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Scientific Publishing 101
by Emily Carlson
The Spring 2006 issue of The Triple Helix features articles on several hotbutton topics, including "the birth of the artificial womb" (from a student at Hopkins), "pot and politics" (UC Berkeley), and "homosexuals and the national blood supply" (U. Penn).
When Alabama native Cody Locke headed to Tuscaloosa for college, he had never heard of molecular biology or even read a scientific paper. Four years later, Locke was finishing a major in biology and editing a research journal.
Locke, an HHMI undergraduate research intern, served as the editor-in-chief of the undergraduate Journal of Science & Health at the University of Alabama (JOSHUA) for two years and created the online version. As a sophomore, Locke jumped at the chance to get involved. “Professional journals really help further science, and I thought an undergraduate one could do the same by allowing students to learn more about different fields.” Plus, he jokes, “I had papers I wanted to publish!”
Thanks to the enterprise of students like Locke, undergraduates have several opportunities to share their research in journals created by and for their peers. Students are involved at every step: writing, designing, fundraising, and even delivering.
By their very nature, these journals face unique challenges—deadlines scheduled around exams, staff turnover as students graduate, and competition with other campus activities. Locke, doing the bulk of the work, usually solicited submissions in late spring and reviewed, edited, and published the 50-page annual journal during the summer.
Despite the challenges, the journals thrive. UA undergraduates outside the biological sciences expressed interest in contributing, so JOSHUA started accepting articles from computer-science, physics, and engineering majors. Locke, who relinquished the editing reins before graduation, says the journal now receives enough submissions to publish multiple times a year. The articles, authored equally by male and female students, primarily describe research methods, present literature reviews, or offer perspectives on controversial issues like human embryonic stem cell research and teaching evolution. Locke says, “The journal lets the public see what students are really thinking about science.”
Photo: Courtesy of The Triple Helix, Inc.