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Reinvention: Communicating Undergraduate Research from Increasingly Specialised Disciplines

Peter Halat, Monash University

We head into April 2018 celebrating a decade of Reinvention, by revisiting some of Reinvention’s most successful papers. As stipulated in Reinvention’s launch, every published paper has been put through a rigorous double-blind peer review process (Metcalfe, 2007). This is a testament to the diligence of a rotating undergraduate editorial board, who have collectively been able to source peer reviewers from all over the world to assess some fascinating and unique papers. The six-month cycle of receiving submissions, screening them and pushing the papers through peer review has consistently been challenging, as has been noted in a previous editorial (Freer, 2010), and speaks volumes about the communal effort that has maintained Reinvention’s longevity.

Perhaps this hints towards a potential emerging problem in current academic research: as more and more researchers around the world enlarge the sphere of human knowledge, they spread out on the surface of the sphere, finding themselves further apart from other researchers and deeper into their own pockets of knowledge. This makes it increasingly difficult to effectively communicate one’s novel research into an interdisciplinary audience.

I have witnessed this myself throughout my years of undergraduate study. In the last few iterations of the International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR, http://www.icurportal.com/), I have presented research in chemistry and physics to an interdisciplinary audience of my peers. It is often challenging for me to prepare a presentation while keeping the audience in mind, trying to understand their perspective. Presenting research to an interdisciplinary audience, or possessing the ability to adapt a presentation to any audience, is a necessary skill for a multitude of situations. Researchers may, for example, need to present their work to government in the form of grant applications, in order to secure funding. As discussed in Reinvention’s previous editorial (Halat and Young, 2017), Monash University offers a very rare opportunity for undergraduates to try this first hand with its Global Leadership and Advanced Research Program (GLARP). Industrial researchers may also need to present their work in a corporate setting in order to secure funding. And perhaps most importantly, the family and friends of a researcher may be interested in the work the researcher is undertaking, and it is up to the researcher to discuss their work appropriately for their closest friends to understand it.

Recent literature has attempted to provide models of assessing research, independent of the research discipline(s). Buswell et al. seek to quantify effort in numerous case studies as the metric of multidisciplinary research. Reinvention takes a more qualitative approach when considering effort, as any low-effort submissions (rare as they are) are discovered in our editorial board screenings. In contrast to Buswell et al.’s study, Mårtensson et al. provide a general concept model and concept hierarchy for research quality, with credibility, contribution, communication and conformity being the four main concepts. Reinvention’s editorial board mirrors these qualities in our screening process, in which we seek papers that are credible, through multiple citations; contributory, with original contributions to their research field; communicable to an interdisciplinary audience; and conforming to Reinvention’s ethical guidelines and style guides.

I find from my personal experiences that one of the best ways to develop work for an interdisciplinary audience is practice. Every year that I participate in ICUR, or other initiatives such as the GLARP, I receive feedback which allows me to improve upon my work for next time. This is an iterative process where presenting to many audiences and therefore receiving many perspectives of feedback results in cumulative improvement.

Reinvention also inspires undergraduate students to practise presenting their work to an interdisciplinary audience, as every submission is read by our interdisciplinary team of undergraduate editors. No matter the result of the submission, every author who submits a piece receives feedback from peer reviewers or our editorial team. This harks back to Reinvention’s original and continuing mission of providing a spotlight for quality undergraduate research (Metcalfe, 2008).

Coinciding with our mission, we look back on the past ten years of Reinvention with ten of our most successful papers of quality undergraduate research. Authors aspiring to submit to Reinvention could start at this set of papers to see some quality examples to follow. Starting from Volume 1, Issue 1, Harriet Gray carefully analysed potential gender bias in pre-trial procedures of rape and sexual assault in Japan. Gray thoroughly introduced frameworks and multiple perspectives, including an analysis of Japanese law with a multitude of citations to arrive at her conclusions.

Such is the interdisciplinary and unique nature of Reinvention that in the same issue, Fraser Joyce looked into nineteenth-century perspectives of prostitution as ‘The Great Social Evil’. While there was already a pre-existing wealth of literature around the topic, Joyce effectively separated his piece from others by taking a thematic, rather than a chronological, approach.

Five years later, both nineteenth-century history and Japanese culture were synthesised in Volume 6, Issue 2, with Varvara-Vera Pratikaki’s literature review of Japanese and European automata in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The consistent synthesis and contrast of Japanese and European cultures throughout the paper enabled a multitude of original conclusions to emerge.

Reinvention has also tailored itself to undergraduate initiatives such as the British Conference of Undergraduate Research, publishing a multitude of annual special issues from the conference. In one of the most popular papers from these issues, Sophie Alice Burge presented 300 questionnaires filled with perspectives of motivations towards consumer choice in franchised coffee shops. The primary data obtained in the paper was thoroughly discussed with references to literature, further adding impact to the paper.

Continuing with modern trends, Hetty Frampton established media representations of ‘Chavs’ and teenage pregnancy through primary analysis of The Daily Mail and The Guardian. The sample of media articles were thoughtfully chosen and contrasted against pre-existing concepts in literature to crystallise thematic conclusions.

In Volume 10, Issue 1, Oyinkansola Fafowora consulted a different form of media by examining Disney’s Tarzan to elucidate the representation of the African Post Colonial Subject, stemming from British race relations in the 1990s. Analysis of Disney movies The Lion King and Tarzan was precluded with extensive analysis of historical sources, setting up critiques of each movie, which were then made logical for the reader.

Many of Reinvention’s publications have come from Warwick and Monash, with Michael Yeung giving library fines more treatment than many others do by bringing game theory and economic trust theory into the issue. Through a detailed literature review which built into empirical analysis of survey results, Yeung is able to make his own suggestions for library fines systems, making his own novel contribution to the field.

Moving on to the many STEM-oriented papers Reinvention has published, a group of Warwick students eased into the topic by showcasing the results of semi-structured interviews to critique the handover process between junior doctors. The methodology of the study was detailed and well justified, giving credibility to the results of the paper. Cho Kwong Charlie Lam, meanwhile, conducted a literature review of bioclimatological and toxicology studies to add to academic debate about the relationship between air pollution, temperature and mortality. A well-cited introduction identified a problem in current research and focused on three main questions, successfully providing significance to the work.

Finally, Stephen Hornsey delved deeply into the mathematical theory behind relay feedback methods for physical interface device controllers, complementing a detailed and carefully explained literature review with experimental data. Hornsey made an effort to introduce and explain the mathematical concepts behind his work, including definitions of Fourier Transforms and different relay models.

We hope you enjoy looking back on some of our best papers, and we look forward to publishing what could be Reinvention’s biggest issue yet in October.


References

Buswell, R., L. Webb, V. Mitchell and K. L. Mackley, ‘Multidisciplinary research: should effort be the measure of success?’, Building Research & Information, 45 (5), 539–55

Freer, A. (2010), 'Editorial: The Growth of Reinvention', Reinvention: An International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 3, Issue 1, available at http://www.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/issues/volume3issue1/editorial, accessed 13 April 2018

Halat, P and J. Young (2017), 'A Decade of Reinvention: What is Next in Store for Undergraduate Research?', Reinvention: An International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 10, Issue 2, available at http://www.warwick.ac.uk/reinventionjournal/issues/volume10issue2/editorial, accessed 12 April 2018

Mårtensson, P., U. Fors, S. B. Wallin, U. Zander and G. H. Nilsson (2016), ‘Evaluating research: A multidiscinplinary approach to assessing research practice and quality’, Research Policy, 45, 593–603

Metcalfe, D. (2007), ‘The Launch of an Undergraduate Research Journal', Reinvention: An International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Launch Issue, available at http://www.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/iatl/reinvention/issues/launchissue/editorial, accessed 19 April 2018

Metcalfe, D. (2008), ‘Reinventing the Journal?', Reinvention: An International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 1, Issue 1, available at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/volume1issue1/metcalfe, accessed 11 April 2018

To cite this paper please use the following details: Halat, P. (2018), 'Reinvention: Communicating Undergraduate Research from Increasingly Specialised Disciplines', Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 11, Issue 1, http://www.warwick.ac.uk/reinventionjournal/issues/volume11issue1/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 at warwick dot ac dot uk.