As a professor of transportation and logistics, one of my responsibilities is teaching the graduate capstone course, which includes writing a 50-page thesis. I’ve worked as both the primary and secondary reader to ensure the final draft contains the required research essentials. This work includes helping the student produce a final manuscript that has a clear purpose, hypothesis, methodology, results and conclusion.
When published, the final thesis becomes a permanent part of both the student and the university’s academic record. In addition, the student is encouraged to continue presenting and publishing to ensure the research efforts are received by a wide audience.
Some students have opted to take the non-thesis track capstone, in which a portfolio of shorter pieces of work is evaluated to fulfill the final requirement. I’ve taught this course too, and there are benefits to students providing a reflective analysis of past work to enhance key activities and to market themselves on employer-friendly social media platforms. Regardless of which track a student takes, one thing is certain: Clear communication is essential for all of today’s students.
STEAM Communication Is Challenging
The same concept that clear communication is essential applies to STEAM communicators. STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, is an emerging group of related curricula that is advanced through clear communication.
As research in these areas continues to evolve, communicating advances, observations, and overcoming setbacks can be easier said than done. In many cases, the research is covering new and uncharted territory.
Project Management Is Key
After nearly 30 years in this field, I can tell you there are no shortages of good ideas, but there is a need to execute projects from beginning to end with a keen focus on staying within scope, finishing under budget, and adhering to milestones and timeline requirements. Project management is an essential component of any research endeavor. It requires clear and ongoing communication in a multi-pronged approach to include many stakeholders and customers.
Communicating Research Should Include After-Action Reports
Communicating research should also include an after-action report, which is similar to the term “Monday morning quarterbacking.” The after-action report allows the researcher to document what went right, what went wrong and what needs improvement. This full disclosure reporting moves the body of knowledge forward by streamlining efforts and producing efficiency, allowing new researchers to skip over failed attempts and to start from a position of best practices of previous research.
Communication Is Vital
What’s the best way to communicate in a research environment? There are endless ways.
Email, group messaging, video conferencing, in-person meetings, instant messaging, texting and phone calls are just a few of the ways we communicate in the research environment. As STEAM continues to evolve and mature, more emphasis will need to be placed on the modes of communication. How you communicate and how the message is relayed is as important, if not more important, than the message itself.
Choose the Right Communication Platform
Historically, academics and researchers have communicated their observations and findings in peer-reviewed journal articles. However, readership is shifting to incorporate new communication platforms, including social media, cellphone applications, websites, online articles, and blogs. All-in-one communication platforms and apps such as Shoutbox have emerged allowing students to communicate about clubs, events and community announcements. Platforms like Portfolium let students upload recent academic work to enable and encourage emerging research as well as to showcase work to potential employers.
Traditional Modes of Readership Are Changing
According to the STM Report, “There were about 33,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed English-language journals in mid-2018 (plus a further 9,400 non-English-language journals), collectively publishing over 3 million articles a year.” Despite a decline in subscriptions, newspapers still have a daily circulation to 1.63 million readers.
While print readership is declining, digital media is seeing record growth. According to Journalism.org, digital-native news outlets averaged at least 10 million unique visitors per month.
Tools for Communicating
In addition, more Americans are getting their news from social media. According to Statistica, Facebook has an estimated 1.5 billion daily active visitors, and Twitter has an audience of 353 million. As a result, information can be transmitted one article at a time, which far surpasses the traditional model of sending an entire periodical all at once.
Information can travel in record time, but so can misinformation. So if you are a STEAM communicator, here are some suggestions for communicating in today’s evolving environment:
- Consider the audience. Have the audience in mind when communicating.
- Use a mixture of communication outlets. Use both traditional and non-traditional communication portals to relay your message. I equate this to the universal question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
- Consider various forms of marketing. You want your message to resonate with multiple readers, so a short blurb on social media may be just as effective as a multi-page journal article.
- Marketing is important. Get to the “why” quickly and help the reader understand why your message is important. Marketing is simply telling your audience why your product or service is important. In the research world, this means explaining the importance of your research. Targeted marketing is important to ensure your message reaches its intended audience.
- Networking is essential. Developing communities of practice is important for all aspects of STEAM. Join like-minded individuals to continue the intellectual conversation and move the body of research forward. This includes creating or joining groups on apps, social media, and through professional organizations.
STEAM Information Needs to Be Clearly Communicated
In summary, STEAM information needs to be communicated in a clear and understandable manner. While traditional communication platforms have value, the emergence of internet-friendly technologies has enabled communication to take various forms in the online environment, including websites, social media, and targeted networking organizations and apps. STEAM possibilities are endless if we adopt progressive, forward-thinking means of communicating.