Scripps Research San Diego, California, United States
Nitya Bhaskaran (Scripps Research )| Rosie Albarran-Zeckler (Scripps Research )
Scripps Research Education Outreach and Community Engagement (EOCE)programs comprise initiatives for people of all ages including K-12 students and teachers, undergraduates, and the public. Our overarching goals are to promote careers in biomedical research, raise awareness about the importance of scientific research,train the next generation of scientists, and increase diversity in the biomedical research workforce. The Covid-19 pandemic immediately haltedour in-person eventsand presented a new set ofchallenges to reaching our goals. It became necessaryto create a strong online presence to keep connected with our audience and stakeholders. As a leading research institute, Scripps Research is keenly aware of the importance of technology, and we quickly leveraged the use of Zoom and our learning management system (LMS) to facilitate the implementation of online outreach programs.
Here we describe three programs that were implemented online. 1) Junior Scientist Training Program (JSTP) is a series of one-week virtual science camps with hands-on science experiments and/or data analysis. What makes JSTP different from other science ‘box’ clubs is that students learn scientific concepts in bioinformatics, microbiology, and biochemistry, and design their own experiments based on the tools provided and their home environment. Results are not ‘pre-determined’ as with traditional laboratory class protocols. This is particularly important because one of the first epiphanies students have with real research is the notion that there is no ‘correct’ answer. 2) Fully Interactive Resources for Students and Teachers (FIRST) is a webinar series featuring scientists discussing their research and career path, advising on how to develop scientific creativity, and giving science demonstrations. This program has been fundamental in supporting thousands of undergraduate students who have been affected by the lack of research opportunities due to the pandemic! 3) SciMet Competition is a Spanish-English bilingual science competition where K-12 students nationwide are invited to demonstrate their scientific curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking skills via drawings (K-5), videos (6-8), and essays (9-12). Projects exceeded our expectations and the bilingual component allowed us to reach into Hispanics and LatinX communities.
Gains of moving programs online included increased engagement; increased reach across the USA and the world; higher efficacy in collecting pre- and post-data using integrated surveys and digital applications; successful implementation of inclusive and equitable virtual educational environments; and a significant rise in the number of volunteers due to convenient and accessible online tools for the scientist community. Despite the apprehension of virtual science programs, the benefits prove that some of these elements should be kept in future programming whether in person or not, as we believe that this demonstrates our commitment to our community partners and scientific accessibility for all.