It has been a year like no other. Science has been in the news almost daily but not always in a positive light. As the Covid-19 pandemic takes a wrecking ball to the global economy, it has never been so important to communicate the value of scientific research to funders, policymakers, collaborators and – perhaps even more so now – the public. Faced with an even tighter squeeze on research budgets, researchers need to convince funders they are getting the best return on their investment. Researchers who thrive in the ‘new normal’ of science will be those with the skills to:
- Say why their work is important and will have a meaningful impact
- Recognise that their greatest asset is the data they produce and understand how to manage that asset, reaping rewards for their own career and for broader science and society
It’s no surprise that researchers have highlighted these areas as two of the most important skills that they need to progress their careers.
According to a global survey of 679 academics conducted by Nature Research in 2020, ‘presentation and communication skills’ was ranked as one of the top three professional skills needed to succeed by researchers.
In today’s competitive funding environment, the need for researchers to tell a compelling story about their work has never been more crucial.
Many funders, journals and institutions are looking favourably on those who are open to sharing resources and data. Many have introduced data management policies that mandate good data practices and making data available, sometimes immediately. But the benefits to researchers of good data management extend beyond compliance: articles that link to data in an open repository are associated with up to 25% higher citation impact on average and in some disciplines, as high as 50%. Researchers recognize that data management is a key skill – in a focus group of 23 researchers conducted by Nature Research, almost nine in ten said it was extremely important to be able to manage their data properly.
For many, this means learning an entirely new set of practical skills and to address this gap, Nature Masterclasses is launching two new online courses on communicating about research and research data management, helping researchers develop their skills and confidence in these essential areas.
About the new courses
The new courses have been developed with an international team of Nature Research editors, academics, funders and science communication experts. They take learners through a series of interactive lessons and videos, with tasks to help them start putting principles into action. For example, researchers who work through the activities in the research data management course will be well prepared for many tasks related to data storage and sharing, such as developing their own data management plan.
Narrative Tools for Researchers
The Narrative Tools for Researchers course focuses on storytelling as a transformative skill for helping researchers bring their work to life. It includes three, easy-to-follow modules, which can be worked on in order or used as a dip in-and-out resource. Researchers will:
- Explore why stories are so powerful and how they help audiences better understand, remember and respond to research
- Learn what makes a good story and how to apply storytelling formats to different types of communication – from grant proposals and job applications, to scientific papers and conference presentations
- Understand how to build a story using different formats and structures
- Learn tools and tricks for keeping the audience engaged and the story clear and compelling throughout
- Practice creating a specific story from start to finish, from understanding the intended audience, identifying the key message, and selecting the data and evidence to support it.
On completing the course, researchers will understand the importance of using a compelling story to communicate their research to scientific peers and stakeholders and will be equipped to use these skills to secure more funding, forge new collaborations, increase publication and citation rates and progress their careers.
Managing Research Data to Unlock its Full Potential
This course is aimed at both early-career researchers who might have little experience of data management as well as those who want to brush up on their skills. There are four modules that you can work through in sequence or use as a dip in an out reference resource, depending on the stage of your research and your experience in data management to date. Researchers will:
- Learn about the benefits of good data management and what data management practices they need to consider at different stages of the research data lifecycle.
- Understand why data management plans (DMPs) are so useful, what they look like and how to set up and complete a DMP for their own project.
- Explore best practices for organising and storing data both during a research project and once it has finished, ensuring compliance with stakeholder policies and future-proofing data for improved reproducibility and reusability.
- Learn about the benefits and practicalities of data sharing, from small-scale sharing with peers to how to deposit data in a public repository.
This course strips away the complexity of data management and focuses on realistic practical skills and tips that researchers can build up as they work through the modules. The combination of theoretical scenarios and real-life experience provided by our expert panel will empower your researchers to navigate the emerging and evolving requirements around data management. This will help them attract more funding, increase publications and citations, build better collaborations and increase both their profile and that of their institution.
Our two new courses will enable researchers to manage their data efficiently and to communicate about their findings in an impactful way, which combined should increase the visibility of your institution as well as the quality of your institutional output.