Adventures in Science, Creativity and Research Openness

Many times during talks about social media in science, I’ve argued that there is a lot of room for researchers to be more open about the research process. Following along with Rosie Redfield as she blogged her lab’s attempts to grow the GFAJ-1 bacterium of arsenic life fame and publish the results was a fascinating window into how a university research lab works. I’m really excited about the possibilities that openness like that offers to high school students and anyone with an interest in science. It’s a first-hand opportunity to learn about the real day-to-day work of scientists in a way almost not possible before blogs and social media.

Setting a terrible example, though, I’ve never done anything like this myself. I’ve blogged about my own research occasionally but only after everything was completed and the paper published. It’s time to do something about that. There are lots of legitimate reasons why researchers in some fields can’t share their day-to-day work, but my field isn’t like that. We’re not dealing with patents and owned intellectual property or working on a topic where there is fierce competition to be the first to report a result. Our work in science education is highly contextual. No one else’s study, even on the same topic, is going to be the same as mine. More than likely it would help the field to have someone else ask the same questions, rather than having the potential to hurt my work or career.

So, taking a step towards making what I say personal, I’ve embarked on a really exciting project with David Ng at the University of British Columbia. While chatting at Science Online 2013, David and I found we had a common interest in creativity and science. We were both excited by the how students’ experiences in school science could be enhanced by encounters with creativity. David’s work at the Michael Smith Laboratories includes running a great program called the Science Creative Literary Symposia where students in Grades 5-7 (age 10-12) get to play around with both laboratory work and creative writing. We’ve been wondering what we could do if we joined forces.

So I present Adventures in the Science and Creativity Venn. David and I are going to share our discussions and our work as we look for ways to study and learn from the students in his programs. Our first task is seeking funding and we’ll be blogging our drafts, our questions and our struggles as we put together our first grant application for the project.

Ever want to know more about how science education research happens or about how people like David and I from different backgrounds come together on an interdisciplinary project? Then pull up a chair and watch as we try to figure it out. Comments, suggestions, and helpful hints always welcome too!

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