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10.10.2018 14:09

Early career researchers discuss knowledge transfer in marine sciences

by Dr. Lydia Gustavs, Projektträger Jülich (PtJ)

The keywords ‘science communication’, ’application of scientific results‘ and ’proactive behaviour‘ dominated the discussions at the PtJ-BONUS workshop during the 9th YOUMARES conference in Oldenburg, Germany. An intense World Café session highlighted the opportunities and limitations of knowledge transfer. The group of 15 participants worked out the relevant questions for a subsequent online poll, reaching a wider target audience at the plenary session of the conference.

Participants of the PtJ-BONUS workshop „Knowledge Transfer in Marine Science" at the 9th YOUMARES conference in Oldenburg, Germany . Picture credit: Marie Heidenreich, Projektträger Jülich
Since September 2010, early career researchers from all over the world have been meeting in northern Germany to facilitate the YOUng MArine RESearchers (YOUMARES) conference. What is special about these meetings is that, besides its continuous growth from a national initiative to a worldwide network of early career researchers, it is solely organised by volunteers and the atmosphere is especially informal and inspiring.

The German funding agency PtJ supports the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the implementation of Mare:N – the national programme to fund coastal, marine and polar research for sustainable development. Both Mare:N and BONUS highlight the principle that science has to be both impactful for the society and solution-oriented for policy makers. As communication and knowledge transfer are the key to support these missions, it is key to seek viewpoints of both more established as well early career scientists.

The PtJ-BONUS workshop organised during the YOUMARES conference on 13 September 2018 highlighted the enormous impact that can be achieved by having research results strategically transferred to non-expert communities. The participants also considered the support of open access as an important fundament to foster the exchange within the scientific community. ‘Open days’ on ships and for instance the initiative ”Skype a Scientist“, which enables school classes to interview researchers, were identified as particularly promising examples of science communication. Further, the workshop participants were convinced that the transfer of information has to go hand in hand with a certain degree of ‘entertainment value’, which is crucial to communicate the central message ”Research is fun“.  All personal contacts between scientists and the society were considered of key importance. Hence, in order to directly involve the society at large in marine science, the attendees suggested to design a special public session to be part of the next YOUMARES conference.

Also, the online poll designed in the World Café revealed several interesting results. A total of 94 percent of the students answered positively to the question ”Would you be available to give a talk at your former school?“ while a slight majority of 55 percent noted to be interested  to transfer their knowledge to the society. Only 9 percent of the attendees where in favour of  spending their entire time with research instead of dedicating a certain effort to knowledge transfer and communication, while as many as 37 percent of respondents stated to be already active in knowledge transfer.

Finally, during the workshop, the young researchers were asked to explain their research to a child in one sentence, to get first impressions about the applicability of marine science lessons in school curricula. Vivid examples with great illustrative power such as ”plastic hurts“, ”sponges are animals and they have a lot of tiny creatures living inside that you can only see with a microscope.“ resulted from this hands-on exercise.

The next YOUMARES conference will take place in Bremen, Germany, from 24th to 27th of September 2019.

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