A journal and network at the heart of the international qualitative research community
What is it?
Forum: Qualitative Social Research (FQS) is a peer reviewed multilingual online journal for qualitative research. Established in 1999 and published tri-annually, it features empirical studies conducted using qualitative methods, and articles that deal with the theory, methodology and application of qualitative research.
Thirty eight issues of FQS have been published, with more than 1400 articles by around 1350 authors from all over the world.
Building on the successful FSQ brand, since 2005 the FSQ team have also organised an annual qualitative research methods meeting in Berlin, and send out a regular newsletter to about 15,000 subscribers in over 170 countries.
How is it a success?
“We started in 2000 with an open access journal, but not the term, and in 2002 Stevan Harnad approached us to ask if we would translate the Budapest open access initiative into German. From that time on we knew that what we did was open access,” says Dr Katja Mruck, founder and editor of FQS.
Initially, Mruck and her colleagues had sought a publisher for their proposed journal but their idea for an online journal was turned down and, despite planning to publish double blind, peer reviewed articles in three languages (German, English and Spanish) proofread by native speakers, “it was clear that colleagues in north America would never buy a print journal coming from Germany.”
Fortunately, FQS received funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG), because it was felt that open access would be a good way to make German research more visible, and discovered Open Journal Software (OJS). Then in its infancy, the software created by the Canadian Public Knowledge Project is now used by more than 10,000 open access journals worldwide.
Today, FQS has 15,000 registered users around the world and across many disciplines, publishes 60-80 articles a year, and is much, much more than a journal. It has become the heart of an international community around qualitative social research.
In part, this has its roots in the structure of the journal. It is divided into sections, such as Debates, Interviews and Reviews, with each section managed by an editorial team member from a German-speaking country, an English-speaking country and a Spanish-speaking country, with many reviewers and proof readers organised locally.
“Some of them are authors who like the idea and stay and join the editorial team. They are doing what they always did for closed journals but now for FQS,” explains Mruck.
“If you go to any international conference dealing with qualitative research methods and you mention FQS, they probably know what you are talking about. If you mention any closed access print journal from Germany in a conference in Mexico, they definitely do not know it. FQS is known all over the world,” she adds.
FQS has also fostered this sense of international community through its annual event, the Berlin Methods Meeting, which was launched in 2005. It is “the most important event of its kind for German-speaking countries”, and although over 1200 colleagues are actively interested, only around 400 can participate due to the design of the meeting (a mixture of about 35 small workshops and plenary sessions).
In addition, Mruck sends out a bi-monthly newsletter informing about new publications and conferences on qualitative research and open access news. From a starting point of 300 subscribers in 2000, the list has grown to over 15,000 subscribers in 170 countries.
“We are everywhere and this is something very special. I think most important for me is that today I am part of a truly international and truly interdisciplinary community. This is completely different from the situation in 2000. Completely. Open access has helped us to get international,” concludes Mruck.