Palash Pandey, a freshman data science major, has been immersed in the world of data science research since he was a student in high school, so the decision to dive into Drexel’s research opportunities for undergraduate students was an easy one for him to make. Over the past ten weeks, he has participated in the STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholars Program under the guidance of his faculty mentor, Assistant Professor Erjia Yan, PhD.
The STAR Scholars Program allows first-year students to participate in faculty-mentored research, scholarship, or creative work during the summer after their freshman year. The program provides an opportunity for students to get to know faculty, explore a major area of research, and gain practical skills and valuable research experience. Participating students work full-time on their research projects during the summer term while living on campus and receiving a stipend.
Pandey’s project explores the issue of bias in scientific publications, which first piqued his interest when his high school research received a publication. “While I was researching for that project, I had to scroll through thousands of journals, which led me to think about the implications that acceptance decisions can have in the long term. For example, had the inventors of the world wide web not been published in a credible journal, would the Internet exist as we know it today? Possibly not. The decisions about whose work gets published really matter and have impact on the world,” Pandey explained.
To examine the issue of gender bias in publication decisions, Pandey and Yan have been examining manuscripts submitted to journals in 2017 and analyzing the sentiment of the reviewers’ comments as a proxy for the quality of the papers. “Studies on bias can be very subjective, so we are using sentiment scores as a method for quantifiably determining whether there is bias or not,” Pandey explained.
Pandey will present their findings at the 2018 STAR Scholars Showcase this week. Pandey and Yan intend to continue their collaboration even after the STAR Scholars Program concludes, looking to next examine publication bias related to author nationality.
“Palash is very motivated and sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine that this is just his first year as an undergraduate student. It feels more like I’m working with one of my colleagues, and our collaboration is very smooth,” said Yan.
When asked about the greatest benefit of participating in this research experience, Pandey pointed to the practicality of gaining research experience. “The STAR program is more than just a fun, three-month experience. Even if you don’t want to work in academia, the skills that you gain from a research project are really valuable. You can use them in industry too,” he said.