Embedding Scientific Communication and Digital Capabilities in the Undergraduate Biomedical Science Curriculum

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Abstract

Introduction: Scientific communication, particularly the dissemination of research findings to both the scientific community and the general public, are skills required of graduates embarking on post-graduate studies and employment within the biomedical sciences sector. The aims of this action research project were to i) co-design an online scientific communication and digital capabilities resource, constructively aligned to the learning objectives of a final year undergraduate investigative research project; ii) ensure resource flexibility for future adaptation by others iii) embed authentic scientific communication learning assessments, namely, the preparation of a lay summary and visual abstract and iv) promote students' awareness of developed digital capabilities and transferable skills through written reflection. Materials and Methods: Student engagement, self-efficacy, experiences and performance and staff perceptions (n = 15) were evaluated by a mixed methods approach. Qualitative data was gathered from focus sessions, free text responses within questionnaires and content analysis of students' written reflections (n = 104). Quantitative data from 5-point Likert responses within student questionnaires (n = 31) and analysis of student scientific and lay writing (n = 146) using the readability parameters Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and Flesch Reading Ease were analysed using non-parametric statistical methods. Results: A learning resource was co-designed with students, staff, local, national and international contributors and valued by both students and staff, enabling students to prepare scientific communication outputs of a professional standard by application of digital, analytical and scientific communication skills. Students prepared lay summaries which were statistically (p < 0.0001) more readable than their paired scientific abstracts. Significant correlations between easier readability of lay summaries and awarded marks for the written elements of the module were noted. Students reported their digital and communication capabilities increased significantly (p < 0.0001) throughout, from limited to good/excellent and reflected on the numerous transferable skills developed during preparation of assessments, with 75% reflecting on their digital capabilities. Discussion: Undergraduate students developed, appreciated and used varied scientific communication and digital skills to articulate research findings. The embedding of such activities throughout all levels of higher education will enable students to develop their digital and scientific skills and reflect on the development of such transferable skills for application in their future careers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11284
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Biomedical Science
Volume80
Early online date19 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 19 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 Millar, Tarasov, Ternan, Moore and Murphy.

Keywords

  • Health Archive
  • biomedical science
  • lay summary
  • scientific communication
  • visual abstract
  • digital capabilities
  • curriculum
  • reflection

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