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Undergraduate research symposium excludes valuable student work

By Jesse Stilwell, November 23 2017 —

The University of Calgary Students’ Union was satisfied with the number of applicants they received for 2017’s Undergraduate Research Symposium. The event, which showcases research from undergraduate students from all experience levels, received 140 submissions. That’s about the same amount as in previous years, meaning the SU is content with flatlining rather than improving.

However, some faculties and students are unimpressed with another year of the URS boasting thousands of dollars in prize money but being tailored towards traditional scientific research. Not all U of C students conduct research that follows a rigorous scientific method or makes for a nice poster. Regardless, research that deserves to be shared is being conducted in all faculties.

An English major’s poster analyzing the great works of a renaissance writer isn’t visually appealing and no one wants to look at pictures of horrific violence being studied by an International Relations student. Business research often don’t make it past the application stage because it doesn’t follow the scientific method that the rubric the URS selection committee uses. The biggest event for undergraduate research at U of C should accommodate these projects.

The honours programs in many Faculty of Arts departments is set up in such a way that students produce proposals in the fall and finished research in the winter semester. Unfortunately for them and the wider campus community, the URS will not accept projects at the proposal stage, which disadvantages these students.

The URS could easily be more accessible. The SU should not apply the same rubric for all faculties when deciding which projects get to compete. Instead, specialized rubrics suited for the needs of each faculty should be used so that projects are judged fairly. Scientific research is valuable, but should not be prioritized over other forms of research.

There are other opportunities to showcase research throughout the year on smaller scales that accept other presentation formats for research, such as the Faculty of Arts Students’ Association’s symposium and the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience Awards. Students are allowed to submit reports or display fine arts the way they are created, such as dance or sculptures. By forcing students to only create posters for the URS, the event excludes some of the most interesting research being done at the U of C.

With some simple changes, the URS could see major increases in applications. All research would be on display at the event, rather than the few projects that fit within its criteria. It’s still worthwhile to attend the symposium and enjoy the posters that made the cut, but its important to acknowledge that many were unable to participate.

Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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