Texas Tech University

For CoMC doctoral student Starkey, federally funded research opportunity is key for program experience and future

James Loss

March 4, 2021

Doctoral students in the College of Media & Communication work alongside professors to conduct research across the academic sphere. Doctoral student Jesse Starkey, research assistant and graduate part-time instructor, is a first-hand recipient of the insightful opportunities provided by CoMC research programs.

In 2018, during her first semester in the doctoral program, Starkey was assigned as a research assistant to Amy Koerber, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for administration and finance. At the time, Koerber and her team were gearing up for a new National Science Foundation-funded research project called STEM Training in Ethics and Publication Practices (STEPP). Starkey has been a valuable contributor to the project ever since.

“She's pretty much been indispensable,” says Koerber. “She's been involved in every step of the project. From the proposal, to the initial preliminary research, to now as we get close to developing the training program.”

Among many great qualities, Koerber says Starkey's dedication is what makes her stand out on the project.

“We have a great team,” says Koerber. “There are four other faculty who are on the team, but faculty tend to get pulled in different directions, whereas Jesse has made this a primary focus of her research assistantship. She's really central on keeping things going.”

STEPP aims to prepare STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) scholars to navigate the academic publishing terrain and avoid predatory publishing practices, which the study cites as journals and publishers seeking to accept more articles purely for the sake of increasing profits, often without adequate peer review. Starkey has gained invaluable knowledge and experience in pursuit of the objective.

“I have been involved at every step of the process,” Starkey says. “For somebody who is trying to go into a tenured faculty position, it has been an excellent opportunity to see the whole federal grant process starting from the proposal. I got to see the development of our project website, marketing and PR, promoting our publications, and working with different external stakeholders.”

Starkey commends the college for allowing students to participate in hands-on research while utilizing the knowledge they acquire in the classroom from top academics.

“It sets us up to go out and do good work under the name of Texas Tech,” says Starkey. “I think the faculty here really recognize the real-world experiences that the students can bring in and add quality to the research.”

Starkey believes the benefits will assist her in a major way after graduating.

“I think it will really give me the confidence to be able to apply for these types of grants myself, says Starkey. “Even aside from this NSF grant, we have one publication that is in print, we have a conference proposal that has been accepted to the International Communication Association, and we have another publication that's under review and another one in the works. There's going to be several very concrete lines on my CV that will come from this specific project.”

Meanwhile, Koerber hopes this research will benefit students like Starkey from across the globe—and far into the future.

“I hope that we can provide training that makes people more knowledgeable and more aware of [predatory publishing],” she says. “We've learned so much, even compared to where we started. We have learned just how complicated this issue is. We just want to find a way to share that knowledge with scholars and other stakeholders in this issue across the globe.”

The STEPP research will take place over three phases, concluding in December 2022. Other members of the project include Karin Ardon-Dryer, Ph.D., Glenn Cummins, Ph.D., Leo Eko, Ph.D., and Kerk F. Kee, Ph.D..

Visit the project's website to learn more.