Thu | Jul 18, 2024

Stimulate scientific research

Published:Tuesday | June 18, 2024 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

As Jamaica seeks to improve its approach to science, innovation and technology, we need to foster more scientific interest among the general public and our growing academic population. I recently completed my undergraduate research project, and despite facing challenges, revisions, and setbacks throughout the process, I realised that it was one of the few times I felt engaged in my academic learning. After three years of studying online during the pandemic, I finally experienced first-hand what it means to be a student of science.

Traditionally, education has focused on generating interest in a subject based on theory, but science is a practical field that wants to make real-world inferences and connections. As such, students should have ample opportunities to engage in hands-on scientific work in addition to theoretical learning. Instead of teaching science as an elaborate world of theories, equations and phenomena, we should focus on teaching students the aim of science – making sense of the world we live in. To achieve this, secondary and tertiary institutions must prioritise lab maintenance, adhere to lab budgets, ensure lab safety, and promote good laboratory practices. School laboratories should aim to replicate a professional laboratory environment while encouraging curiosity in various fields of study, as much as possible.

The term ‘scientific research’ often creates apprehension among students. When exposed to presentations of research findings, it is easy to think research is reserved for ‘smarter’ individuals or people who can produce ‘remarkable results’. However, scientific discoveries are not solely based on intellect; scientific discoveries are founded on curiosity about the world and simple but solid experimental design. Scientific presentations are valuable tools for a scientist’s academic journey, but they only tell the end of the story. Establishing shadowing programmes with researchers, laboratories, hospitals, government agencies, and others would do good to not only acquaint students with real experimental planning and design, but it would also let them understand that curiosity is a skill that can be built through observation.

We can do more for scientific development. More voluntary and paid internships that span a wide variety of fields are needed. There should be more mentors for research and career development. What is also required is more interest in natural resources, and more connection between the research community and schools. Young people should be encouraged to be a part of research projects, there should more scientific publications, and there needs to more networks that connect minds and foster collaboration. We need science that shows and not only tells.

Jamaica is in desperate need of more research this is about Jamaica, and by Jamaicans. How can we achieve this if we are largely focused on pushing out students who are versed in theories but have no practical scientific experience?

KRYSCHINA FEARON

khonnelle@gmail.com