Strategies for Enhancing Communication Between Students, Academics and Researchers Participating in Large-Scale Undergraduate Research Projects

Karen Mate, Carlos Riveros, Jude Weidenhofer, Belinda Goldie, Judith Scott, Pablo Moscato, Dan Johnstone, Elizabeth Milward

Abstract


Spreading the word about science and inspiring people to connect with the processes and outcomes of science, whether as researchers, educators, students, industry professionals or consumers, is essential in forging stronger links among scientists and with the communities that stand to benefit from their work. How do we nurture inspirational scientific communication in the context of university undergraduate science education, particularly in large cohort settings that are often more mind-numbing than soul-stirring? Communicating your own discoveries effectively is the zenith of scientific endeavour. We have developed a large-scale original research experience for second or third year undergraduate biomedical science students. The students undertake ‘mini’ projects and present their research outcomes verbally, visually and in a written format suitable for journal publication. This helps students understand how science works and develops their ability to explain scientific concepts to their peers and others. To promote ‘original research’ to students in ways that inspire and motivate participation, we have also evolved strategies to help instructors and researchers communicate successfully with large student cohorts, including a wiki for secure data storage, FAQ sheets and databases of bioinformatics tools. Introduction of the research experience has improved survey scores overall and on items relating to communication. These strategies are applicable to any course seeking to introduce students to the practice of research and communication of research outcomes. Our experience suggests optimal multidimensional communication may be best achieved through instructors, researchers and students working together to develop effective stratagems for surviving and thriving in the information-dense, digital world.

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