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Impressive results in Impact doctoral course

Published Jan 03, 2019

Can one practice on creating impact? Yes, and that is exactly what the doctoral students in the course “From Research to Impact” has done during the fall of 2018. The students practiced how to communicate their research through different media such as video, profile page and workshops, and many achieved impressive results.

Since the course started in September, 22 doctoral students have learned how to see their research in a bigger perspective and how to communicate to those affected by their research. To create and show impact is becoming increasingly important in academia.

“To be successful in academia today, researchers should not only strive for academic excellence but rather for excellence with impact. It is important that doctoral students and researchers in general reflect on the relevance and value of their own research. That will enable them to make the right decisions for their career”, says Professor Tobias Oechtering who leads the course together with Professor Wouter van Der Wijngaart.

The students have to identify who their work is going to be of use to, their so-called lead users, and plan what actions are needed in order for their work to have and create impact.

“This will not only strengthen their academic profile but also the research environment”, says Tobias Oechtering.

The course assignments included making a communication plan, improving digital presence and executing an external activity to make their research more visible. A part from the course leaders, the students had help of lectures and experts in the areas of communication, sustainability and innovation.

“The idea was that during the hands-on practical training in the course, the students reach out beyond their peers in research. They must first analyse the critical steps needed to bring their research to use in society and, as a natural follow-up, the students then plan and execute the communication about their research to the key stakeholders or end-users such as potential industrial collaborators or policy makers”, explains Wouter van Der Wijngaart.

At the concluding presentations in November, several of the students presented great results. Sanne van Waveren , first year doctoral student at the Department of Robotics, Perception and Learning, made her own movie and worked with her social media channels.

“My main goal for this course was to learn how to best communicate my work throughout the different stages of research. This includes thinking about “where am I now?”, “where do I want to be?”, “who do I want to reach?” and “how can I best reach them?”. Although I just started my doctoral studies, one can never be too prepared and through this course I wanted to get a head start on making an impact as a scientist and preventing myself from getting trapped in the notorious ''ivory tower'', says Sanne van Waveren.

She thinks the best part of the course was the presentations where the students received direct feedback on their work. But the courser is all about participating actively van Waveren says – put in the time and receive useful knowledge and skills that is need in order to become an impactful scientist.

“It is helpful to share your work and ideas with a broader audience. Even though it may feel uncomfortable to open up and talk about your own progress or accomplishments outside of scientific papers , for example on YouTube or Twitter, the big advantage is that it helps creating a network and people may later recognize your name as they have seen it before. Sharing your work may initiate unexpected and interesting discussion with people you would otherwise not have spoken to. Our work as scientists really only makes an impact when shared!”, says van Waveren.

About the course

”FEO3120 From Research to Impact” aims at providing the students with the necessary skills to move research up on the technological readiness level (TRL) ladder and communicate research findings in an effective manner. The students use their own research results as working material.

The course was given for the first time in 2017 and was created by course leaders Tobias Oechtering and Wouter van Der Wijngaart. This year, the SCI school also participated with doctoral student and Associate Professor Zuheir Barsoum  as the third course leader.

The course’s lectures and experts included Annika Engström; communications strategist, Karin Larsdotter; project manager for sustainable development, Gustav Notander; technology transfer manager at KTH Innovation, and school communicators Sofia Nyström, Maria Malmqvist and Louise Gustafsson.