Collectively, the panelists recounted their science publishing work with children from eight years old to the high teens. They told of impressive youngsters with characteristics distinct to their age group, and session participants left with high hopes for the next generation of researchers.
In 2014, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, launched Chronicle of the New Researcher (www.chronicleofthenewresearcher.org), a refereed journal of research papers written by students. Editor-in-Chief Jamie L Vernon wants the young authors to be taken seriously by the research community, and for students to view the journal as a go-to publication to showcase their work.
Sigma Xi recruits its members to engage with high school students and precollege researchers about science for an educational experience beyond traditional peer review. Vernon said he recently scouted for authors at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. “We work with a consortium of specialized STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] schools,” he explained. “Really, every time someone hears about it, they know about a kid they want to recommend, so it becomes word of mouth.”
“For me, this project is about strengthening the science enterprise,” reported Vernon. Additional efforts help to teach young students how to formulate their science and gain understanding of the publication process.
Another youth-directed publication is STEM Fellowship Journal (journal.stemfellowship.org), which launched the week before CSE’s conference. It engages high school and undergraduate students, connecting them with and encouraging science learning, Sasha Noukhovitch explained. The journal accepts submissions from authors around the world, publishing both team-written and individually authored manuscripts.
“What defines high school is that [the student’s] life experience is equally based on reality and digital reality,” he said. “For them, it is simply reality, even though they are coming into the work with life experience equally based on two realities.” Noukhovitch addressed big data in his organization’s connection with students. Comparing adults generally with teenagers, he said, “we are strangers in the world of big data, but not high school students! They are naturals, and they have their own techniques to be big-data scientists.”
Vernon agreed, saying that his publication’s young researchers have two primary characteristics: fearlessness and social awareness. “You can challenge them as much as you want, and they will work hard and find an answer.” Their social awareness combines with the desire to have an “impact on society.” Climate change and its effects are an obvious example, he said. “They will connect their science to the impact.”
Frontiers for Young Minds (www.kids.frontiersin.org), an initiative of Frontiers, the open-access publisher based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, launched in 2014, seven years after the first of the Frontiers journals. This effort essentially targets children around the age of 12 years. A nonprofit, peer-reviewed, online-only science publication, it is formatted as a scholarly journal of research papers reviewed by students. Its website describes its readership: “Young people serve not only as the target audience, but also as critical participants in the review of manuscripts written by expert researchers.” Executive Editor Frederick Fenter explained that when Frontiers publishes an article, “we invite the author to rewrite this article so a 12-year-old reader can understand it. The 12-year-olds of the world are the reviewers; they are asked to tell the scientists what they need to do to make their article understandable.” The first step toward this involvement is for the children or their class to contact the publication, which now has a waiting list.
“A lot of the kids who have done individual reviews have a parent or relative who are their mentor,” Fenter noted. The idea is to focus on “an age when notions of the scientific method become immediately available. It is a sensibility that becomes more developed around the age of 12 or so.” He added, “a lot of kids think of science as a pursuit far beyond their reach. They leave [this journal experience] with the impression that being a scientist is something they can do, too.”
After the session, Noukhovitch commented further on the reality of today’s children. “They can visualize magnetic fields like we can see day-to-day objects. They understand four and five dimensions like we do two- and three-dimensional objects. They will be normalized through education, but this ability will make itself evident at some point.”