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Improving together: better science writing through peer learning

Journal article
Authors Mathew Stiller-Reeve
Céline Heuzé
William Ball
Rachel H. White
Gabriele Messori
Karin van der Wiel
Iselin Medhaug
Annemarie H. Eckes
Amee O'Callaghan
Mike J. Newland
Sian R. Williams
Matthew Kasoar
Hella Elisa Wittmeier
Valerie Kumer
Published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
Volume 20
Pages 2965-2973
ISSN 1027-5606
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of marine sciences
Pages 2965-2973
Language en
Keywords science communication, doctoral students, communication, perspective, writers, skills, Geology, Water Resources
Subject categories Other Natural Sciences


Science, in our case the climate and geosciences, is increasingly interdisciplinary. Scientists must therefore com- municate across disciplinary boundaries. For this communi- cation to be successful, scientists must write clearly and con- cisely, yet the historically poor standard of scientific writing does not seem to be improving. Scientific writing must im- prove, and the key to long-term improvement lies with the early-career scientist (ECS). Many interventions exist for an ECS to improve their writing, like style guides and courses. However, momentum is often difficult to maintain after these interventions are completed. Continuity is key to improving writing. This paper introduces the ClimateSnack project, which aims to motivate ECSs to develop and continue to improve their writing and communication skills. The project adopts a peer-learning framework where ECSs voluntarily form writ- ing groups at different institutes around the world. The group members learn, discuss, and improve their writing skills to- gether. Several ClimateSnack writing groups have formed. This paper examines why some of the groups have flourished and others have dissolved. We identify the challenges involved in making a writing group successful and effective, notably the leadership of self-organized groups, and both individual and institutional time management. Within some of the groups, peer learning clearly offers a powerful tool to improve writ- ing as well as bringing other benefits, including improved general communication skills and increased confidence.

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