The Way I See It: Time has come for International Collegiate Science Journal

The Way I See It: Time has come for International Collegiate Science Journal

By Julia Zhao

Even as a natural science major, I was bewildered the first time I tried to read a scientific journal article. I spent nearly a day slogging through the manuscript, reading and rereading paragraphs of text that I couldn’t piece together. For experienced scientists and experts, scientific papers are more straightforward because the terminology is common and understandable. For students and laymen, the scientific jargon becomes a strong deterrent to reading about scientific research and recent discoveries. My personal motivation in reading papers stems from my desire to apply the information I read to the research I conduct in lab. So what motivates the general populace to wade through convoluted articles — assuming they even have a subscription to scientific journals?

Julia Zhao

The lack of translation from scientific jargon to conversational English is a concern for the general public and the scientific community alike. Science is an inseparable component of our daily lives, from the technology we use for transportation and communication to the medicine we take for illnesses. Scientific developments have allowed us to understand our history and will dictate our quality of life in the future. Just as the general public should be interested in current scientific research, the scientific community should be equally invested in making intimidating and “boring” publications appealing to citizens, as a great deal of research is dependent on government funding.

What are Rice undergraduates doing to solve the deficiency in scientific communication?

In 2008, Catalyst, Rice’s Undergraduate Science Research Journal, was founded to foster discussion of science and engineering on campus. Through sheer determination, the all-volunteer Catalyst staff has published seven volumes of the journal and distributed print copies to the Rice community. In 2011, Catalyst began hosting TEDxRiceU, an event highlighting the research and specialties of professors from Rice and the Texas Medical Center. That same year, our organization initiated Catalyst Discoveries, an online forum for students to discuss current scientific news.

This year, we are excited to announce a new partnership with sister organizations at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, Duke, the University of California-Berkeley and Washington University in St. Louis to establish the International Collegiate Science Journal (ICSJ), which we believe is the first intercollegiate scientific publication of its kind. The goal of ICSJ is to make cutting-edge scientific discoveries accessible and appealing to a broad audience. By working together, the ICSJ organizers hope to reach more readers than we would working alone. Through crowd-funding, ICSJ aims to publish online and print collaborative science journals that people from all walks of life can read, understand and enjoy. If we attract enough support, we also plan to host an international scientific communication conference and magazine-launch event for university undergraduates.

ICSJ presents Rice students with a unique opportunity to highlight both their writing and research on an international scale. For myself and the rest of the staff at Catalyst, ICSJ is more than a publication; it is an international community of students who are just as passionate as we are about making science accessible and captivating.

–Julia Zhao is a Lovett College senior and co-editor-in-chief of Catalyst, Rice Undergraduate Science Research Journal.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.