April 13, 2022

Bridging science & society:

Creating societal impact by integrating and implementing fundamental scientific findings

On March 22nd 2022, we celebrated the completion of 8 years of full-time data collection of the longitudinal Leiden-CID twin study by organizing our Development Matters conference. Over the past years, we worked hard on discovering fundamental scientific mechanisms in the social development of children. Now is the time to think about ways to best share these findings with society. So, we asked ourselves what methods can we think of to maximize societal impact? One commonly used option is outreach - merely translating research findings in lay language - involving the use of blogs, video content or newspapers. This possibility is often used by scientists after papers have been published in scientific journals. Although this can be an effective and fast method, the shared flow of information is rather one-sided where scientists inform citizens. Therefore, other possibilities of societal impact can be considered where citizens help to integrate or implement scientific knowledge. As such, citizens can truly contribute to the research process which may lead to a better understanding of scientific knowledge and a more solid bridge between science and society. For the L-CID study, the citizens we focus on are children and young adolescents, the target audience of our project, and their social environment, such as caregivers, teachers and policy makers. In this blog, we reflect on the creative and interactive workshop session we organized during the Development Matters conference. Here, we discussed and experienced innovative methods with the participants on how we can integrate and implement knowledge from science and society to maximize societal impact. Want to know more?

Knowledge integration

One way to document practical knowledge and experiences from teachers is by doing qualitative research. In order to bridge scientific (mostly quantitative) and practical knowledge, we explore the use of Q methodology, as this method can be viewed as a combination of quantitative and qualitative research with the potential to bridge science and practice. This method has mainly been used in order to identify underlying clusters of ideas from a certain group of participants, such as clinicians. Within the Teacher Project (innovation project within CID), we will explore the use of this method with teachers as participants to elucidate their perspective on which variables are important for social competence development and social wellbeing, based on their day-to-day experience with groups of children. We will compare the results of this ‘teacher perspective’ with the research findings within L-CID on social competence development. The ultimate goal is to integrate scientific and practical knowledge, enriching scientific findings with practical interpretations and implementing science in practice.

For the knowledge integration part of the workshop, we asked participants to experience one (adapted) step of the Q method themselves. This included the rank-ordering of social behavioral characteristics - based on L-CID questionnaire items - along a dimensional scale, from least to most typical for a socially competent child. The outcomes varied substantially, which only shows that even between researchers, there are already different ideas on what social competence entails. 

Knowledge implementation

In order to take research findings even beyond outreach, the L-CID team works on several knowledge implementation projects. An example of knowledge implementation targeted at children and teachers connecting to educational programs that encourage the connection between knowledge and daily life. This will spark new and critical questions and help children to also better remember the information. One recently started collaboration focuses on translating L-CID research findings into an existing popular education format. The advantage of this approach is that teachers do not need to get familiarized with a novel method which adds to their workload, but are able to choose brain and behavior-related topics in the existing format. A possible positive side-effect is that teachers can link this teaching material to daily situations that they encounter in classrooms, such as specific socio-emotional behavior. 

For the knowledge implementation part of the workshop, the participants picked a topic of the website www.kijkinjebrein.nl, which contains scientific knowledge from L-CID translated to language for youth. The assignment was to design 5 ‘slides’ to teach children about this topic. Participants were challenged to think about a narrative that would connect the slides and to select only one bit of information per slide. They also thought about ways to spark children’s curiosity and eagerness to find out more on the topic. This part of the workshop resulted in creative narratives and discussions on how challenging it is to select bits of information. Part of the challenge is that not all knowledge can be viewed as facts already, so how can we as researchers include nuance and inform children on how knowledge comes about? This is especially relevant for neuroscientific knowledge for instance, as this is constantly evolving due to more advanced research techniques such as fMRI. Maybe it should be part of education to teach children about research and how to think critically about research findings. 

Plenary session 

While doing both assignments, we asked participants to think about any hurdles they encountered and how they would solve it. Additionally, we asked whether they think this method could also be helpful for their own projects in obtaining structured knowledge from practice. We summarized the feedback at the end in a plenary session as food for thought for future directions. Here, we present a few results of the feedback and lessons learned. During the knowledge integration assignment, participants noticed for example that it should be clarified whether they have to describe a child that is socially competent or socially desirable. Furthermore, they remarked that the context of the child plays an important role affecting socially competent behavior. These suggestions clearly show the difficulty of comparing children in a school (teacher) or research (scientist) environment. During the implementation assignment, participants experienced difficulties in choosing only a bit of information that made sense for young children and simultaneously being scientifically nuanced. As a solution, they suggested that children can perhaps think about questions themselves relating to the subject to find out what information is important for children to know instead of the other way around. As such, the shared flow of information is two instead of one-sided. Taken together, we hope that the participants of the workshop and readers take away from this blog to be inspired on bridging science and society in different ways, such as during the integration and implementation phase of the research process, to maximize societal impact. 

If you have any ideas, comments, suggestions or questions after reading this blog or attending the conference workshop, please reach out to us! 

Karlijn Hermans: k.s.f.m.hermans@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

Lina van Drunen: l.van.drunen@fsw.leidenuniv.nl 

Check out our newly launched website: Development matters ~ Leiden Consortium on Individual Development (CID)

Read the blog about the entire Development Matters conference: Optimale condities om te groeien - Universiteit Leiden

And the blog Lara Wierenga wrote on the other conference workshop on Open Science: Experiences & challenges in our open science journey ~ Leiden Consortium on Individual Development (CID) (developmentmatters.nl)

For more information on the L-CID data collection in the Samen Uniek project (in Dutch): Samen Uniek tweelingonderzoek - home (samen-uniek.com)

The conference after movie will be available soon!

Written by:

Development matters | Leiden-CID study

This study was developed as one of four work packages of the overarching Consortium on Individual Development (CID).

CID is a large multidisciplinary collaboration that unites the best researchers on youth and development in the Netherlands.
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