Student Scientists Are Publishing Their Research In This Peer-Reviewed Journal

By Sarah Schwartz — December 21, 2022 3 min read
Middle or high school girl performs chemistry experiment with a Black male middle or high school lab partner
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

There’s a consensus in science education that science should be something students actually get to do—that learning how to employ investigative methods to test hypotheses is just as important as understanding the periodic table or being able to diagram a cell.

A group of professional researchers is now working to support that goal, giving teenagers the opportunity to publish their own scientific papers.

The Journal of Emerging Investigators, an open-access publication that publishes original research from middle and high schoolers, was started in 2011 by Harvard University graduate students who thought there should be a way to document the work that school-age researchers were submitting to science fairs. The journal now publishes students from at least 20 countries and is available to read for free online.

The process—of conducting research, getting feedback from working scientists, and seeing one’s own findings in print—is transformative, said Grace Kim, a first year student at Emory University who published her research on COVID’s impact on students’ social, mental, and physical health in JEI in fall 2021. Kim is now an outreach coordinator with the journal.

Before she started her project, she’d had the idea that publishing was something that only adults or doctoral students could do. “You have to research in a university and find these grand results—new things—and share with the world,” she said.

Submitting to JEI showed her that wasn’t the case.

“I was excited to know that I could do something on my own,” she said.

Supporting the thrust of new science standards

The journal also helps support the goal of many states’ expectations for student learning in science. Inquiry and engagement in the scientific process are key parts of the Next Generation Science Standards, released in 2014 and in use in about 20 states. They require that students learn science and engineering practices alongside content knowledge.

Teachers have said that finding ways to have students authentically practice science in class can be challenging—even as science education organizations and curriculum companies put out new materials designed to align to the NGSS.

This year, the journal is on track to publish about 175 papers from middle and high school students in the United States and internationally, said Scott Soldat-Valenzuela, JEI’s executive director.

The submission guidelines for the journal are broad: Any hypothesis-driven experimental research is fair game.

Many of the papers are in natural sciences, but not all, said Soldat-Valenzuela. Earlier this month, for example, they published a paper on socio-economic status correlates with Indian teenagers’ physical activity. “We really want students to write about something that they’re passionate about,” he said.

Opportunities for feedback, collaboration

Students must be in 6th-12th grades when they submit their work, and they need to have a mentor—whether a teacher, parent, or other adult. JEI provides a guide on how to prepare an academic paper, covering details like hypothesis design and how to format figures and tables.

Volunteers—graduate students, post-doctoral students, and other science professionals—review the submissions and provide feedback.

“It’s an advanced experience, but it’s also really educational for them,” said Soldat-Valenzuela. “They’re getting real feedback from a real reviewer.”

The process also puts students in conversation with professional researchers, said Kim.

Her 2021 paper presented survey research that Kim conducted with students at private international schools in South Korea, one of which she attended. Reviewing other literature allowed her to contextualize and compare her results, Kim said, noting the differences in student experiences across countries and socioeconomic statuses.

Kim sought JEI out. She knew she wanted to get more involved in the science community, and she was looking for a way to publish her research. That’s how most submissions come to the journal, said Soldat-Valenzuela.

Now, he said, the team is trying to broaden its outreach to more teachers and students, especially in lower-income communities. It’s started to offer seminars to prepare middle and high schoolers for the submission process and answer any questions. They want to make it clear that anyone with a hypothesis to test can conduct research.

“We’re really focused on the student writing, and learning how to publish their work, and how to communicate their science to other students,” Soldat-Valenzuela said.

A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 2023 edition of Education Week as Student Scientists Are Publishing Their Research in This Peer-Reviewed Journal


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Pave the Path to Excellence in Math
Empower your students' math journey with Sue O'Connell, author of “Math in Practice” and “Navigating Numeracy.”
Content provided by hand2mind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Combatting Teacher Shortages: Strategies for Classroom Balance and Learning Success
Learn from leaders in education as they share insights and strategies to support teachers and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Reading Instruction and AI: New Strategies for the Big Education Challenges of Our Time
Join the conversation as experts in the field explore these instructional pain points and offer game-changing guidance for K-12 leaders and educators.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Science Q&A How High School Students Are Making STEM Education Accessible for Younger Kids
Team STEAM is a program where high school students help elementary students develop STEM skills.
3 min read
Students from MC2 STEM High School in Cleveland critique their classmates’ projects for an event that blends STEM and art on March 16, 2017.
Students critique their classmates’ projects for an event that blends STEM and art in Cleveland on March 16, 2017.
Allison Shelley for All4Ed
Science Opinion How to Teach Students About Climate Change—Without Giving Them Eco-Anxiety
Climate science education is essential, but the wrong approach can damage young people’s mental health, warn two students. Here are 4 tips.
Willa Grifka & Luke Williams
4 min read
Photo illustration of a green nature filled silhouette of a person standing in contemplation looking at smoggy urban cityscape.
Science White Students Are Less Concerned About Climate Change Than Students of Color. Here's Why
Nearly half of white teenagers said the threat of climate change hasn't affected their plans for the future.
4 min read
A person is faced with a decision between an open doorway placed on a dry, dark, cracked ground with dark skies or an open doorway placed on bright green grass with blue skies.
Science Rural Students Are More Skeptical of Climate Change. What Should Teachers Do?
Nearly 8 in 10 U.S. teenagers agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is real and mainly caused by human activity.
2 min read
Digitally generated image of a forked road. It leads in two directions. One towards a bleak future where climate change has destroyed the enviroment. The other way shows a way towards prosperity with renewable energy and a sustainable climate. In the middle of the road stands a 3D-model person.