Clark University’s Scholarly Undergraduate Research Journal is expanding its scope this year in just about every way possible. The SURJ team is encouraging research awareness and engagement among first-year students and underrepresented populations on campus. Organizers also plan to publish an edition representing the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic halting operations last spring.
The student-run journal, now in its seventh year, publishes research articles written and peer-reviewed by undergraduate students. This summer, the SURJ team began working with the Dean of the College Office to increase its presence on campus — focusing on reaching first-year students through the Clark Navigator program.
“Our goal is to get people involved who otherwise wouldn’t hear about research, because whether you’re going into academics as a professor or getting a job in business, research skills are important in any profession,” says Editor-in-Chief Owen Ganter ’21. “It’s also great for academia as a whole because everybody will benefit from research being done by more students.”
SURJ accepts research from students in every department at Clark, with the majority of papers coming from the social sciences. Student contributors also are exposed to other areas of academia they might not otherwise encounter, according to Ganter, allowing for potential collaborations across departments.
“Not a lot of universities offer what Clark offers, which is undergraduate research. Our goal is to highlight that,” says Executive Editor Liana Shpani ’21.
This year, the journal worked with Clark’s First-Year Experience Program to familiarize incoming students with research during their first few months of college. First-year students are expected to attend two activities per month as part of the Clark Navigator course, and SURJ added a research-oriented session to the list of options. The session will consist of short TEDx- style talks by student researchers and possibly faculty members.
Editors Morgan Hylton ’21 and Mahi Taban ’21 worked with the Office of Multicultural and First Generation Student Support to relay information to students in the ACE and Connections@Clark programs about how to get involved with SURJ. Ganter says the journal hopes to plan a panel discussion that focuses on underrepresented student populations in research.
“These two initiatives are part of a larger goal of being able to serve the undergraduate research community in new ways,” he says.
SURJ is also aiming to increase the number of article submissions from students in the hard sciences — particularly from undergraduates in chemistry, mathematics, physics, and biology. The organization is inviting professors from those departments to serve on its faculty advisory board and is soliciting short research articles that convey the same information as a poster display.
“We think using this format is key to publishing more from the sciences because most student research typically culminates in a poster rather than a full research article,” Ganter says.
Because most of the journal’s operations occur online, he adds, it’s easy for students to get involved despite restrictions related to the pandemic.
SURJ’s deadlines for research submissions are Nov. 6 and Feb. 1 for this academic year. After an article is submitted, it is
sent to a team of peer reviewers who write a two- to three-page assessment of the piece. Each review is then evaluated by the editorial board, which decides whether the article will be accepted, accepted pending revisions, or rejected.
Shpani says the peer review a double-blind process, meaning the reviewers don’t know who wrote the article and the author doesn’t know who reviewed it. Each piece is also reviewed by a faculty member. Once the article is accepted, SURJ’s team of copy editors examines it for spelling and grammatical errors.
“I encourage any student across campus to get involved in our peer review and copy editing teams. It’s not something you need prior experience in,” Ganter says. “I think it’s more important than ever to keep going and do our best to keep our organization running.”
The Scholarly Undergraduate Research Journal will publish at the end of April 2021.