In April, Valerie Kumer (University of Bergen) and I had the pleasure to organize a writing workshop at Makerere University in beautiful Uganda. The participants were all part of the WIMEA-ICT project. WIMEA-ICT stands for Improving Weather Information Management in East Africa for effective service provision through the applications of suitable Information and Communication Technologies. For a highly interdisciplinary project like this to succeed, the researchers not only have to publish in respected journals, they also have to communicate well across disciplines. Successful communication relies on good writing skills. The aim of the course was to improve the participant’s knowledge of writing and to encourage them to work together to improve. The focus was certainly on learning-by-doing.
Just like a ClimateSnack group meeting, we had asked the participants to write short essays before the workshop began. The essays reflected the interdisciplinary aspect of the WIMEA-ICT project, covering topics from climate change impacts to weather station networks to health care solutions. Besides being very interesting, these essays provided the backbone of the whole workshop. During the workshop, the participants shared ideas and worked together to improve them. So that the participants could give each other constructive feedback, we equipped them with knowledge of foundational writing skills.
We started each day with a selection of short lectures on different elements of writing. We covered topics like audience, flow and the all-important clutter cutting!
Each afternoon, the participants split off into small groups and the real work began. In these groups, they took turns to read their essays out aloud. They then used the information from the lectures to give feedback. The participants took to the discussions like pros and they all saw improvements in their writing almost immediately.
By the end of the workshop some of the participants had shortened their texts by half. They had cut clutter, improved flow, and increased conciseness. All this resulted in much clearer and crisper stories. These stories will soon be published on the ClimateSnack website. Until then, we hope that the participants will continue to work together to improve their writing and the way they communicate their research.
Several of the participants will continue their research here in Bergen during the coming autumn semester. We will wish them all a warm welcome to the ClimateSnack writing groups here.
[Image on homepage: Mary giving lively feedback (photo: Mathew Stiller-Reeve)]