A Potential Cure for Insomniacs (just kidding). But seriously, here is our v1.0 draft of the SSRHC grant on science and creativity

O.K. the first “official” edit is done, and is now being reviewed by the UofC research services. However, it would be great to open discussion to everyone interested, so feedback in the comments section would be greatly appreciated.  This can be from a variety of angles, from the effectiveness of the grant proposal itself, to the research generally, or individual sections specifically. For instance, in the latter, it’ll be interesting to see what academic scientists and academic social scientists think of the methodology.

Anyway, the pdfs are below, but below the fold, we’ve also reprinted the main lit review, context, methodology, team description, and knowledge mobilization sections for easier reading. (pdfs also contain budget breakdowns as well as our 4 page CV summaries proper).

no1 Here it is! 16 pages of grant nirvana! In terms of SSRHC grant specifics, we have a few sections that are a little too long or too short, but the important elements are there (we’ll edit accordingly after the first round of feedback). As well, we’ve not written the “summary” yet, as we thought it best to wait in case there are significant modifications to this first edit.
(Shanahan-NgSSRHCIGv1.0 pdf)

no2 Our Research Contributions (a.k.a. a 4 pager that SSRHC asks for – sort of a mini-CV to go along with their usual CV request).
Marie-Claire Shanahan’s | David Ng’s

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Quick links:

Literature Context
Program Context
Description of Research Team
Description of previous and ongoing research results
Knowledge Mobilization Plan


Science is a creative endeavor, and it is essential that science education experiences both reflect that and provide opportunities for students to develop scientific creativity. Creativity is often described simply as “the ability to create work that is both novel and appropriate” (Sternberg & Lubart, 1999). That general definition, however, hides the essential place that creativity has in the scientific process. Girod, Rau and Schepige (2003) make a strong case that scientific creativity relies on the same aesthetic thinking tools as the arts: science is not merely an algorithmic process of data collection and processing, but also sometimes stepping forward into bold conjectures about larger relationships in an attempt to understand connected systems. This is also a core message of science education literature in relation to teaching students about the nature of science: Science is a creative activity that relies on innovative and novel thinking by groups and individuals (e.g., Lederman, Abd-El-Khalick, Bell & Schwartz, 2002). Despite this consensus, opportunities for students to move beyond a surface acknowledgement of creativity, to recognize it as a core process science and develop their scientific creativity are severely limited (Braund, 1999, Kind & Kind, 2007). This detachment leads individuals away from an authentic view of science, which not only creates false impressions, but can also engender a loss of scientific identity (“who we think we must be to engage in science”, Calabrese Barton, 1998, p. 379) culminating in an unintended estrangement (Shanahan & Nieswandt, 2009).

This study will aim to examine notions and impressions of both authentic science and creativity, and the impact of science education and outreach opportunities that actively promote their connection. Exploration will centre on The Science Creative Literacy Symposia (SCLS). This is a one-day program for students in Gr. 5-7 led by a collaborative team of scientists and creative writers at the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia. The laboratory has demonstrated dedication to programming that relies on collaborations between scientific and artistic communities. During this program, participants engage in scientific inquiry experiences in the laboratory followed by guided expository writing to encourage awareness of the connections between the two. This study will begin with an exploratory phase to examine students’ and teachers’ perceptions of creativity and science and draw out emergent themes from their experiences with the program. These emergent themes will then be more systematically examined in a mixed-methods longitudinal phase that will follow students through three years of participation in the program and explore the impact of implicit and explicit connections made between science and creativity during the program activities.

Literature Context

It is very important in conceptualizing a project like this that the idea of creativity in science be carefully considered and differentiated from creative teaching, where methods are prized for their divergence from so-called traditional teaching activities (NACCE, 1999). Science specific conceptualizations of creativity are important in schools so that activities are not merely fun additions to the regular program but extend students’ meaningful engagements with science. Defining what creativity means then must begin with creativity that is authentic to the practices of science and of scientists. For example, while divergent thinking was once the dominant paradigm for creativity in schools, it bears little resemblance to the creative thinking found in psychological studies of science (Kind & Kind, 2007). This must be tempered, however, with a recognition of the vast differences between the professional and school practices of science (Bowen, 2004). Skills that have found widespread recognition in school curricula, such as controlling variables and coordinating theory and evidence, have done so largely because they are both authentic scientific practices and appropriate for schools and beginning members of scientific communities. For this reason, Kind & Kind (2007) propose making mental imagery and imaginative thinking the centrepiece of efforts to encourage scientific creativity engage students with the importance of creativity to science. Imagination centrally involves drawing on an individuals’ knowledge and experiences and combining them in novel and surprising ways (Barbot et al., 2012) and it is evident in the development of new scientific theories, methods and in the application of data to novel situations (Kind & Kind, 2007). Shea, Lubinski and Benbow (2001) found that among academically talented teenagers, visualization and imaginative thinking were strong predictors of those that would eventually choose careers in science and engineering. It has also emerged as one the dominant skills necessary for teaching and learning creative writing, with teachers, linguists, and writers all highlighting its value (Barbot et al., 2012). Greater emphasis on reading and writing broadly has also shown promise as a means to develop creative thinking (Wang, 2011).

Approaches that have used art (e.g., poetry and drama) to infuse elements of creativity in science have shown positive outcomes in the classroom, from encouraging greater identification and engagement with science (Shanahan & Nieswandt, 2009) to developing conceptual understanding (Odgaard, 2003) and providing a tool for students to more fully develop their explanations (Watts, 2001). Too often though, these approaches have the downfall of marking art as the creative element, downplaying the creative thinking inherent in science. Conversely, some changes in perceptions of creativity have been noted in programs that engage students with scientists and in the open-ended investigations thought to more closely resemble scientific practice. Bell and Linn (2005) found that during inquiry activities students shifted towards more dynamic and fluid understandings of scientific thinking. Fergusson, Oliver, and Walter (2012) report shifts in students’ awareness of creative thinking in science after participating in an astrobiology outreach program led by graduate researchers. The potential impact of these programs is limited though by the well-established finding that activities that teach students ideas about scientific practices implicitly, by having them conduct investigations or engage with scientists, result often in only tenuous or short term shifts in perceptions. For example, Deng et al.’s (2011) meta-analysis of intervention programs aiming to teach students about the nature of science (including the importance of creativity) illustrated that less than half of implicit efforts resulted in significant changes in students’ views. This contrasts sharply with those interventions that explicitly address ideas about the nature of science directly helping students understand, make connections and develop conceptual framework for thinking about science. In these explicit effots, 88% resulted in positive shifts. The SCLS program therefore fills an important gap providing an experience that mixes both scientific and writing experiences and offers an exceptional opportunity to examine the impact of explicit efforts to connect the imaginative thinking that underlies both endeavors.

Program Context

The SLCS is an ongoing fieldtrip program aimed at Grade 5 to 7 classes, where students are guided through a 4 hour session of intermingled activities led by a scientist (science graduate student) and a literary writer (creative writing Master of Fine Arts student). Content is largely framed around the teacher’s choice of one of three different science activities in tandem with the choice of one of three different creative writing exercises. The scientific activities include (1) the construction of a DIY particle cloud chamber; (2) a microscopy lab using student derived riparian samples (pond microbial identification and characterization); and (3) the isolation of the students’ genomic DNA via a cheek cell preparation and subsequent characterization by gel electrophoresis. These activities not only examine discipline specific concepts but also have a larger thematic narrative. The cloud chamber examines concepts around the nature of scientific evidence; the microscopy lab bridges discussion on environmental literacy and social responsibility; and the DNA lab provides insight into definition and ethics of self. Creative writing exercises revolve around: (1) the creation of individual pieces of poetry as well as pieces created by the classroom as a group – this material is often composed with an element of performance art in mind (slam poetry for instance); (2) the production of mini screenplays, which in turn are rehearsed and performed in front of the class; and (3) the creation of a class authored “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, that begins with a class led creation of “page 1” culminating in a mini-book with various subplots and one ending for every student involved. In all cases, providing an authentic experience is highly sought after. This is seen in a multitude of ways including the classes’ interaction with a real scientist and a real writer, as well as the program’s use of a state of the art laboratory space, with unprecedented access to high tech scientific equipment. In terms of authenticity in the writing culture, the program can also provide a relevant outlet for the “publication” of the student’s creative pieces (at the Science Creative Quarterly, an online science journal run by the lab and frequented by upwards of 5,000 readers per day).


To best examine both the complex interactions happening during the workshops and the larger patterns in outcomes from different types of integration between science and creative writing, this study takes a mixed-methods approach. It involves both sequential elements (where an initial qualitative exploration will inform the development of quantitative measures) and elements of concurrent triangulation (where a smaller parallel qualitative analysis will be completed alongside the quantitative analysis) (Morse, 2003).

Phase 1
The first year of the study will be exploratory in nature, beginning with open-ended examination of students’ and teachers’ experiences and responses, aimed primarily at assessing the effectiveness of our existing content. This phase will provide insights on the optimal target grade level, and also to allow the research team to build the necessary elementary school contacts for successful longitudinal studies. This exploratory phase is also essential to ensure that Phase 2 captures the full range of possible outcomes and salient questions, increasing both content and construct validity.

Design. This phase (Year 1 of the grant) will occur during the regular operation of the Science Creative Literacy Symposia, where 27 classes of students in Grades 5 to 7 will attend day-long workshops at the Michael Smith Laboratories (approximately 550 students). These students will attend one of three topic area workshops addressing either: 1. Science Methods, 2. Ecosystems and social responsibility, 3. Genetics and Ethics. During each of these workshops they will participate in a scientific lab activity (approximately 2 hours) led by a Science graduate student and a creative writing activity (approximately 2 hours) lead by a Fine Arts graduate student. The degree of explicit connections between the two activities will vary with the graduate student instructors and the topic that each class experiences will not be influenced or controlled by the researchers. This will lead to a wide variety of combinations of grade level, topic and degree of explicit creativity connections suitable for broadly examining student experiences.

Data Collection and Analysis. Data collection will include: a) written products produced during the workshop, b) open-ended questionnaires, and c) follow-up interviews. During the workshop session, a copy of all written products produced during the session will be collected from students with parental consent. These will include scientific observations and notes as well as the screen plays and stories completed during the creative writing portion of the workshop. At the end of the workshop, approximately 20 minutes will be set aside for both students and teachers to complete open-ended response questionnaires. These will address participants’ conceptions of creativity and scientific self-identity, their understanding of connections between artistic and scientific creativity and any changes that may have occurred during their participation in the workshop. These same ideas will be further examined in follow-up interviews with a selection of students and teachers completed around one month after their SCLS visit. Approximately one third of the classes (9-10 classes) will be selected for follow up and selected purposefully to ensure representation of different schools and districts participating in the program. The participating teacher for each selected class will be interviewed for about their motivation for engaging with the program, their perceptions of scientific creativity and any changes that they observe in their students as a result of participation in the program. In each of those classes approximately all students will again complete the open-ended questionnaire and one third of the students (8-10) will be randomly selected (from those with parental consent) to participate in short interviews conducted during school hours. Like the open-ended questionnaires, these 20 minute interviews will focus on perceptions of creativity and self-identity and any changes that students experienced during their participation in the program. All data will be analyzed through qualitative coding procedures to identify emergent themes and examine patterns found across data sources.

Phase 2
Phase 2 (Years 2-4 of the grant) will build on the emerging insights from Phase 1 with a longitudinal study following students as they participate in the Science Creative Literacy Symposia during Grade 5, 6 and 7. This will be multimethod phase were quantitative and qualitative methods are used in parallel to examine differing responses in students receiving different versions of the workshops. Quantitative measures will be drawn from established sources, such as the Science Student Role Identity Question (Shanahan & Niewsandt, 2009) and the Views on the Nature of Science for assessing students’ perceptions of the broad importance of creativity to science and to their scientific self-identities. Measures to parse their probe more deeply their understanding of scientific creativity and connections to artistic creativity will be developed and tested based on the analysis exploratory analysis from Phase 1. These measures will be pilot tested with four classes at the beginning of Year 2.

Design. During each year of Phase 2 (Years 2-4 of the grant) students in one grade level will attend the Symposia and experience a workshop on the same conceptual theme. Each class will be randomly assigned to one of four workshop conditions. (1) sessions with explicit blending of science and creativity activities (e.g., writing activities draw directly on the morning’s scientific activities) and with explicit of discussion creativity concepts such as the meaning of scientific creativity; (2) sessions with explicit blending of science and creativity activities, but without explicit of discussion around creativity concepts; (3) sessions with no explicit blending of science and creative activities (e.g., writing activities may touch only broadly on a theme related to the morning’s scientific activities) and students are left to independently draw connections between the two; and (4) sessions that do not include a creative writing component at all, only scientific creativity implied through the methods used during the investigation. The same teachers and classes (as much as possible) will return the next year for a second workshop of a different topic (but with the same four conditions) and again for a third year when the students are in Grade 7. Taking attrition into account, session and participant numbers per year are envisioned as outlined in TABLE X:


Data Collection and Analysis. Data collection and analysis during Phase 2 will be primarily quantitative, with ongoing parallel qualitative data collection to triangulate and contribute to interpreting quantitative findings. All data collection will take place inside the workshops, during which all students will complete a short set of instruments organized into three categories: (1) the broad importance of creativity to science (VNOS and SSRIQ), (2) importance of creativity to scientific self-identity (SSRIQ), and (3) conceptions of the meaning and connections between artistic and scientific creativity (scales developed from Phase 1). These will be administered before the SCLS visit, at the end of workshop before students return to their schools and again one month following their visit. Approximately one third of the classes (2-3 per workshop condition in each year) will be randomly selected to also complete open-ended questionnaires. These will be short, written responses to questions asking them to explain their answers to the quantitative items and elaborate on their experiences in the workshops. Data analysis will use multivariate quantitative techniques such as ANOVA/MANOVA and structural equation modeling to examine group differences and patterns across the four workshop conditions. The qualitative data will be analysed both for a priori themes identified in the quantitative analysis and for additional emergent themes indicated group differences and similarities.

A. Description of the research team

This project is multidisciplinary on every level engaging participants directly in a multidisciplinary experience. This design necessitates a team approach bringing together expertise and knowledge in science education and learning, scientific research, creative writing, instrument development and large scale study design as well as culturally embedded qualitative research. The three members of this research team span these areas bringing important practical and academic experience to the project.

Marie-Claire Shanahan (principal investigator, University of Calgary) is Research Chair in Science Education and Public Engagement at the University of Calgary. Her research has focused on intersections between personal identities and individuals’ choices to engage in scientific communities. She has specifically conducted qualitative case study research into students’ identity development when given opportunities for creative expression in science and has led and participated in large scale mixed-methods studies that involve instrument development and validation. She also contributes to public science writing projects both as a knowledge mobilization activity (writing explanatory essays on science education research topics for venues such as Scientific American and Inside Higher Education) and to more deeply explore connections between science and creativity. She has written extensively about connections between popular music and science for Scientific American and the online magazine The Finch & Pea. Dr. Shanahan will take primary responsibility for guiding the data collection and analysis. She will work closely with graduate research assistants during the qualitative coding portions of the study and will take primary responsibility for creating the quantitative measures to be used in Phase 2. She will actively lead the integration of results across Phases 1 and 2 and between the parallel quantitative and qualitative streams of Phase 2. She will contribute 60% of the team’s efforts towards completing this project, and the study will represent 40% of her overall research work.

David Ng (co-applicant, University of British Columbia) directs an educational lab within the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia. His science education lab (primarily equipped as a state of the art molecular biology lab) is known for developing and hosting a variety of events and programs aimed at diverse audiences, during which science is translated and communicated for training, educational and advocacy purposes. This includes laboratory workshops for professional scientific clients, events for nonscientific groups (professional and general public), programs for elementary and high school students, undergraduate projects that focus on global and interdisciplinary advocacy, as well as a number of web initiatives of considerable online clout. Many of these programs proactively court collaborations between scientific communities and the creative arts communities. Dr. Ng’s scientific expertise resides in the area of biochemistry and molecular genetics, but he is also active in public discourse as a creative science writer. His work has been published in places as diverse as the Walrus, McSweeney’s, Boing Boing, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the European Journal of Immunology, and Seed Magazine. Dr. Ng will take primary responsibility for the workshop design, recruiting and managing the collaborative teams of science and fine arts graduate students and working with them to develop the four different workshop conditions. As both a scientist and a practitioner of writing that spans the creative-scientific boundary he will also make vital contributions to the interpretative processes embedded in the qualitative analysis and to the design of the quantitative measures acting as an expert reviewer contributing to establishing their content validity. He will contribute 30% of the team’s efforts towards completing this project, and the study will represent 20% of his overall work.

Samson Nashon (collaborator, University of British Columbia) is Professor of Science Education in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Nashon has extensive expertise in in-depth and culturally embedded qualitative research, including expertise in methods that aim to elicit reflection and insight into students’ views of science and culture. He will work with the graduate students on site at UBC supporting them in in the exploratory qualitative data collection in Phase 1 and open-ended elements of Phase 2. He will contribute 10% of the team’s efforts towards completing this project, and the study will represent 10% of his overall research work.

B. Description of previous and ongoing research results

Marie-Claire Shanahan

Three ongoing themes of my research program are woven together in this proposed study: (1) students’ perceptions of the expectations of science and the influence that has on their identities as participants in scientific communities, (2) the lack of attention that creativity receives as an essential element of scientific processes, and (3) the importance of communication, particularly written expression, to the practice and learning of science.

The important thread of student identities and perceptions of expectations began with my doctoral project Playing the role of a science student: Exploring factors and patterns in science student identity formation, which explored Grade 10 students’ understanding of the behavioural and attitudinal expectations of school science. That line of investigation was followed through in a SSHRC grant (2009-2013) entitled Creating science through discourse: Exploring the use of language to establish the social structure of the science classroom, which took a deeper look into how student and teacher language (both written and spoken) influences those role expectations and perception. Results from these investigations have been published in leading science education journals (Hazari, Sadler, Sonnert & Shanahan, 2010; Shanahan, 2009; Shanahan & Nieswandt, 2009, 2011) and presented at major international conferences (e.g., 2011 European Science Education Research Association, 2013 National Association for Research in Science Teaching).

The focus in the current project on perceptions of the importance of creativity grows partly out of a finding (reported in Shanahan & Nieswandt, 2011) that while most students do not recognize science as creative, students in schools with a strong emphasis on student inquiry are more likely to identify creativity as part of science. Even those students, however, do not see it as emblematically scientific or as a necessary element of scientific processes. A second element draws on a finding published in Shanahan & Nieswandt (2009) that when classroom activities encourage creative expressions of scientific understanding, non-traditional science students (especially those who self-identify as artistic and creative) find new places for themselves to succeed and become a part of the scientific community of their classrooms.

Alongside this work, a project supported by the online science and culture magazine The Finch & Pea has examined the inverse relationship: musicians’ and artists’ perceptions of science and its value for artistic expression. A year-long project (2012-2013) was recently completed that consisted of interviews with musicians about their relationships to science, the communication value of scientific analogies in song and the importance of scientific stories as rich content for song writing. Ongoing analysis has been published in 50 short segments at FinchandPea.com, including interview excerpts and song lyric analysis. A larger piece was published at ScientificAmerican.com: There’s Another Passion behind the Music of Whitehorse: The Sound of Scientific Thinking.

The other side of this project is the element of writing. While Dr. Ng brings particular experience in creative scientific writing, my own research has had a strong focus on textual communications in science, where I have developed a deep understanding of the complex relationships that students have with scientific texts and that individuals can have with each other through textual interactions. A recent project funded the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Education (Future Science Leaders: Challenging identities through online and in-person interactions with peers and mentors) is examining online writing created by high school students participating in an evening mentorship program. These students have engaged with explicit lessons about the nature of online textual communications in science and contributed both to public private blogs with writing about their own work and experiences. The study is examining their changing identities as they engage in these media. Findings from this study were accepted for presentation at the recent 2013 European Science Education Research Association and are under review at the Canadian Journal of Research in Science, Mathematics and Technology Education. Focusing more on student reading, a series of funded projects from the NSERC-Centre for Research in Youth Science Teaching and Learning initiative explored students’ experiences reading adapted primary literature, writing is adapted for student use that maintains the structure and genre patterns of scientific journal articles. These projects have explored how the language used to describe scientific research may influence students’ perceptions of scientific processes and have been published as a book chapter (Shanahan, 2012) and in the journal Science and Children (Shanahan, 2010). Related projects have examined how adults interact with each other through writing in online comments sections in relation to environmental issues (Delos Santos & Shanahan, 2012) and in collaborative discussion environments between scientists and various publics, a study that was published in special issue of Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism (Shanahan, 2011).

Together these lines of research provide a deep preparation for examining the central ideas proposed in this study, including creative expression in science, its relationship to identity and perceptions of science and in particular the impact of textual communications on students’ understanding of and relationship to science.

David Ng

My primary role at the University of British Columbia is acting as the Director of a science literacy lab within the Michael Smith Laboratories, a world renowned multidisciplinary science research unit. As such, my activities largely revolve around science outreach project development, creation, and provision. Sitting outside of a typical departmental structure, the lab’s programming is unique, representing a truly diverse range of interdisciplinary work. This includes a mandate that encourages scientific excellence, and also promotes the importance of incorporating multiple perspectives into public science discourse. As a result, many of the projects developed by the lab inherently involve the development of interactions between scientific and non-scientific communities.

An example of this includes the UBC Terry Project (2005 to present). This is a high profile interdisciplinary UBC student program that fosters cross faculty/departmental connections within the context of global issue themes. My role is as a co-founder of the project and one of the primary faculty coordinators. Over $250,000 in grant funds have been awarded to the project since 2005, culminating in a program that includes a web portal (terry.ubc.ca), an undergraduate interdisciplinary course (of which I am one of the primary instructors), a high profile speaker series, a popular undergraduate student-focused TEDx conference, regular podcast programming, and many public panel discussions (currently offered under the guise of BarTalks). The project has also spawned a UBC MIX program whose primary intent is to coordinate assessment activities between different courses from different departments so as to foster interdisciplinary interactions. In short, the project has been instrumental in perspective building given the numerous and academically diverse nature of its collaborative work.

Another example illustrating the lab’s multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary leanings, is the Phylo Project (2010 to present). This ambitious online project uses crowdsourced talent and expertise to create a biodiversity based trading card game as well as to generate environmental interest and literacy among young people. The rallying point of the project is a web portal (phylogame.org) that dynamically aggregates artistic and scientific data to publish freely accessible new cards for game play, as well as production of high quality biodiversity decks that can be purchased. The project represents a strong example of large scale virtual interdisciplinary interaction involving thousands of web community members with expertise in the follow areas: scientific, artistic, game design, education, museum culture, open source advocacy, and computer programming.

Both of the prior examples showcase the laboratory’s willingness to engage in interdisciplinary work, however it should be noted that the lab is especially well placed to investigate common boundaries between scientific exploration and creative art. This is a notion of which I have a special affinity for, having produced various creative writing pieces over the years, which tend to cover science but under the guise of humour and/or creative non-fiction genres. Furthermore, these pieces tend to be published in places known more for literary and/or pop culture relevance as oppose to scientific reputation (McSweeney’s, Boing Boing), which has also enabled me to build community networks of creative writers interested in science concepts. As a direct result of these experiences, in 2005 the lab founded the online publication, The Science Creative Quarterly. Here, the intent was to provide an outlet that aimed to collect quality written science pieces of any genre, but to be particularly receptive to those with creative tendencies. As such, it became known as a publication with a strong reputation for high quality creative science review articles (often written in a creative non-fiction style and specifically tailored for layman readership), as well as an excellent collection of literary science humour. To this day, it regularly draws more than 5,000 daily readers. More importantly, this mixture of creative writing and science has also led to the exploration of informal science education programming that deliberately merges the two. In this manner, and with encouragement from 826National (the non-profit literary outreach arm of the McSweeney’s publishing house), my lab began offering the Science Creative Literary Symposia fieldtrip in 2008 – it is this unique outreach program that provides the primary content that this research proposal wishes to explore.

Knowledge mobilization plan

The interplay between concepts of creativity and science is interdisciplinary in character, and therefore provides a variety of insights including: (1) views around authentic science; (2) explorations of creativity from scientific perspectives; and (3) analyzing the influence and/or value of creative expression when used to promote scientific literacy, either in education or general media. There are several audiences who may be interested in these findings, including: science education research communities, schools and science teachers, scientific communities, science journalists and communicators, as well as the varied and multidisciplinary academic and community practitioners interested in concepts around creativity and innovation. Given that the principle applicants are heavily embedded in the science education and science communication circles, this proposed research is intent on providing significant opportunities for knowledge mobilization. As well, it should be noted that the project involves the participation of a science communications facility, and therefore has access to an excellent collection of in kind resources and infrastructure that will enable the effective delivery of our research by a variety of means. Such dissemination activities include:

Online content: Since February 2013, this project has already existed in blog form in an attempt to wholly conform to open research principles (https://sciencecreative.wordpress.com). Here, the blog aims to widely share ideation notes, grant documentations, investigator reflections and impressions (reactions from two applicants coming from very diverse academic cultures), overview of methodologies, presentation of raw data, interpretation of said data, and also the commitment to make available any developed educational material and/or analytical tools.

Annual Conference: Starting in year two, the research project aims to annually host a small conference (~100 participants) that explores the interplay between science and creativity. This will include the sharing of insight gained from the research being conducted, and also provide a physical forum for interested community members (scientists, teachers, creative writers, science communicators) to come together and build networks. Funding would be provided in kind by the Michael Smith Laboratories.

Classroom related materials: Embedded within its design, this project will provide augmented access to a fieldtrip program that will involve the participation of approximately 100 elementary school classes over the project’s 5 year timeframe. Furthermore, the researchers see the fieldtrip materials as a valuable and unique teaching resource, and therefore plan to translate this content for use within the general classroom setting. These resources, in turn, will be openly shared as both online accessible documents, and also as a working syllabus for frequent teacher workshops hosted at the Michael Smith Laboratories.

Academic related materials: Findings from this research will be submitted for publication for the science education research community in journals such as Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Science Education, and The International Journal of Science Education and presented at conferences such as the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, National Association of Research in Science Teaching, and Social Studies of Science. Findings will also be submitted for publication for scientific and science communication communities in the Open Access Journal PLoSOne. Publications and presentations will be prepared from the exploratory data collected in Phase 1, the quantitative measures developed for Phase 2, as well as the longitudinal data collected in Phase 2.

Public media related materials: Given that the research findings will be of interest to science communicators who actively engage in the use of traditionally creative means of communication (visual art, creative writing, theatre, storytelling, music, etc.), an emphasis will be placed on translation of research findings for use in the non-academic setting. Both applicants have significant experience in communication of complex concepts to wider public and will contribute written reviews, creative non-fiction, and opinion pieces aimed for publication in more generalized settings to move both the quantitative tools and the overall findings to practitioners of creative science media.


3 thoughts on “A Potential Cure for Insomniacs (just kidding). But seriously, here is our v1.0 draft of the SSRHC grant on science and creativity

  1. Hi Dave,

    I had written this as an email, but then realized that it really should be posted as a comment to be part of your public experiment. So, here goes, for whatever it’s worth:

    A few random comments on the parts of your proposal that I read:

    In the literature review, 2nd half of 2nd long paragraph: delineating between “teaching” students and “directly helping students understand” could be clarified some more – had to read this a few times to really see what the “two sides” of the discussion were (if I have yet). Also: the 88% success rate of the “directly helping” approach needs referencing (is it also from the Deng study?)

    in Methodology section: what exact insights do you expect from the Year 1 data? obviously you cannot predict all or even most – but some examples of what you believe you might learn would be helpful

    Are you allowed to append some of the instruments to be used to the proposal? – e.g. it would be good to see some of the questions on the SSRIQ (abbreviation not included during first mention of the test. Also, no reference for Views on the Nature of Science instrument. if no appendix is allow, do you have room to show some example questions?

    I personally am a big fan of figuring out a way to test information gain – learning gains in the specific areas covered in the workshops.

    Going back to Year 1: it just doesn’t seem to have a clear goal and begs the question, why not just start the Year 2 methodology right away? I mean, I get that Year 1 will help refine the main data collection (we are doing something similar right now) – but the description just stays kind of general and vague – will you test different instruments? Sorry if I’m focusing on Year 1 too much here – it just seems a little too much along the lines of “oh we’ll just see what we see”, and seems like it needs more “we will be looking for A and B and these will help us shape the longitudinal study in the following ways…”.

    For this agency, do you need a specific statement of the hypothesis? I mean your implicit hypotheses are rather clear, but some of the US agencies will really pound you for not having a “we hypothesize that the A experimental group will have the highest SSRIQ scores” or something like that

    Anyway, didn’t read the bio or previous work sections.

    Sorry if any of this is really off the mark (or already addressed in parts I didn’t read (yet)) – and of course its all only my opinions.


    • Hi Vince,

      Thanks for the comment. Marie-Claire and I will take a closer look over the weekend.

      Some of the details (as in specifics to some of the surveys) are missing due to space restrictions and the way SSRHC panels are set up (reviewers would be knowledgable in a lot of the surveys methodologies done etc).

      The reasoning behind the first year set-up is primarily related to (1) pinpointing best practices for the current fieldtrip content (i.e. we have the fieldtrip, and we have several options that teachers can choose, but we want to standardize the templates, so that this grade always gets this option, etc), (2) having a more concerted go at networking with different teachers/different schools (esp with a mind to build relationships for the longitudinal aspect), and (3) as well as taking some preliminary survey data to get a sense of what research elements work, what don’t, and what needs to be developed (i.e. the reality is that there aren’t necessarily standard/surefire ways to measure creativity effects on science and vice versus, so part of the project aims to have a crack at this as well). Still, it’s good to make these intents clearer so that there’s less room for misinterpretation.

      Your comment about a clear hypothesis is something we’re hearing from a few others, so we’re definitely going to work on that over the next few days. I think part of the issue is that in some respects, the first year will actually make it easier for us to come up with more defined hypotheses, but Marie-Claire and I have already discussed this a bit, and it’s a piece that will definitely need some careful thought.

      But thanks again for the feedback. It’s really important to us that we get life/physical scientists to have a look, because the study is kind of in this weird place, where the academics are usually social science driven, but our audience happens to significantly include the scientific community at large.

  2. The feedback on the version 1.0 (which was technically our “pretty good”) edit. – Adventures in the Science and Creativity Venn

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