LONDON, September 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
With recent graduate unemployment in the US  last reported at 13.5% (8.6% for those with advanced degrees), transferable skills - and particularly communication skills - have become an increasingly important way for young people to differentiate themselves from the competition. The Briefing - a curated website for research and development news - is offering people under 30 an unusual opportunity to demonstrate their ability in two areas at once: to show that they both understand science and technology and can write about it. The challenge, to write a 700-1200 word article about a new development, researcher, or research trend, is being judged by the publications editorial team in conjunction with an international group of scientists and engineers that include researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, IBM, Duke University, COM DEV and the University of London. The closing date is 4 November 2013.
Sunny Bains, Editorial Director of The Briefing, also teaches scientists and engineers how to write at both University College London and Imperial College London. "Many smart graduates are either unemployed or doing something that doesn't satisfy them. We wanted to offer them a way of showing that - beyond their technical skills - they had something important to offer." She stressed that this isn't just a competition. "We're publishing all entries that have merit, whether they make it to the final cut or not: anyone who does a good job will 'win' by being able to show off their article to future employers."
The evidence bears out that communication is very important to employers. A recent survey  led by The Chronicle of Higher Education showed that almost 79% of jobs require skills in this area that only about 60% of graduates can demonstrate. This is as true for technical people, where another survey by engineering organization the ASME put communication as the top skill needed by engineers for the future .
Geoff Burr, a researcher at IBM Almaden Research Center and one of the judges for the Challenge, agrees that communication is critical. "Good scientists and engineers strive to have a positive 'impact' on the world around us. Poor communication of the importance of one's ideas, discoveries, and inventions is indistinguishable from having had none in the first place."
At Duke University, Rob Jackson agrees, "Being able to summarize your research in simple language is almost as important as the research itself. If you can't tell people why your work is important in a few sentences, they'll forget about you before they reach the door."
It's not just about showing off what you've done either: writing is an integral part of the process of research. According to George Barbastathis, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, "Trying to express a result or concept succinctly and accurately is the best way to expose holes in arguments and make sure doubts are adequately addressed." Not only that, he says, but, "Communicating between scientists clearly, accurately, and succinctly is the best and only way to foster faster progress."
The challenge is open (and free) to anyone in the world under 30 via The Briefing website at http://the-briefing.com. Sunny Bains says that she expects to uncover some really talented people. "It's easy to start a blog and do good work," she says, "but much harder to generate any kind of following. It's our hope we'll be able to showcase people writing good stories about interesting technologies: as well as being able to give out some prize money."
The Briefing: R&D news, curated by experts
The Briefing is a human-curated website founded in 2011 that brings together the most important research and development news from across the web, and sorts it so the reader can filter the content based on their own eclectic interests. Although based in London, it currently has editors in the USA, UK, and New Zealand, and takes contributed copy from across the world. Founder, Dr Sunny Bains, is a scientist and journalist based in London, UK. She currently teaches at both Imperial College London and UCL (University College London).
For more about The Briefing: http://the-briefing.com
For more about Sunny Bains: http://sunnybains.com
***Writers/editors are welcome to edit/change/add to this copy as required.***
This release and related documents are online at:
In this document:
- Cited sources
- More quotes
- Full list of judges
Also available for download:
- Word version of this release: http://the-briefing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Briefing-Challenge.doc
- ASME, The State Of Mechanical Engineering: Today And Beyond: https://www.asme.org/getmedia/752441b6-d335-4d93-9722-de8dc47321de/State-of-Mechanical-Engineering-Today-and-Beyond.aspx
- The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media's Marketplace, The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Employment-Mismatch/137625/#id=overview
- Illustrative photo (provided for editorial use). Suggested caption: Science and engineering graduates need to prove they have more than just technical skills to get a good job. (Original photo is 4500 x 3000). http://the-briefing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/dreamstime_xxl_31714939.jpg
- http://chronicle.com/article/The-Employment-Mismatch/137625/ - id=overview
Dr Ian D'Souza, Mission Scientist, COM DEV, Canada
"There is a perception among scientists and engineers that because technical writing requires an objective, sober sentence structure to convey unembellished, exact meaning, that it must necessarily be colorless and mind-numbingly dull. This free-pass to not worry about one's writing and communication skills keeps good science trapped inside a prison, never to be part of the social thought-stream, and never to be mentioned in civilian conversations. In filling this void, non-technical writers take liberty with adjectives to spark the imagination of people, while technical writers merely chuckle at their inaccuracies from the peanut gallery.
Dr Tom Carlson, Research Associate, EPFL, Switzerland and Lecturer, University College London, UK
"Perhaps Isaac Newton saw further by standing on the shoulders of giants. As a scientist, if you don't want your life's work to sit on a shelf gathering dust, you need to be able to explain it to the wider world. This means not only persuading your peers of the intricate details, but convincing the scientific community of its importance and the general public of its practical use. If you succeed-giant or not-you will help others to see further."
Dr David Allan, Principal Beamline Scientist, Diamond Light Source, UK
"It's important for scientists and engineers to explain their activities not only to their peers but to the general public also. Each audience will need a different approach but, nevertheless, the message should be clear, easy to understand and be completely accurate. Communication with the general public and opinion formers is especially important as non-commercial science and engineering has to be publicly funded and the public will want to see the benefit gained from the work they support through their taxes."
Full list of judges
Dr David Allan, Principal Beamline Scientist, Diamond Light Source, UK http://www.diamond.ac.uk/Home/Science/Expertise/DaveAllan.html
Dr George Barbastathis, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT http://meche.mit.edu/people/?id=9
Dr Brendan Burkett, Scientist, A*STAR, Singapore http://www.ices.a-star.edu.sg/research-development/researcher-portfolio/detail.aspx?id=2043
Dr Geoff Burr, Researcher, IBM Almaden, USA http://researcher.watson.ibm.com/researcher/view.php?person=us-gwburr
Dr Tom Carlson, Research Associate, EPFL, Switzerland and Lecturer, University College London, UK http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tom-carlson/12/662/160
Dr Ian D'Souza, Mission Scientist, COM DEV, Canada http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ian-d-souza/4/b06/23b
Dr Leo Irakliotis, Dean for the College of Information Technology, Western Governors University, USA http://www.linkedin.com/in/leoirakliotis
Dr Robert Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Global Environmental Change, Duke, USA http://biology.duke.edu/jackson/
Dr Kate McGrath, Professor of Chemistry, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ https://www.victoria.ac.nz/scps/about/staff/kate-mcgrath
Dr Steven Niederer, Lecturer, Kings College London, UK http://www.kcl.ac.uk/medicine/research/divisions/imaging/about/people/profiles/niederers.aspx
SOURCE The Briefing