“What is real science all about?”
What do we really mean when we talk about science, science education, and science research? Our mission at JEI is to teach “science in its truest form”, but we have yet to explain our definition of science. As we begin publishing your work, it’s important for us to tell you about our expectations. So here is a brief list of what we think about when we think about science:
- Generating a testable hypothesis (or question) based on previous knowledge, observations, and data.
- Gathering information on what is known about your observation or question.
- Performing experiments and other tests to gather more information on your observation or question.
- Combining previous knowledge and your own data to come up with possible explanations for an observed phenomenon.
So that’s what we look for in an article. If you think that something is missing, write us a letter and tell us! Another important aspect of science is reaching out to other researchers to start a conversation about science.
Noticeably absent from our list is “finding an answer.” We hesitate to put this on the list because people may assume we mean “finding the right answer” or “finding an endpoint.” Years of doing research have taught us that there is no “right answer” in science research, and there definitely is no endpoint. Typically the most interesting answers and results are the unexpected, and more often than not, the answer from one experiment leads to more questions.
At JEI we want you to have the freedom to explore your questions. Our job is to help guide you and keep you thinking about your results so that you can come up with the next question.
Our first article is published today, January 30th 2012. This article truly embodies the kind of science we expect. Sarah Geil, the lead author, thought of an interesting question: does the order in which you are born into a family affect your academic success? Sarah did very thorough background research to see what was already known about this topic. Even with all of her background research she did not find studies that she felt explicitly answered her question, but it did provide her with enough information to come up with an informed hypothesis. Through surveys and sophisticated statistical analysis, Sarah tested her hypothesis. We don’t want to completely give away her results, but as with most scientific studies Sarah obtained results that were perhaps ambiguous and differed from previous studies. Sarah also obtained some more straightforward results. But what is most important to any scientific endeavor, and something that Sarah hit spot-on, is the dissection of the variables that could have affected the results and how these variables can be used to ask different questions for future studies. So in the end Sarah’s research led to more questions, just as we hypothesized.
Sarah’s article is the first of what we hope will be many, many more publications that highlight the work of all levels of student scientists. If you’re interested in publishing, take a look at our submission guidelines for help with putting your article together. Don’t hesitate to email us with questions (firstname.lastname@example.org). And keep checking the website, we’re continually updating and adding additional resources to help you in your science research.
The JEI Editorial Team
Sarah, Chris, Lincoln, Amy, Bryan, Sean, Matt, Andrew and Dave