Research... sorry for the fright30 November 2006
Today, I participated in the SU Undergraduate Research Symposium. It was interesting reading some of the posters. Many of them were of the medical/psychology variety and I really didn't understand them. Those posters were really too specialized since they didn't really put anything in layman's terms. Not that they should "dumb it down", but make it readable.
However, the complexities of some of the posters was not my main problem with the event. My complaint about it was that there were not that many students or faculty that came through. It was held on MacEwan Hall, which is actually the name of the huge concert space downstairs by the Den. (Some amazingly imaginative mind managed to name it the same as the building, brilliant.) So, since it was in there there was lots of exposure because it is cold out and all the students walk inside and pass by the doors. Hardly any of them came in, except those who came to grab free cookies and then leave by the closest door. The goal of this event was to expose undergraduate research to the huddling masses.
Unfortunately, there wasn't a hook to get them in. Most students I know hear research and they fall asleep instantaneously, or else roll their eyes and stop listening. They are at university to get a degree and get out. It doesn't occur to them that most products they use and many of their potential jobs depend on research; it may not be referred to as such but that is what it is. There needs to be some sort of mind change because the university, city, province, country, etc. cannot continue without people willing to do research.
This is a problem that must stem from a bad experience in some science class or while writing a social studies essay. Perhaps a book fell on their foot or they got scared while lighting a Bunsen burner, but this fear of research needs to be overcome. There are literally tens... hundreds of thousands of journals about that can be looked to for interest. I know it is hard to believe but journals can be read out of interest. You can go check in your rules of life, the universe and everything but I will guarantee that you will not find the rule that you think exists prohibiting fun and journals. I agree that many articles are poorly written either in a grammatical sense or an attention grabbing sense. It is important that you don't let that get you down because there are more journals to look through and you will, if you don't give up, find those journals that are intensely interesting to you. (This is the time to take advantage of having a free online subscription-through the university library-to many journals because you can sort through them without having to trudge through the stacks.)
Once these journals have been found, you can move forward with your new found topics and continue learning. They might not have anything to do with what you are studying but don't let this bother you because your degree/program doesn't prevent you from doing other things. So many people work outside their chosen field (read: degree field) in their real chosen field, and their lack of university credentials does not stop them. Granted some professions require credentials, but there is nothing stopping you from going to school more. (I have yet to let it stop me.)
The real point I am trying to make is that research is important and it doesn't matter how innovation is funded-public or private-what matters is that it is done and we all benefit from it in some way. So, you should not only find your interest but also support research by others. Support them by telling your governments that it is important and funding should not be cut off. Small government might be a good thing but research is a greater good for the public than a small government.
Thank you for your attention and I hope that you all find what you like.