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Editorial: Connecting Research Cultures

Caroline Gibson and Catherine Hanley, University of Warwick

 

This year's British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) was hosted by the University of Warwick on 19 and 20 March 2012. Following on from the success of the inaugural BCUR, held at the University of Central Lancashire in 2011, Warwick welcomed 228 delegates, of whom 180 presented their research via a poster or a spoken presentation.

Sessions were organised around themes which included, Global Governance and International Development, Connecting Cultures and Communities and Energy and Innovation; they embraced work from a broad range of disciplines from students across the UK and beyond and saw research from different disciplines presented side by side. Reinvention is proud, once again, to be publishing a collection of papers presented at the conference, which we hope showcases the quality and range of the research enjoyed by the conference delegates.

The link between Reinvention and BCUR is an important one. The skills and abilities which students must develop in order to publish their research are not far removed from those needed to present work through a poster or spoken presentation. BCUR provides an environment in which undergraduate students can disseminate their research to a wide audience of their peers, and in turn discover research from other disciplines which might be far removed from their own, thus broadening their ideas. Feedback from delegates indicates that this cross-disciplinary element, present in Reinvention and at BCUR, made them think differently:

'I very much enjoyed the interdisciplinary element of the conference. In particular, it was very insightful to discuss and compare research methodology among, for example, the hard sciences and the social sciences with other students. These discussions have made me think about the methodology I used in my own research and how a different way of asking questions can bring about very interesting results'

'I relished the opportunity to listen to students from other disciplines explaining their research. It created an innovative atmosphere that has invigorated my desire to pursue a career in research'

The vast majority of BCUR delegates felt that attending the conference had had a positive impact on how they saw themselves as an academic researcher, a transformative experience that we hope will affect their path as a researcher for years to come. A large majority also felt that they would be more likely to be involved with academic research in the future as a result of attending BCUR and many noted that they had felt inspired by the keynote speakers at the conference, one of whom was the Founding Editor of Reinvention, David Metcalfe.

'What I was most enamoured with was the enthusiasm and excitement that surrounded all posters and presentations. It is these contagious qualities that will ensure the successful future of undergraduate research across Britain. So long as there are opportunities to showcase our most influential works and allow us to experience academic conferences amongst kindred spirits and receptive lecturers and professors, our country's academic communities will be ever more integrated, efficacious, and productive'

'The opportunity to witness the sheer volume and quality of undergraduate research that is being carried out right now across the country, was amazing. It was also inspiring to hear the keynote speeches given by academics and the entire experience has really confirmed my desire to undertake postgraduate study'

As noted in the Editorial of our 2011 BCUR Special Issue, BCUR was inspired by the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in the United States, which is now in its 26thyear. In the light of Reinvention's new and high-profile partnership with Monash University in Australia, we were excited to learn that the inaugural Australasian conference of undergraduate research is to be held at Macquarie University in Sydney on 20th September 2012. Perhaps the next special issue of the journal will be a showcase of conference papers from undergraduate students from around the world.

Through providing the opportunity to undergraduates to disseminate their research, through conferences and publications, we invite them to become fully fledged members of the academic community. The articles presented in this issue of Reinvention, and indeed every issue of the journal, indicate the breadth and quality of undergraduate research being undertaken across the UK.

The research papers presented in this special issue of Reinvention are different from the articles that we normally publish, in that they reflect the proceedings of a conference rather than being peer-reviewed academic research papers. The research is perhaps made more dynamic since we have been able to link many of the papers to the presentation given or poster presented at the conference[1]. We hope that this extra element illustrates the potential of our undergraduates and their skill and passion when presenting their research via either spoken or written word. Being able to articulate and communicate research findings is a key element of becoming a successful academic and a confident researcher; members of the Reinvention and BCUR teams are committed to providing the opportunity to those enthusiastic and dedicated undergraduate researchers for many years to come.

The research presented at BCUR and in this issue of Reinvention is based on a wide range of work carried out by students through the curriculum, as part of a module or their dissertation thesis, through individual, extra-curricular projects or through collaborative staff-student projects. Two of the papers, by Rebecca Wooding and Rebekah Simpson, were first prize winners at BCUR, for spoken and poster presentations respectively. Rebecca Wooding, with her co-author Jack Griffiths (University of Warwick), has written up a report on a project where a team of Engineering students from Warwick researched the effects of electrification on rural communities in Uganda and then travelled to that country to work with a local community to develop a hydro scheme to provide the community with electricity and Rebekah Simpson (University of Plymouth) investigated the current status of Platorchestiaplatensis, an amphipod, in the UK, during which she discovered the first examples of the species in the UK for 31 years.

Also within the special issue are papers from Zoe Baker (Sheffield Hallam University) with a timely investigation into what effect the raising of tuition fees has had on the decisions of young people about whether or not to apply to university, a wonderful example of staff and students working collaboratively, presented by Matthew Burrows, Serena Dama, Bradley Payne, Erena Rawlins, Hannah Wheeler and Sue Bond-Taylor (University of Lincoln) who carried out a research project to collect qualitative and quantitative data on how the preferences of young people were taken into account when youth services were developed in Lincoln and a paper investigating catering provision at Bournemouth University, together with students' and employees' attitudes towards it, to find out the impact which this had on their choices and health behaviours by Agatha Martins (Bournemouth University). Sam Clarke (University of Warwick), who presented in a panel on Arabic Literature at BCUR, offers a comparative analysis of two contemporary Arabic novels and their attempts to conceptualise 'homeland' and Michael Brightman (University of Central Lancashire) has produced a synthesis of available information to determine whether or not the conservation of the UK's historic built heritage is sustainable. Sian Dawson (University of Warwick) discusses the subversive portrayal of women in Renaissance playwright James Shirley's revenge tragedy The Cardinal, Grace Lowe (University of Nottingham) used cyclic voltammetry to study the reduction of disulphide-based redox couple for dye-sensitised solar cells at a series of catalyst surfaces, Ruari Sutherland (University of Strathclyde) carried out a research project on the comparative resurgence of far-right politics in England and Scotland, carrying out interviews with members of the English and Scottish Defence Leagues and Isobel Whiting (Nottingham Trent University) presents a research project which she designed and ran to investigate the prevalence of endoparasites in hedgehogs in the East Midlands area.

The papers presented in this issue are, of course, just a selection of the fascinating research presented at BCUR 2012. More videos, posters and a film of the event itself are to be uploaded to the BCUR website in the coming weeks. BCUR 2013 is to be held at Plymouth University on 15th and 16th April 2013 and we look forward to publishing more papers from that conference in a year's time, with further details of BCUR 2013 available at www.bcur.org in autumn 2012.

 


 

Notes

[1] Not all sessions were filmed so some papers do not have a copy of the spoken presentation given at BCUR. Posters containing copyrighted material have also had to be excluded.

 

To cite this paper please use the following details: Gibson, C. and Hanley, C. (2012), 'Editorial: Connecting Research Cultures', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, British Conference of Undergraduate Research 2012 Special Issue, www.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/archive/bcur2012specialissue/editorial. Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal@warwick.ac.uk.