Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chronicles of a Science Policy Intern: The Intern Project

Photo Credit: Yves (in Vietnam)

When I started at Research!America in early July, one of the aspects of the internship that I was most excited about was the intern project, which is essentially a research project on a relevant topic of the intern’s choosing.*

The research process—selecting a topic, conducting preliminary research, revising or narrowing my topic, conducting further research, and drawing conclusions—is something with which I am rather familiar and thoroughly enjoy. After all, as a recent graduate I’ve spent the better part of my life doing it, albeit at varying levels of complexity and depth. So I looked forward to the chance to investigate a new topic and have decided to use this opportunity to tell you about my experience thus far.

The first step in the research process—selecting a research topic—is often the part I find most challenging. There are so many interesting subjects out there that it can be difficult to pick just one.

Fortunately, every once in a while I come across a topic that stands out from the other possibilities. This was one of those times. As a triple major in chemistry, history, and Asian studies, I am someone who has always enjoyed making connections between seemingly dissimilar subjects. When I started hearing about the supposed divide between scientists, the public, and policymakers; something related to science communication and collaboration between scientists and policymakers seemed a natural choice.

Though I won’t bore you with the details, conducting preliminary research was a lot of fun. (Yes, I know I'm a nerd.) I searched indexes and databases, read articles and books, and focused my topic.

Now I am at the point where I am almost ready to conduct my own research. Based on what I read, I decided that the logical thing to do would be to conduct my own survey. And that has proven to be a much greater challenge than I anticipated. Formulating questions appropriately and differentiating between need-to-know and want-to-know questions has taken a lot of time and thought. I’m very grateful for the guidance I’ve received throughout.

My survey will be distributed online soon and I welcome and encourage your participation. I’ve already learned a great deal in the process of research and writing my survey and am eager to see the results.

Check back for my survey when you visit New Voices! I’ll keep you posted on how things turn out.

*If you're interested in past intern projects, check out Flygal's posts on a knowledge-based economy and Emily's work on climate change and health. And look out for Matt's upcoming posts about his project.

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