Scientist tested, kid approved: Peer review from a child's point of view

02/15/2017 10:38 am ET

It's often hard to find easy-to-read articles about cool scientific findings that are written in a clear way - let alone articles that are understandable enough to use as bedtime reading with your child. But, here's a little secret: there are articles out there that are actually written by scientists and approved by children before they are published.

Frontiers for Young Minds (FYM) is an online journal specializing in publishing articles that describe foundational information geared for non-scientists and especially for children. The clarity of the writing is put to the test by the harshest of critics - kids themselves. Sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes an entire middle school classroom. And one of the coolest parts about these articles is that the children who review the article actually get their names and profiles included on the journal website. This is in stark contrast to the typical anonymity of the scientific review process. In fact, all Frontiers journals publish the names of the reviewers with the articles themselves. And as outlined in a recent issue of Neuron, FYM is no different.

<strong>Kid friendly graphics.</strong> This is an example image from an article about 'The reading brain.' All graphics in F
Kid friendly graphics. This is an example image from an article about 'The reading brain.' All graphics in FYM articles are fun, kid friendly, and professionally done. Image source: Kassuba and Kastner (2015).

For example, while reading about how brain organization and thinking may be different across cultures, you can learn that Mrs. Thomas' 4th grade class from Marshall Elementary reviewed the article. Or when learning about what parts of our brains are involved with naming songs, you can find out that 8 year old Krishna reviewed the article and in his lifetime, wants to use DNA research to bring back to life something that is extinct. Or that Kayleigh, who reviewed the article describing how we get lost in reading comprehension, also likes swimming and eating tacos. The writing is clear, the graphics are great, and you and your kids (or your nieces, nephews, or students) can learn about the brain in a clear way. And, if you want to read about other topics such as health, astronomy and space science, or earth and its resources, you can! All of these topics are covered by FYM. And the best part? You can download the articles for free.

It's a fascinating dynamic - scientists writing articles in the hopes of getting the approval of a child in order for it to get published. Then again, isn't that what we should be striving for? To publish foundational knowledge with such clarity and cadence that the articles can be used as bedtime reading for kids? Hey, why not. And don’t forget, while these articles may be given the stamp of approval by young minds, they are for all of us to enjoy no matter what age we may be.

Kevin S. Weiner is a neuroscientist, as well as member of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) and writes for the Communications/Media Team. The OHBM Media Team brings cutting edge information and research on the human brain to your laptops, desktops, and mobile devices in a way that is neurobiologically pleasing. For more information about brain mapping, follow www.humanbrainmapping.org/blog or @OHBMSci_News.

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