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By Ernie Tretkoff
A new online-only APS journal, Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, will provide a place for researchers in the rapidly growing field of physics education research to publish articles on the teaching and learning of physics. The journal began accepting submissions in May.
The APS is journal is co-sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers and the APS Forum on Education. "Physics education research is a bit outside where our other journals have led, but it is an important element in the Physical Society," said Martin Blume, APS Editor-in-Chief.
In 1999 the APS Council passed a statement supporting physics education research as a valuable topic for research in physics departments.
PRST-PER will be edited by Robert Beichner, a physics education researcher at North Carolina State University. Beichner, a recently elected APS fellow who has worked in physics education research for years, emphasized how quickly the field has been growing recently. For instance, said Beichner, over the past six years, an average of ten new faculty hires in physics education research have been made per year. "The physics education research field is growing very rapidly," he said, "Most of this work is done by physicists in physics departments."
But with the rapid expansion of the field, it has often been hard to find places to publish this type of research, said Beichner. "I’ve been working in the field for a long time, and I know how difficult it is to get things published." Physics education researchers need a recognized journal in which to publish their work.
Until now, the primary place to publish physics education research articles has been the American Journal of Physics, which is published by AAPT. But the AJP, which mainly publishes pedagogical articles, rather than primary research, isn’t large enough to handle all the new physics education research articles that need to be published.
PRST-PER will have the same peer review process and high standards as the other Physical Review journals. The well-known quality of the Physical Review journals should help enhance the status of the physics education research field, said Beichner.
The journal will publish a range of experimental and theoretical research on the teaching and learning of physics, including review articles, replication studies, descriptions of new assessment tools, presentation of research techniques, and methodology comparisons or critiques.
The new journal will be published online only, and expects to initially publish about 50 articles a year. PRST-PER will be distributed free of charge, financed by publication charges. Authors or their institutions will be asked to pay a per-article charge of $700, plus a length- dependent charge of $80 per 125 lines. Authors who cannot pay these charges can request a fee waiver. As a special incentive, manuscripts submitted in 2005 will have the $700 charge waived.
This "open-access" model, in which the author pays the publication charges, makes sense especially when the authors and the readers of the journal aren’t necessarily the same people. For instance, some high school teachers might want to read some of the articles in PRST-PER, said Blume. "It is important that it be open access," he said, "Many educators will want to see this. Everyone who needs it should have access."
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