Bioscience Horizons

You’ve probably heard by now of the plan, cooked up between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Wellcome Trust and the Max Planck Society, to launch a new, open access journal–as yet sans name, sans Editor-in-Chief and sans business plan. There seem to be more questions than answers surrounding the Journal With No Name, and I’m simply going to point you this analysis from Declan Butler and a fascinating comment thread courtesy of Scholarly Kitsch.

Instead, here’s a guest post by Neil Morris on something almost completely different–a scholarly journal just for undergraduates. Bioscience Horizons is open access, as well as free to publish in. Neil is the Editor-in-Chief, and the journal is funded by a consortium of universities and Oxford University Press–and, incidentally, was highly commended for publishing innovation by the ALPSP in 2008.


Bioscience Horizons is an Oxford University Press journal which publishes research by undergraduate students studying in UK and Republic of Ireland universities. Launched in 2008, it is now in its 4th volume and has a reputation for publishing the very best undergraduate research. About 20 research papers and reviews have been published each year, covering everything from molecular medicine and pharmacology, through animal behaviour and ecology, to taxonomy and bioinformatics. Well over 50 universities, both pre-and post-1992, are represented among its authors. At least 15 Bioscience Horizons papers have been cited in mainstream science journals and one article published in the first issue of the journal has been cited 5 times. There have been over 75,000 full text downloads of Bioscience Horizons articles since its launch.

The journal was launched by a consortium of UK universities (Nottingham, Reading, Leeds and Chester) and OUP as a result of discussions about local arrangements for publicising high quality undergraduate research projects. The journal mainly publishes output from final year undergraduate projects–for many students the pinnacle of their undergraduate degree, as they are able to conduct an original piece of research in a laboratory (or other setting) and then produce a professional report from the results.

Bioscience Horizons serves a very useful role by publishing work from undergraduate projects:

  1. it promotes the link between teaching and research in UK Higher Education,
  2. it provides a repository of high quality undergraduate research that will be useful to other students and staff,
  3. it provides a forum for students, their supervisors and universities, to showcase high quality undergraduate research work,
  4. it illustrates the student skill base to prospective employers.

All work is published in Bioscience Horizons by the undergraduate author–this is recognition that they conducted the research, wrote the manuscript and dealt with revisions arising through the peer-review process. Academic supervisors are acknowledged in manuscripts. The journal believes this is an important feature as it gives a unique opportunity to get important, high quality, bioscience research published when it may not succeed in a mainstream journal. All work published in Bioscience Horizons is peer-reviewed and the publication process mirrors that for traditional science journals, providing undergraduate researchers with a professional training in submitting manuscripts and dealing with the publication process. Getting published in Bioscience Horizons is a great achievement for a graduating student. For many it is their first step into a research career and it provides evidence of their ability to conduct, write and publish scientific research.

In 2008, the journal published an article by Lisa Atkin, a graduate Biomedical Science student from the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC). Lisa’s article on Type 2 Diabetes was entitled Rosiglitazone-induced SERCA2b inhibition: implications for monocyte cytoskeletal remodelling and diabetic microangiopathy. Lisa says, “I was very pleased to be asked to write a paper for inclusion in Bioscience Horizons. I enjoyed doing the labwork for my project, and now writing this paper has given me an extra insight into the process of reporting new scientific findings to a wider audience.” Lisa’s project supervisor Dr Richard Webb, Lecturer at UWIC’s Centre for Biomedical Sciences, said, “The beauty of the Bioscience Horizons journal is that it acknowledges and reports the work of students who are embarking on a career in scientific research and highlights the importance of the link between teaching and research in higher education”. Lisa is now pursuing a PhD on Type 2 diabetes and continues to publish her work.

Jon van Aarsten also published an article in the first issue of the journal. His article, on the role of alien genomic islands in the Enterobacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae has been cited twice, and led him to PhD study and further publications. Jon said, “the opportunity to have a real-life run through of preparing a publication and the peer review process was invaluable and provided me with skills that perfectly prepared me for my PhD and the publications I have worked on since. Additionally, the Bioscience Horizons article was elemental to applying for an obtaining a 50th Anniversary PhD Scholarship from the University of Leicester.”

For more information about publishing in Bioscience Horizons, including current and previous content, author guidelines, manuscript requirements and editorial policy, please visit the website at http://biohorizons.oxfordjournals.org/. The journal is also on Facebook and Twitter (@Bioscihor).


Neil MorrisNeil Morris, Editor-in-Chief of Bioscience Horizons, is Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds. Neil teaches neuroscience to undergraduate science and medical students. His research interests are in technology enhanced learning.

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Filed under Guest post, Journals, Open access.

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