9th Graders Can Publish Scientific Papers, Too

I just stumpled upon a paper published in the prestigious journal Ecological Economics, titled Determining the willingness to pay for ecosystem service restoration in a degraded coastal watershed: A ninth grade investigation, 31 of whose 36 authors are 9th grade students of a high-school biology class (from this public high school in New Jersey). Here is part of the introduction to the paper:

Designing and conducting our study was very difficult, but undoubtedly the hardest step of the process was writing the paper. For example, before we began writing we had to review and synthesize the existing literature about ecosystem valuation. The papers were sometimes too advanced for us to fully understand, but after reading so many, we were able to gain a general understanding. We assigned different students to write different sections of the paper, but the amount of effort each individual was willing to provide varied, essentially leading to a jumble of sections filled with pretentious scientific jargon that masked a lack of understanding on the part of many students. This may have been because of a lack of effort on the part of some, or the misguided efforts of students to make the paper conform to what they thought science (and scientific writing) was. Also, we had to learn how to tailor our paper to this journal, Ecological Economics, working to format it so that it fit the requirements. The problems we faced may also have stemmed from having such a large class working on one paper or just from struggling to understand the data. In addition, the statistical data analysis and models we used were beyond the grasp of most of our class, thus making discussions about the results more difficult. This also complicated our ability to draw conclusions based on our findings. It was not a simple process.

To me, the sole idea of such a project is great. But the fact that the paper actually has got published is even better. Thumbs up for the editors of Ecological Economics. And thanks to the students for showing that you don’t have to have a well-known name to get published in meaningful journals (unless it is the American Economic Review, where you have to pay a fee for your paper to be considered for publication).

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On highly connected but dysfunctional academics (or The downsides of networking)

Very interesting perspective on scientific networking. Since I see the problems my supervisor has to find time for truly scientific work, I cannot but agree with Joern Fischer’s message.

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer

As researchers, we live in a highly connected world. Many colleagues work on things that are related somehow to what we do. Conventional wisdom has it that we ought to keep up with Table of Contents, with conferences, and with funding calls, so that we know what’s going on elsewhere. Moreover, early career researchers are told frequently about the importance of “networking”. You’ve got to know who-is-who and who-does-what to effectively position yourself for a research career. To be part of the next “big thing”, you have to be known to those people centrally involved in that “big thing” (e.g. a new funding call, or some other kind of research collaboration).

Through this kind of logic, powerful research networks have formed around many issues. So, for example, there are scholars interested in “resilience stuff”, others interested in “pollination stuff”, others interested in “Amazon stuff”, and yet others…

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