NIH Summer Students Hope to Launch Journal For Youngest Scientists

If you think postdocs have trouble getting their articles into prestigious journals, just imagine the problems of authors who don't even have M.D.s or Ph.D.s yet....

Shervin Pishevar, an undergraduate who has spent two summers at NIH, felt the problem so acutely that he decided to do something about it with the help of Iris Kedar, another summer student. Pishevar and Kedar decided to start a scientific journal for high- school students and undergraduates.

"It's about empowering young people," Pishevar says of the quest to create the International Journal for Young Scientists. Now a junior at Berkeley, Pishevar says, "It is very hard for students to get the opportunity to publish. Many students -- especially women -- are not given the opportunity" to publish the results of experiments they have conducted as summer students or for honors projects at their schools. Pishevar says that if a mentor doesn't sign onto a paper and then coach a student through the publication maze, the process can be extremely discouraging, if not impossible, for young students. Kedar, now a junior at Stanford, says, "The idea [behind the new journal] is to provide some recognition for young scientists to encourage them to get into research."

In a letter seeking support from Harold Varmus, Pishevar and Kedar wrote, "Isaac Newton was only 23 when he developed his theorems, Charles Darwin was only 27 when he developed his ideas about evolution, and Albert Einstein was still in his twenties when he made his greatest discoveries. It is ironic that in today's age of technology, young scientists have remained such an untapped resource."

As they envision it, the journal would be refereed by full-fledged scientists, and Kedar and Pishevar extracted promises from several NIH researchers to serve as editors on the journal if and when it comes to be. Initially, they envisioned a pure-research journal, but Kedar says they are now contemplating including some news and how-to articles on topics such as "how to choose a preceptor." Kedar and Pishevar hope to base the journal and its supporting foundation, the Society for Young Scientists, at Berkeley and Stanford and to encourage the establishment of society chapters at all major universities and many high schools connected through e-mail. Pishevar would like to see monthly e-mail conferences and extensive collaborative projects and sharing of data among young scientists.

For now, Pishevar and Kedar are gathering ideas and soliciting potential backers. "Our goal is to get the first issue out by the fall of 1995," Pishevar says. "We had good experiences as summer students doing research here [at NIH]," says Kedar. "Doing your own research gives you a personal experience that makes your education your own. It is wonderful, and we want more people to get involved and to get some recognition."