NET NEWS: Undergrad Journals Take Root on the Web

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Science  11 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5396, pp. 1951
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5396.1951c

Most undergraduates who complete a significant research project have little chance of publishing their work, their senior theses winding up buried in their own files or in college library stacks. Students can submit their work to an undergrad research journal—if their school has one—but it likely won't be read beyond campus.

That's changed in the past year, as Web-based undergraduate journals have “exploded,” says Brian Conk, director of the half-year-old National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse (clearinghouse.mwsc.edu) sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Conk and others describe at least a half-dozen, including psychology and physics journals and college journals planning to go online. And the Clearinghouse has already attracted about 30 papers posted by registered faculty members.

The latest to set up shop, the National Journal of Young Investigators (JYI) launched on 3 December, stakes its claim as the first multidisciplinary, national, undergrad Web journal peer reviewed by students (with faculty advisers), says CEO Andrew Medina-Marino (http://www.jyi.org/). The journal advertised on campuses to attract around 80 initial submissions and presents 10 papers in its first issue, such as a Duke paper on the role of mitochondria in apoptosis. Bo Hammer, head of education programs at the American Institute of Physics, says he found nothing all that “new” on a quick browse of JYI –“but it's undergraduate work.”

Some observers wonder about the long-term viability of a journal run by undergrads, which means high staff turnover. David Elmes of Washington and Lee University in Virginia adds another concern: “A really good paper may belong somewhere else,” that is, in a regular journal, he says. But Alex Firestone of NSF, which is helping support the JYI, says the point isn't to siphon off research of that caliber but to teach students about peer review and writing a paper. “Individual students will benefit fantastically,” Firestone says.

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