Live-blogging the 2009 Vancouver PKP Conference

Using the Open Journal System to Discuss Human Development and international Cooperation: the Experience of Universitas Forum – The Session Blog

Presenter: Roberta Pellizzoli   

Friday, July 10, 2009, 11 pm-12 pm. SFU Harbour Centre. Room 2250


Who is the presenter?

  • Contract professor, Political and Economic Geography of sub-Sahara Africa at University of Bologna, Faculty of Political Science
  • Editorial Administrator, Universitas Forum: International Journal on Human Development and International Cooperation
  • Managing editor at Afriche e Orienti

 Session Overview

    Session Abstract

What is Universitas Forum?

Universitas Forum is peer-reviewed international electronic journal on human development and international cooperation. The aim of Universitas Forum is to offer critical analyses of current approaches to international development cooperation and practice-based research concerning global and local human development such as poverty, health, water shortage, education, inequity, social exclusion, to name a few (see Human Development Resource (HDR net) for more information). The journal is conceived as a tool for encouraging the systematization of local experiences, with the contribution of local journalists and academics. First volume with four issues was published in 2008, and a further three issues are planned for 2009. The journal provides four languages: English, Spanish, French, and Italian. The full text of articles is in the original language, while abstracts are translated. Universitsas Forum is produced by the Universitas programme of the ART initiative. The journal is sponsored by UNOPS.

 What is the role of Universitas Forum?

Swartz (2008), the coordinatior of the ART Universitas Programme and of the editorial committee of Universitas Forum, argues that previous development model such as globalization or capitalism createdscompetition and social exclusion rather than cooperation. Moreover, unbalanced distribution of resources and unequal opportunity to contribute between Northern and Southern actors are also barriers on human development. Therefore, an alternative model on human development is urgent. 

Universitas Forum was produced under the goal of following:

1.     Enhancing resources of local communities and their human development potential

2.     Mutual respect and learning, development cooperation of knowledge between North and South

3.     A systematization of the experiences of the many actors involved in human development practice

4.     Increasing opportunities for accessing and disseminating knowledge of researchers, policy makers or practitioners on human development 


However, according to Pellizzoli, the presenter, there are some difficulties the journal is facing:

          Arouse the interest of development practitioners

          Link theoretical knowledge with socially embedded research and practice

          Diversify audience (geographical, institutional, etc)‏

          Involve local researchers in order to increase the visibility of views from the South

          Increase the number of readers

          Promoting the idea of a public right to knowledge


In addition, she also stated the challenges of Open journal system (Open-Source Publication software of the Universitas Forum for open access). She argued that to improve democratic access to OJS knowledge, English should not be assumed the standard language when dealing with a multilingual journal. Not everyone is a native English speaker, and the fact that English is the default language makes navigating the site more difficult for those who are not native English speakers and not highly computer literate. Although OJS provides several languages (e.g., Chinese, Dutch, Farsi, Japanese, Spanish, etc.) other than English, poor translation is an issue. Moreover, those who do not have high computer skill may be discouraged to use the system.

Therefore, Pellizzoli suggested OJS should be improved, especially in translation, as a multilingual journal. Besides, small grants for researchers from the South should be given to promote systematization of innovative practices and experiences. She also urged that networking with other OJS publications (see here for more open journals) is crucial. Finally, more workshops should be available to create knowledge on human development.

Related Links

Afriche e Orienti:

Art initiative:

Human Development Resource:

Open journal system:

Universitas Forum:




Swartz, S. (2008). Knowledge for human development, Universitas Forum, 1(1). Also available at