Tips for Authors, Issue 11 July 2012

Too young to publish? - Think against!

Japanese high school students discover a new method of producing an antimicrobial agent and publish their paper in the Journal of Materials Science

The road to publication can be a rocky one even for the most experienced scientist. For young scientists beginning their career in academia this challenge is magnified when combined with lack of experience, increased competition for dwindling research funds and a plethora of publications (not to mention publishing options) to choose from.
But thanks to numerous initiatives that have been established around the world, the next generation of young scientists are receiving the help and support they need to realize their full potential. Publishers too are working hard to smooth the path to publication by streamlining processes and expanding their distribution to encourage submissions from authors at all stages of their scientific careers. Springer is no exception so we were proud to publish the work of some very young authors in one of our key journals.
Mr. Tomosato Hioki, Miss Saaya Ando, Mr. Takamichi Yamada, Miyagi Prefectural Sendai Daini Senior High School students, and their teacher and Chemistry Club supervisor, Mr. Naoshi Watanabe (right), are the co-authors of the published paper.

Discovery in the Chemistry Club laboratory

An experiment conducted as part of a Chemistry Club activity by three students at the Sendai Daini Senior High School, North Tokyo, resulted in the discovery of a new and inexpensive method for producing silver peroxide (Ag2O3).
While in their first year of high school, students Mr. Tomosato Hioki, Miss Saaya Ando and Mr. Takamichi Yamada conceived the theme of their experiment, designed its procedure and carried it out using high school laboratory equipment. Carefully following the scientific methodology they had learned from teacher and Chemistry Club Supervisor Mr. Watanabe, they eventually made the breakthrough discovery. At the same time, they also demonstrated that the antimicrobial effect of this substance is about ten times stronger than that of silver oxide (Ag2O), which is widely used as an antimicrobial agent.
On March 11 last year, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. Sendai Daini Senior High School was damaged and Tohoku University's Analysis Center was devastated. The three students were forced to suspend their experiment and writing. In spite of the recent disaster, they completed their paper and in August 2011 presented it at the 'First Bio Summit for High School Students' in Tsuruoka, where they were honored with the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) Award.
The result was presented in a paper and published in Springer publication, the Journal of Materials Science, reaching research scientists all over the world.

Supporting Next Generation Scientists

But while this discovery in itself is remarkable, it’s important to note that it was achieved with the guidance and support provided by both Mr. Watanabe and Professor Atsushi Higashitani, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University. Using the framework of the University's Exploring Germination and Growth Program for Young Scientists (EGGS), the tutors guided the students through their experiment to its conclusion. EGGS is one of the "Fostering Next-Generation Scientists" projects commissioned by the JST and this discovery demonstrates just how important such initiatives are in encouraging scientific advances.
Following their success, the group considered their options: should they submit a patent application or publish the research in a leading journal? All agreed that they wanted the greatest exposure and recognition for the discovery while the students were still in High School. Publishing a research paper would achieve this objective.

Reaching out to the world using Open Access

Together with Mr. Watanabe the students co-authored a paper in Japanese. However, to achieve international recognition, the paper needed to be re-written in English (itself a challenging task). With the continued support of the EGGS Program, the group worked to ensure that the correct words and terms were selected.
Shorty after its submission, the paper was accepted and published online, open access. Publishing the paper open access allowed the research to be made available to as wide an audience as possible, including other High School students and teachers with an interest in science, as well as achieving the global recognition desired.
Following the press release announcing the publication of the paper, major Japanese newspapers, TV stations and other media covered the event. The increased antimicrobial activity of Ag2O3 generated numerous inquiries from private businesses too.
This discovery highlights just what can be done if the right initiatives and support is in place! As a publisher, we remain committed to our mission of supporting research activities, not only by disseminating valuable information via our publications but also by continuing to contribute to scientific advances through providing the means to publish research results. We wish Mr. Hioki, Miss Ando, Mr. Yamada, and the Sendai Daini Senior High School Chemistry Club a bright future full of success and look forward to receiving their future papers!