Publish and Flourish: Using the Scientific Publication Process to Promote Critical Thinking by Master Students
18 nov 2019




Danny Scholten

Danny Scholten



Inzending KnowVU award 2019
Door: Danny Scholten, Ph.D. and Maikel Wijtmans, Ph.D.

Peer feedback, in which students evaluate each other’s work, is a valued instrument in education. In this proposal, we will take peer feedback a significant step further by incorporating into a master course all steps of an actual publication process for a scientific article, ranging from guideline checks all the way to new experiments required by an editor to further support claims. In doing so, we aim to stimulate the development of critical thinking skills that are not only vital for conducting successful scientific inquiry, but also contribute to academic success and boost the employability of students inside and outside academia.

Instructional methods that integrate authentic research experiences with education can support students in developing critical thinking skills because they learn to do science the way it is conducted by professionals. We aim to incorporate an extension of such an approach in the master course Computational Design and Synthesis of Drugs (CDSD) of the research master program Drug Discovery and Safety (DDS). In this course, student duos traditionally engage in research efforts to design new potential medicine molecules. They design these molecules based on protein structures and invent ways to chemically prepare these molecules, all in an iterative fashion alike research in a professional research setting. By extending this scientific inquiry activity toward the entire scientific publication process, students will be fully immersed in a research experience that resembles actual scientific practice. This publication process constitutes careful crafting of a manuscript according to journal guidelines, performing and undergoing peer review (feedback from anonymous student peers and teachers) and acting upon the feedback (rebuttal) including the suggestions for additional experiments. Subsequently, the focus will be on reflecting on received feedback, conducting additional experiments, composing a rebuttal letter addressing all feedback, and updating the manuscript accordingly. The teachers will act as editors and ultimately decide whether to publish the manuscript in a special issue of a journal dedicated to the course. Thus, before a duo submits the final version of their research manuscript, it must have intentionally navigated through all the steps that revolve around scientific quality control aimed to promote critical thinking.
   
Altogether, we hope that through this authentic research experience, students will develop an improved sense of critical thinking, not only regarding other people’s work but also their own. We expect that students will become more skilled in the process of scientific inquiry, and will be better prepared for any academic-level job such as the research traineeship that follows right after the course. As the publication process is a universal academic practice, we believe that the outcomes of this project will be relevant and translatable to any other master course that focuses on scientific research within or outside the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

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