Development of a national workshop to teach norwegian ph.d. students in engineering and science how to communicate research

Michael Alley, Are Magnus Bruaset, Melissa Marshall, Marianne M. Sundet, Sarah Zappe

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


To succeed, research engineers and scientists have to be able to communicate their work to both technical and non-technical audiences. Typically, graduate students in engineering and science do not receive formal instruction on the skills particular to communicating research. Instead, graduate students pick up these skills from their research advisors during the preparation of papers and presentations. Some universities do offer formal workshops, but these workshops usually have not been assessed by anyone outside the institution, do not provide individual feedback to the student, and try to address the needs of graduate students from all disciplines. To address these deficiencies, Simula Research Laboratory in Norway has collaborated with faculty from Pennsylvania State University to pilot a national workshop (given in English) for Norwegian Ph.D. students on communicating scientific research. Funded primarily by Norwegian industries, the 3-day workshop was divided into three segments: (1) making research presentations to a technical audience, (2) writing research papers and dissertations to technical audiences, and (3) making research presentations to general audiences. The first two segments, on making research presentations and writing research documents to technical audiences, were based on a workshop series that was developed at national laboratories in the U.S., taught to more than 1000 professionals and graduate students, and formally tested on more than 400 engineering and science graduate students at five different universities. The segment on research presentations to technical audiences called upon participants to prepare a 10-12 minute talk about their research, to submit slides for review before the workshop, to attend the formal class on research presentations during the workshop, to revise their presentations based on that class, and then to give and participate in critique sessions of these talks. The second segment on writing research documents called upon participants to prepare and submit a summary of their research before the workshop begins. This summary was used by participants for critiquing exercises during the formal part of the writing class. Moreover, common weaknesses of these summaries were emphasized during the formal class portion. The third segment, communicating research to the general public, had the goal of teaching participants how to give general audiences what Richard Feynman called an "honest" understanding of the work. The content for this segment arose from an examination of successful general audience presentations, given by well known figures such as Robert Ballard and Janine Benyus. This segment had its premiere at the national workshop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009
Event2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Austin, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2009Jun 17 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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