Call: Impact of Immersive Environments – Journal of Virtual Worlds Research

Call for Papers

Journal of Virtual Worlds Research
Issue on Impact of Immersive Environments

To be edited by:
Michael Thomas, University of Central Lancashire, UK (Prime)
Tuncer Can, University of Istanbul, Turkey
Michael Vallance, Future University, Japan

Abstracts deadline: December 20, 2018


Over the last two decades research on virtual worlds and immersive environments has engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders and beneficiaries across many disciplines and fields that naturally involve high stakes, engaging with participants with learning and physical disabilities to the military, citizen democracy and digital civics.

In this issue we want to tackle the following issues:

  • What is the usefulness of such research?
  • Who are the main beneficiaries of the research?
  • What real-world problems does the research on virtual worlds address?
  • How can the effectiveness of the research be measured, if at all?
  • Can we identify short, medium and longer term conceptions of impact?

While study and research for their own sake or for character development have been core components of many disciplines, particularly in the humanities or social sciences, the consolidation of neoliberal values in higher education has led to questions about the practical application of research and its influence on and relationship with society and stakeholders.

Specifically, in the UK the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) adapted this approach to impact to help measure the real-world application of research, its public engagement and use-value, in relation, for example, to health, the economy, society or culture. While impact has attracted much criticism and debate, it has been consolidated in the intervening period and with REF2021, the next UK Government exercise aimed at evaluating research excellence in higher education, impact, now defined as activity that can take place both internal and external to universities, has increased its weighting in the exercise. While the impact agenda has been influential in higher education in the UK, we now find other governments and research councils around the world adopting similar definitions (e.g., Australian Research Council, Hong Kong, the AACSB in the USA).

Definitions of “impact” have proliferated alongside critique and it is important to consider the applicability of the term, as well as to reflect on how it can be shaped and defined to lead to productive and meaningful research and scholarly activity.

In terms of the REF exercises impact is defined in relation to “reach (the extent and/or diversity of the organizations, communities and/or individuals who have benefited from the impact) and significance (the degree to which the impact enriched, influenced, informed or changed the policies, practices and understanding or awareness of organizations, communities or organizations)” (REF, 2012, p. 93).

It does not merely relate to measuring dissemination activity e.g., how many people read a book, or visited a gallery, or follow your research findings on Twitter. Rather, it relates to what measurable influence the research has had on it beneficiaries as a result of activities associated with it.

For the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK (ESRC), impact can be defined as “Academic impact”, which is the “demonstrable contribution that excellent social and economic research makes in shifting understanding and advancing scientific, method, theory and application across and within disciplines” and/or “Economic and societal impact”, which is the “demonstrable contribution that excellent social and economic research makes to society and the economy, and its benefits to individuals, organizations and/or nations” (

This special edition of The Journal of Virtual Worlds Research is a timely intervention into these debates in the context of educational technology and seeks to develop productive critical perspectives on impact, discussing in what ways, over what time periods and to what extent impact can be a valuable concept in this field.

Authors are invited to submit original scholarly manuscripts that will make significant contributions to the advancement of our understanding of research impact with respect to virtual worlds and immersive environments defined broadly.

We encourage transdisciplinary research as well as diverse methodological approaches and welcome both qualitative and quantitative research studies, as well as theoretical, conceptual, and empirical studies. Critical perspectives on virtual worlds research and what constitutes impact are encouraged, rather than merely small-scale experimental studies. Authors may wish to reflect on their work over a longer period of time and to produce narratives that combine findings from several studies. Meta-analyses of research in the field which adopt a longer-term perspective are also encouraged.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Impact on disciplines (e.g., health and wellbeing, politics, psychology, medicine, arts and humanities)
  • Impact on people (e.g., special educational needs, the disabled, migrants and refugees, children, families and parents, communities, and/or in terms of race, class, ethnicity and sexuality)
  • Impact on tools (e.g., AR, AI, eResearch methods, robotics, mobile applications, educational resources, gamification, serious games)
  • Impact on problems (e.g., real-world challenges, citizenship, big data, pedagogical etc.)

The editors welcome efforts to define and problematize “impact” as a category for evaluating research, and articles that seek to promote transdisciplinary research on immersive and virtual worlds, nationally and internationally, in established western contexts as well as in emerging contexts in Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia.


The vetting process will start with a 300 word abstract leading, if invited, to a full paper submission of up to 6000 words including footnotes, references, and appendices. All submissions (abstracts and papers) should be made via the JVWR publishing system (see > About JVWR > For Authors). All submissions will be double-open reviewed. Accepted papers will be published online in Volume 12, Number 2 (2019) of the Journal.


  • Authors submit abstract of 300 words with expression of interest: December 20, 2018
  • Editors return acceptance: January 5, 2018
  • Authors submit full paper: April 1, 2019
  • Editors return peer review report: May 15, 2019
  • Authors submit revised paper: June 1, 2019
  • Editors return final decision: July 1, 2019
  • Publication: September, 2019


Dr. Michael Thomas is Professor of Higher Education and Online Learning at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK. He has published over twenty books and special editions of peer reviewed journals, coordinated several large-scale funded projects on immersive environments, and is the founding editor of the book series Digital Education and Learning (Palgrave).

Dr. Tuncer Can is Assistant Professor at the University of Istanbul in Turkey. His research interests are in computer-assisted learning and has been a partner in several EU funded projects on immersive environments and virtual worlds, particularly those involving gamification and video-based learning, including CAMELOT (2013-15) and GUINEVERE (2017-2019).

Dr. Michael Vallance is a Professor in the Department of Media Architecture (previously Director of the Center for Meta-Learning – CML) at Future University, Japan. He has a Doctorate in Education from Durham University, a Master’s Degree in Computer Assisted Learning from Stirling University, UK, and a BSc(Hons) Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Wales, UK.


Now in its 11th year, the JVWR is an online, open access academic journal that engages a wide spectrum of scholarship and welcomes contributions from the many disciplines and approaches that intersect with virtual worlds research. Virtual worlds ignite a continuously evolving area of study that spans multiple disciplines and the JVWR editorial team looks forward to engaging a wide range of creative and scholarly research.


For further information please contact:

Tzafnat Shpak, Coordinating Editor


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