“Publish or perish” is a mantra that is familiar to all involved in academia. With their careers on the line, publications have become a crucial outlet that most academics have worked towards.
Today, there are numerous journals that are springing up every other day. An academic can easily receive up to ten emails soliciting for submissions to the various new journals. Some are genuine, but the bulk is dodgy, lacking reputable editorial boards and charging high publication fees for open access.
While open access is the new direction for academic publishing, it often comes with a high cost for the authors. Not only are the research funds used to fund their actual research costs, often it also has to fund manpower and overhead costs. With open access, research funds are now further diverted to pay for publications. Little wonder why many older academics of the past feel that open access journals are of lower quality, failing to balance safeguarding good science and maintaining a profit for the publisher.
There may be some truth that publishers and editors are under pressure to churn out a certain number of publications for financial reasons, and this can result in a decrease of the scientific quality of publications. However, it is without a doubt that “Open Access” has also improved scientific communication to scientists and layman alike. No longer is the poor student or interested reader facing a paywall when trying to gather information. However, another wall still persists in publications for the novice, and if ignored, this is at the peril of both students and professional academics.
It is an open secret that peer review is not often the best safeguard of academic quality. The friendly scientist may let something of lower quality pass upon seeing a familiar name in the author list. On the contrary, a rival academic, who is in the same field or who is biased against a particular premise in the field, may reject a high quality article. Either way, the student with no track record nor good network of peers clearly draws the shortest stick in the publishing arena. Given that in general, student research is of lower quality than professional academics, should they also work in a controversial area, they are doomed from publications. While the name of the supervisor may mitigate some of these disadvantages, in general, the student’s work would not be published.
With the launch of many new journals, it is interesting that there are very few student journals that are launched, especially one that is multi-disciplinary in nature. Perhaps the basis for this is the generalization that student research is generally of poorer quality and is perhaps not suitable to add to internal knowledge.
There is no doubt that student research are often naturally lacking in the following areas: 1) sufficiency in duration to generate noteworthy results, with the exception of doctorate research; 2) expert handling of the subject, lacking depth; 3) rigorous methodology or skill to generate reliable results; 4) merely repeating a published work in some for having little addition to knowledge; 4) quality; 5) robustness in literature review or sampling; 6) presentation from poor writing, and many other factors.
A properly carried out student research can have its value. In certain cases, they can sometimes raise very important questions in the field of the research. The ability to reproduce a published result validates the reproducibility of the previously published work. The inability to reproduce, if performed accurately and precisely, can expose the need for unwritten detail, or fraud, or different interpretations.
Even the history of science has shown that many well-known scientists started young without formal qualifications like a PhD degree or significant experience in the field. Newton was no professor when he discovered the workings of gravity1, Alexander Fleming’s penicillin was no intended discovery2, Jean Piaget published his observation of nature when he was ten years old3, Archimedes (as legends go) was taking a shower when he discovered displacement from the “Eureka” moment4. Leeuwenhoek was no microbiologist nor possessed professional academic when “Animacules” were discovered in his drape shop5, neither was Leonardo Da Vinci technically an anatomy professor6.
By my own personal experience, student interns have contributed significantly to my lab’s publication output. While some students require more supervision than others, about half of almost 70 students in the last five years have a publication in a peer-reviewed international journal. From the making of scientific apps to playing a role in large projects, some students have also led novel directions. A publication is a bonus to the student, but to academic staff, it is expected. Nonetheless, I personally found students to be great for exploratory research to test if something will work. If relatively unskilled students can get something to work successfully, then all the more it can be performed better by more skilled and experienced staff. Since publications are bonuses to them, there is minimal risk exposure to the individual academic staff, while maintaining much needed risk-taking exposure for the entire research team. Success by the student in an area provides the go ahead for pursuing a new research direction. Case studies in my lab includes our work in Psychology7-10, Scientific apps11-17, Smartphonedependent devices18, hunting for novel allosteric druggable pockets in viruses19, discovery of new splice variants20, discovery of novel techniques21-24, and so on, with more to come.
The above examples are success cases of student-led research that have led to publications in peer-reviewed international journals. Yet with success also comes failure. Some students benefitted from the failures of their predecessors, and some students had to build on unfinished projects to bring it to completion. While yielding research publications that describe complete and validated work with accordance to the various standards of the academic disciplines are naturally the preferred publication output, there is no doubt that there is also a horde of unfinished, unpursued promising research that are not quite suitable for a professional journal. Similarly, there is a significant gap where, despite reaching a significant conclusion, some students’ commitment may be an unbridgeable gap (time or writing) from the requirement of certain journals. Such issues are among many that can result in the loss of otherwise valuable knowledge in the respective academic disciplines.
To capture the valuable knowledge in the above fields that may be slightly lacking sufficient robustness or validation for a professional journal, this journal was set up to serve as a treasure trove for such work that hold promise, validates (at least partially) or brings out the areas of lack in other work (provided it is carried out in due robustness). This journal accepts submissions from all academic disciplines providing an outlet for featuring the work of students; so long they have reasonable conclusions. Submissions can cover from high school projects to postgraduate research projects that are performed under the acceptable methodologies in the respective fields. With a good editorial board that comprises of professional academics, mentors, lecturers, and students, the journal aims to evaluate and improve submissions towards readability, due diligence, and contribution to the discipline regardless of expected impact. Should there be previous reviews for the article, it may also be submitted for faster decision upon reasonable addressing of the field. It is the mission that the journal would also be a treasure trove of exploratory ideas for follow on work in the respective fields, and also to highlight pitfalls to avoid in the course of research.
1. Valtonen, M. et al. in The three-body problem from
Pythagoras to Hawking Ch. 2 - From Newton to
Einstein: The discovery of Laws of Motion and
Gravity, XI, 173 (Springer International Publishing,
2. Tan, S. Y. & Tatsumura, Y. Alexander Fleming (1881- 1955): Discovery of penicillin. Singapore Med J. 56, 366-367 (2015).
3. Gale, C. L. A study guide for Psychologists and their theories for students: Jean Piaget. (Gale Cengage Learning, 2015). ISBN: 1410333388, 9781410333384:
4. Biello, D. in Scientific American (Scientific American, a division of Nature America. Inc., 2006).
5. Zamosky, L. Simple Organisms. (Capstone, 2008). ISBN: 0756539552, 9780756539559:
6. Jones, R. Leonardo da Vinci: anatomist. British Journal of General Practice 62, 319, doi:10.3399/bjgp12X649241 (2012).
7. Chew, A., Yu, Y., Chua, S. & Gan, S. The effects of familiarity and language of background music on working memory and language tasks in Singapore. Psychology of Music, doi:10.1177/0305735616636209 (2016).
8. Gan, S. & Lim, M. Chapter 2: Awareness of Others. Chapter contribution to James Cook, Singapore book publication "First Class Behaviours for a First World Nation"- SG50 Edition., (James Cook University, 2015). ISBN: 978-981-09-8281-2:
9. Gan, S., Lim, M. & Haw, Y. The Relaxation Effects of Stimulative and Sedative Music on Mathematics Anxiety: A Perception to Physiology Model. Psychology of Music, doi:10.1177/0305735615590430 (2015).
10. Yew, S., Lim, K., Haw, Y. & Gan, S. The Interaction between Perceived Stress, Optimisim, Life Satisfaction and Physical Health in the Singaporean Asian Context. Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 3 (2015).
11. Wong, C., Yeo, J. & Gan, S. APD Colony Counter App: Using Watershed algorithm for improved colony counting. Nature Methods Application Notes, doi:10.1038/an9774 (2016).
12. Ng, K., Nguyen, P., Sukiman, I. & Gan, S. VibraTilt: Accelerometer & Gyroscope measurement app. . Scientific Phone Apps and Mobile Devices 2, doi:10.1186/s41070-016-0008-3 (2016).
13. Sim, J., Nguyen, P., Zang, Y. & Gan, S. DNA2App: Mobile sequence analyzer. Scientific Phone Apps and Mobile Devices 2, doi:10.1186/s41070-016-0004-7 (2016).
14. Nguyen, P., Lim, J., Budianto, I. & Gan, S. PsychVey: Research Survey App. Scientific Phone Apps and Mobile Devices 1, doi:10.1186/s41070-015-0002-1 (2015).
15. Budianto, I., Wong, C., Nguyen, P. & Gan, S. StanXY: Standard Curve App for Android. Scientific Phone Apps and Mobile Devices 1, doi:10.1186/s41070-015-0003-0 (2015).
16. Sim, J., Nguyen, P., Lee, H. & Gan, S. GelApp: Mobile gel electrophoresis analyzer. Nature Methods Application Notes, doi:10.1038/an9643 (2015).
17. Nguyen, P., Verma, C. & Gan, S. DNAApp: a mobile application for sequencing data analysis. Bioinformatics, doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btu525 (2014).
18. Ng, K. et al. APD SpectBT: Arduino-based mobile vis- Spectrophometer. Nature Methods Application Notes (2017).
19. Chiang, R., Gan, S. & Su, C. A computational study for rational HIV-1 non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase inhibitor selection and discovery of novel allosteric pockets for inhibitor design. Bioscience Reports, doi:10.1042/BSR20171113 (2018).
20. Lua, W. et al. Discovery of a novel splice variant of Fcar (CD89) unravels sequence segments necessary for efficient secretion: A story of bad signal peptides and good ones that nevertheless do not make it. Cell Cycle 16, 457-467, doi:10.1080/15384101.2017.1281480 (2017).
21. Poh, J. & Gan, S. Comparison of Customized Spin- Column and Salt-Precipitation Finger-Prick Blood DNA Extraction. Biosci Rep, doi:10.1042/BSR20140105 (2014).
22. Poh, J. & Gan, S. The Determination of Factors involved in Column-Based Nucleic Acid Extraction and Purification. Journal of Bioprocessing and Biotechniques 4, doi:10.4172/2155-9821.1000157 (2014).
23. Chan, W., Verma, C., Lane, D. & Gan, S. A comparison and optimization of methods and factors affecting the Transformation of Escherichia coli. Biosci Rep 33, art:e00086, doi:10.1042/BSR20130098 (2013).
24. Ling, W., Lua, W. & Gan, S. Fast Reversible Single- Step Method for Enhanced Band Contrast of Polyacrylamide Gels for Automated Detection. Electrophoresis, doi:10.1002/elps.201500094 (2015).
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