Can a National Network of Undergraduate Research Program Directors Validate a Set of Professional Skills-Building Science Communication Workshops?


This paper reports on the progress of an ongoing strategy for dissemination of a set of science communication workshops targeted to students participating in undergraduate research experiences on university campuses. Previous MRS Proceedings papers by the first author and collaborators focused on (1) the development and validation of the REU Science Communication Workshop (REU SCW) model through iterative practice, research and evaluation between 2005 and 2009, and (2) the 2012 testing of a scaffolded and piggybacked “beyond train-the-trainer” mode of dissemination of the REU SCW model to multiple university campuses, as compared to a highly-validated but less efficient one-to-one transfer process deployed between Boston and Madison between 2010 and 2012. This new paper reports on the follow-up effort to confirm and validate the success of the REU SCW workshop model as implemented at the second-wave of dissemination sites by the new cohort of participating undergraduate research program directors. We analyze data gathered in 2013 and 2014 from the participating students, faculty, and providers. The results indicate that the second-wave providers were able to reproduce the successful results achieved at the origination and first dissemination sites, and that providers and stakeholders at these additional sites value the model enough to continue providing it and in some cases to laterally expand it to other programs on campus. These findings suggest that it is possible to greatly expand the number of undergraduate research experience students receiving quality coaching in professional science communication skills by providing their program directors with a comprehensive professional development experience, employing the scaffolded, piggybacked, “beyond train-the-trainer” professional development model.

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The authors wish to acknowledge the valuable contributions made by the following undergraduate research program directors to the REU SCW dissemination, implementation, evaluation, and validation efforts: Sharnnia Artis and Meltem Erol (UC-Berkeley), Mack Carter (UWash), Samantha Cruz and Wendy Ibsen (UCSB), Andrew Greenberg (UWisc-Madison), Brandon Lucas and Akeesha Moore (UMich), Leda Lunardi (NC State), Leslie O’Neil (Georgia Tech), and Jacques Richard (Texas A&M). This work was supported by the National Science Foundation through the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, award no. 0940143. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Alpert, C.L., Thate, K. Can a National Network of Undergraduate Research Program Directors Validate a Set of Professional Skills-Building Science Communication Workshops?. MRS Online Proceedings Library 1762, 74–82 (2015).

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