Newswise — Sometimes scientists do not see the value of sharing their knowledge and expertise with non-scientists and members of the public may believe that researchers enjoy a rarefied existence. This critical review addresses the important, yet limited gap that exists between these two realms by discussing the Spit for Science project. Spit4Science is a university-wide research undertaking at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) that focuses on alcohol and other drug use and related mental-health outcomes. It incorporates two forms of participatory research that have gained increasing attention in recent years, community-engaged research and citizen science.
“When students feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and they are given the opportunity to make a difference, they step up,” wrote author Danielle M. Dick. “Millennials have a reputation for not wanting to do things just because they are told to do them. They want to know why. They want to be a part of the process. Although I focus on students, I think that the need to understand ‘why’ before doing something is true of people more generally, and that shifting the way we think about and treat our participants so that they feel invested in, and a part of, our science is critical.”
The success of Spit4Science indicates that there exists a tremendous opportunity for scientists to enhance the impact of their research by engaging more deeply with non-traditional partners and expanding the way that they think about interdisciplinary research teams. The author of this review article suggests that worthwhile efforts might include deeper engagement of participants and the broader public in research; working with individuals from other fields to actively translate and disseminate research; and collaborating with colleagues from the arts and communication sciences to help make basic research more engaging, understandable, and relevant to the public’s everyday lives.