Stiller-Reeve et al. (2016), Improving together: better science writing through peer-learning

M.A. Stiller-Reeve, C. Heuzé, W.T. Ball, R.H. White, G. Messori, K. van der Wiel, I. Medhaug, A.H. Eckes, A. O’Callaghan, M.J. Newland, S.R. Williams, M. Kasoar, H.E. Wittmeier, and V. Kumer (2016), Improving together: better science writing through peer-learning, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol 20, pp 2965-2973, doi:10.5194/hess-20-2965-2016 

We report on the SciSnack project.
Although scientists are increasingly asked to communicate their science to the general public and policy makers, most institutions do not provide adequate training. Hence a few years ago ClimateSnack (now renamed SciSnack) was created.

Fig. 2: The funnel model used when commenting on each other’s texts.

SciSnack is based on volunteer peer-learning. Early career researchers start writing groups in their respective institution (I created the one at UEA). They meet once a month and comment on each other’s blog posts in order to improve them. When a post is ready, it is published on SciSnack where the international community can further comment on it. Participants all reported on an improvement in their writing style, even for scientific manuscripts, increased confidence and strong development of leadership skills (for the group leaders).

We found that the main limitation of SciSnack is that it has to be done on top of other research duties. Even the most motivated of early career researcher ends up giving up on science communication when pressured to publish “real” science articles or write proposals. More support and understanding is needed from institutions and funding agencies.

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