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Guest Post: Making a Research Communication Workshop Interesting!

By Barbara Gastel | March 26, 2013

[This post is from AuthorAID community member Dr. Haseeb Md. Irfanullah. Haseeb works for Practical Action, a UK-based charity, in Bangladesh. He is available at hmirfanullah@yahoo.co.uk. Thanks very much, Haseeb! —Barbara]

Highly inspired by my first AuthorAID workshop facilitation, last year I applied for the first time for an AuthorAID Workshop Grant on behalf of the Bangladesh Association of Plant Taxonomists (BAPT). My first application, in March, was not successful. So I reapplied in July, addressing all the shortcomings of my first attempt. And we succeeded!

On 22–23  February 2013, we (BAPT) held our first-ever AuthorAID workshop, to improve research communication skills of 26 young plant scientists of Bangladesh. As at my last workshop, I thought I should try something different to make the workshop more interactive and interesting. Here I am sharing 2 exercises that we tried.

While discussing the elements of a research paper (title, authors, abstract, etc), we went quite physical—but in a positive way! We asked participants to shout 1 element; whoever shouted it first would write it on a big piece of paper and come out in front of the audience holding the name of that element. At the end, we had all possible components of a research paper—from the title to the appendixes—“standing” before us in order. We then asked whether this sequence is followed when a paper is written. This led us to discuss all the major issues associated with writing a research paper. The participants seemed to enjoy this exercise, as it helped them to realize how it literally feels “to be a part of a research paper”!

In another session, we used debating as our workshop tool. We identified several debatable statements, such as “presenting research papers is more useful than publishing papers” and “local journals are better than international journals”. The participants were divided into several groups. Each group debated with a couple of groups on a couple of topics. Although the participants were quite young, they came up with some very interesting logic in favor of their arguments! They enjoyed this session a lot, as it helped them to think about and see research communication issues from different perspectives—and to fight for their positions in a fun way!

Such fun elements were indeed needed in this workshop. Because of political unrest and frequent general strikes on weekdays in Bangladesh, we had to hold our workshop during the weekend. I believe our participants enjoyed spending their last weekend of February away from their families, but with their new researcher friends. I definitely did!


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