Options to increase the theoretical components within your Research Project

There are a number of assignments which you can choose to incorporate into your Research project to increase the theoretical component. You may choose to do so if, for instance, there is limited capacity in the lab for any given reason and you need to find options to continue working on your project from home.

The options mentioned here have been pre-approved by the Board of Examiners and therefore, you only need the approval of your Examiner and supervisor to start working on them. These are (and will be explained more further down):

1) Open science: ‘reproducibility crisis’ (2-3 weeks)
2) Research Proposal on your research project (5 weeks)
3) Science & Society: Scientific Outreach (2-3 weeks)

Feel free to be creative with more ways to increase the Theoretical component within your Research Project, always in consultation with your examiner and programme coordinator. Keep in mind though, that you will also need to acquire the approval of the Board of Examiners if you choose to do an assignment that isn't included in the 3 options mentioned above.

1) Open science: ‘reproducibility crisis’

Aim & learning outcomes: critical eye on research documentation and extra-experience for writing your own paper.

Open science includes scientific knowledge being more accessible, reproducible and transparent. Ensuring your research is reproducible can be a difficult task. But there are tools, habits, and skills that can help you make your work reproducible, that increase the efficiency of your workflow, and/or the confidence that others have in your project.

More than two-third of the researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientists experiment (check paper). One of the reasons for that is that the transparency of used methods by researchers hardly meets the standard of method recording. When browsing through Method sections of scientific papers, you will find that there is huge variability in the amount of Method details provided and the level of detail can be frustratingly low (even for high-impact journals like Science). So even if you would want to replicate such a published experiment, the lacking Method details does not provide you the right information to do so. This is not the science we love and, in general, it is definitely not how science should be practiced.

Find a scientific paper in your field that uses techniques similar to what your own lab does (it could be a paper from the own lab but preferably an external one). After exhaustive reading and understanding of the article, you are asked to reproduce the three main experiments of the paper. Without access to the lab, you should plan every experiment, including every calculation, buffers that should be used, how did you prepare them, material required, etc. All the information should be reported in a lab journal as if you were to perform such experiments. As an outcome of your experiments, other than data (because the experiments cannot be performed), you should write a short report about the degree of completion of the Methods section of the paper chosen. If applicable, point out the information that you were missing and if/why the experiment can/cannot be reproduced in the exact conditions. Apply these findings when you are writing your own report/paper and be as critical with your own Methods section.

You should discuss with your supervisor if you agree with this assignment since they will be the ones assessing it as part of your research project as a whole.

2) Write a Research Proposal within your Research Project
The Board of Examiners temporary allows the research proposal to replace part of the practical work of the research project. You will still have to do a separate Writing Assignment – in that case, a literature review – as part of your Master’s if you have not done it yet; If you already did a Research Proposal Writing Assignment, you will be allowed to do a second one in your Research Project.

Aim & learning outcomes: designing a research plan, discussing the possible outcomes and the importance of the given research from a social perspective, why should this be funded and not some other project? How would the world profit from your research?

The research proposal is an application for research funding for a PhD position. Writing successful research proposals is a long process that begins with an idea. You will be using adapted version of the NWO Open Competition Domain Science – KLEIN-1 which is intended for a group leader who applies for a PhD student to do a four-year research project. This grant gives room to describe the scientific proposal and to put it in perspective from a broader scientific and societal perspective. Please, download the template from the study guide.

The rubric for the assessment of the Research Proposal can also be found in the study guide.

3) Science & Society: an article for scientific outreach
Aim & Learning Outcomes: reflecting on your own research work in Life Sciences from a social perspective. What is the impact of your current of research in the bigger picture? Can you explain the aim and impact of your research to a less expert audience?

Scientific outreach is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of science and its applications, and develop valuable communication skills. Using your own research write an article directed to a broad audience about the impact of this research in society. If your results are not relevant/sufficient yet, you can choose a recent paper from your research group, An example of this is News & Views (in the scientific journal Nature) on-specialist readers about new scientific advances, as reported in recently published papers (in Nature and elsewhere). News & Views articles are short (usually 800–900 words), and have as much in common with journalistic news reports as the formal scientific literature. You should therefore make clear the advance being discussed, and communicate a sense of excitement, yet provide a critical evaluation of the research concerned. Guidelines can be found here.