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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 6:29 pm | Fair 58º


Grad Slam Is ‘Perfect Practice’ to Tell the Stories of Research, UC President Napolitano Says

UC President Janet Napolitano. Click to view larger
UC President Janet Napolitano. (Courtesy photo)

In a column this week on the independent news and commentary website The Conversation, University of California President Janet Napolitano wrote of the responsibility of the academic community to “ensure that the work and voices of researchers are front and center in the public square.”

She praised the Grad Slam, which had its origins at UC Santa Barbara under Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti, as an excellent way to accomplish that. 

Scientists, President Napolitano said, should be seen as regular people asking and answering important questions. She added that society needs more scientists who can explain what they do in language that is both compelling and understandable to a lay audience.

“At the University of California, we pride ourselves not only on the quality of our research, but also on its contribution to improving aspects of the world we live in,” President Napolitano wrote.

“It also is possible,” she added, “to have some fun in demonstrating the broad, societal significance of research.”

Having fun for a serious purpose is how she describes the Grad Slam. Following is an excerpt of her remarks about the UC Grad Slam.

• • •

“Last May, I had the opportunity to emcee the first-ever University of California system-wide Grad Slam. The Grad Slam asked UC graduate students to take their years of academic toil and research, and present their work to an audience in just three minutes, free of jargon or technical lingo. 

"Think of these presentations as TED talks on steroids or the ultimate in elevator speeches. Each of our 10 campuses held a local competition, and the finals took place at our system-wide headquarters in Oakland. Several of those finalists are featured on The Conversation’s website [including Daniel Hieber, UCSB’s Champion who went on to take second place in the UC-wide Grad Slam].

"While it was a fun event, the purpose was very serious. Good, sound science depends on hypotheses, experiments, and reasoned methodologies. It requires a willingness to ask new questions and try new approaches. It requires one to take risks and experience failures.

"But good, sound science also requires clear explanation, succinct presentation, and contextual understanding. Telling the story is half the battle, and Grad Slam is perfect practice.”

To view Napolitano's full column on The Conversation website, read “Why more scientists are needed in the public square.” 

— Patricia Marroquin is the communications director for the UCSB Graduate Division.


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