Brock earns five semifinal spots in Canadawide student research competition

Five Brock University student research videos have made it to the semifinals of a national competition that showcases science research being done in universities across Canada.The Science, Action! competition features student-produced, 60-second videos on research projects funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), one of Brock’s major research funders.After University students from all over the country submitted videos in January, NSERC chose 75 entries, including seven from Brock, which the agency posted on its website.The videos were available for viewing throughout February. The public was encouraged to ‘vote’ for videos by watching them. The 25 most-viewed entries then advanced to the next round.NSERC announced the Top 25 list of semifinalists, which includes five Brock videos, Monday, March 12.The videos are:Cell Talk (Matthew Mueller, Biological Sciences)DNA: A Mobile Molecule (Zakia Dahi and Jina Nanayakkara, Biological Sciences)Old Crow’s New Arctic (Brent Thorne, Earth Sciences)On the Fly (Taylor Lidster, Biological Sciences)Wildfires of Yellowknife (Josef Viscek, Earth Sciences)“The success of Brock University’s student participants in NSERC’s Science, Action! program is remarkable, but not surprising to anyone who knows the quality of STEM programs and the integration of research and teaching at Brock,” said Brock Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon.In a December interview with The Brock News, Christian Riel, NSERC’s Director of Communications, explained the importance of communicating science research to the public.“Science, Action! challenges students to find new ways of explaining complex research so that anyone from kids to grandparents can understand,” he said. “Students are often surprised at how difficult that can be and they learn very useful communication skills they then carry into their work in the lab or future careers.”Kenyon said NSERC’s competition is very helpful for students.“It can be the work of a lifetime to develop the understanding and complex skills needed both to do significant research and to effectively convey its impact and meaning to a non-specialist audience,” he said. “Brock’s student finalists are clearly learning these skills early, showing the bright future of creative, high-impact science.”Translating complicated research concepts into compelling language readily understood by a general audience is part of an activity called ‘knowledge mobilization,’ which seeks to connect research and the wider society.The students’ ability to convey key messages behind their research to the general public impressed Marty Mako, Acting Manager at Niagara Region Public Health. The organization is a key knowledge mobilization partner for a variety of Brock-based research projects.“In public health, we strive to make evidence-informed decisions,” he said. “This involves distilling the best available evidence, then using that evidence to improve practice and policy development. A challenge, however, can be presenting research and evidence in a way that is clearly understood, so it actually leads to change.”Mako said students took the challenge of explaining their work in simple terms and ran with it, creating “well done” videos that were enjoyable and informative to watch.The knowledge mobilization process is typically informed and shaped by those who would use the research, said Jayne Morrish, Knowledge Mobilization Officer with Brock’s Centre for Lifespan Development Research.“Our students’ videos were so effective because they focused on the co-production of knowledge – working with and from the viewpoints of key partners – while speaking in plain language, highlighting the connections to relevant communities and telling stories that grabbed the audience’s attention,” she said.Morrish said it’s important for researchers to demonstrate their knowledge mobilization efforts in future funding applications and in their careers. “Contests like Science, Action! provide students with a chance to develop their knowledge mobilization skills in an interactive format.”Next month, a panel of judges will select the Top 15 from the 25 videos. The first-place winner will receive $3,500; second place, $3,000; and third place, $2,750. The remaining dozen will receive $2,500.