing and publishing.

After some conversations, Kennedy asked if YDJ could help do just that for CJEM. “I thought it would be a great opportunity,” says Tomasz Mrozewski, a digital publishing librarian in the Department of Digital Scholarship Infrastructure, who wanted to bring to Kennedy and the journal what they’ve done for many others at York. “What we’re really doing is helping enable certain services and certain processes,” he says.

YDJ now provides CJEM with assistance in publishing content, navigating copyright agreements with authors and promoting articles within the scholarly communications ecosystem – all while ensuring the journal is free to read and publish. In adopting more of the logistical side of publishing, YDJ aims to provide help that can have a significant impact on the future of the journal. “By taking on some of the burden of managing that infrastructure, it allows CJEM to reinvest their energy into the more specialized and demanding areas that they’re experts in,” says Mrozewski.  

Among the areas Kennedy and CJEM are reinvesting their energies is dedicating time to publish and mentor early career researchers and non-academic voices. The editorial team is guided by questions like, “How do we provide coaching and support for practitioners writing for a journal for the first time? What does it look like to provide constructive and coaching peer reviews for early career researchers, and helping practitioners get their feet under them when it comes to rigorously documenting their lived experiences and lessons learned from real-life disasters?”

The goal is to get new voices into the field of emergency management and knowledge production to ensure there is a representative cross-section of perspectives not limited by experience, background or academic record.

What we’re really excited to see is people using this knowledge and breaking down those walls between academic knowledge production and how people actually do practise in this field,” Kennedy says. “We think of our readership as being not just academics but also practitioners – fire managers, paramedics, emergency managers, and other professionals and community beyond the academy. The journal is trying to advance knowledge, but also trying to do so in a way that is relevant to the people who are at the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

To aid real-world applications, where knowledge is often time-critical and life-saving, the journal is also leveraging YDJ’s help to shift from publishing once or twice a year on a fixed timeline and moving to continually open submission calls and publication of articles. That way, the journal can publish case studies, reports or timely studies quickly – and, often, in response to an ongoing or emergent disaster – in the aim to provide help as much as it can.

“The journal can play a role in helping to avoid injuries and loss of life and the impact to communities by sharing what we’re learning about how to build resilience and how to manage disasters,” says Kennedy. “We want to be able to say, ‘The research we’re doing and mobilizing is helping to avoid adverse impacts that would be happening if we weren’t here.’ That’s the gold standard.”

For Mrozewski, that is what he hopes YDJ can help facilitate, too. “I would love to see the journal flourish with a minimal of worrying about the basics,” he says. With the future direction of the journal – and YDJ’s help – that gold standard looks very achievable.