Welcome to The Briefing: Register or log in to tailor our content to your needs

The Briefing is all about showing you what you're most interested in. Personalize the content on The Briefing by choosing exactly what you want to see.

Engineering, Earth & Energy
Electronics & Computing
Bio & Medical SciTech
Chemistry, Nano & Materials
Physical Sciences
Subject Relevance

UCL promo

PRESS RELEASE: International challenge helps young scientists and engineers prove – and improve – their employability


Stressed graduate

Science and engineering graduates need to prove they have more than just technical skills to get a good job. (Original photo is 4500 x 3000)


Dr Sunny Bains
The Briefing
+44 7968 062307

***Writers/editors are welcome to edit/change/add to this copy as required.***

Briefing challenge helps young scientists and engineers prove – and improve – their employability

With recent graduate unemployment in the US [1] last reported at 13.5% (8.6% for those with advanced degrees), transferable skillsand particularly communication skillshave become an increasingly important way for young people to differentiate themselves from the competition. The Briefinga curated website for research and development newsis offering people under 30 an unusual opportunity to demonstrate their ability in two areas at once: to show that they both understand science and technology and can write about it. The challenge, to write a 700-1200 word article about a new development, researcher, or research trend, is being judged by the publications editorial team in conjunction with an international group of scientists and engineers that include researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, IBM, Duke University, COM DEV and the University of London. The closing date is 4 November 2013.

Sunny Bains, Editorial Director of The Briefing, also teaches scientists and engineers how to write at both University College London and Imperial College London. “Many smart graduates are either unemployed or doing something that doesn’t satisfy them. We wanted to offer them a way of showing thatbeyond their technical skillsthey had something important to offer.” She stressed that this isn’t just a competition. “We’re publishing all entries that have merit, whether they make it to the final cut or not: anyone who does a good job will ‘win’ by being able to show off their article to future employers.”

The evidence bears out that communication is very important to employers. A recent survey [2] led by The Chronicle of Higher Education showed that almost 79% of jobs require skills in this area that only about 60% of graduates can demonstrate. This is as true for technical people, where another survey by engineering organization the ASME put communication as the top skill needed by engineers for the future [3].

Geoff Burr, a researcher at IBM Almaden Research Center and one of the judges for the Challenge, agrees that communication is critical. “Good scientists and engineers strive to have a positive ‘impact’ on the world around us. Poor communication of the importance of one’s ideas, discoveries, and inventions is indistinguishable from having had none in the first place.”

At Duke University, Rob Jackson agrees, “Being able to summarize your research in simple language is almost as important as the research itself.  If you can’t tell people why your work is important in a few sentences, they’ll forget about you before they reach the door.”

It’s not just about showing off what you’ve done either: writing is an integral part of the process of research. According to George Barbastathis, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, “Trying to express a result or concept succinctly and accurately is the best way to expose holes in arguments and make sure doubts are adequately addressed.” Not only that, he says, but, “Communicating between scientists clearly, accurately, and succinctly is the best and only way to foster faster progress.”

The challenge is open (and free) to anyone in the world under 30  via The Briefing website at http://the-briefing.com. Sunny Bains says that she expects to uncover some really talented people. “It’s easy to start a blog and do good work,” she says, “but much harder to generate any kind of following. It’s our hope we’ll be able to showcase people writing good stories about interesting technologies: as well as being able to give out some prize money.”

The Briefing: R&D news, curated by experts

The Briefing is a human-curated website founded in 2011 that brings together the most important research and development news from across the web, and sorts it so the reader can filter the content based on their own eclectic interests. Although based in London, it currently has editors in the USA, UK, and New Zealand, and takes contributed copy from across the world. Founder, Dr Sunny Bains, is a scientist and journalist based in London, UK. She currently teaches at both Imperial College London and UCL (University College London). For more about The Briefing: http://the-briefing.com For more about Sunny Bains: http://sunnybains.com

Additional Resources

In this document:

  • Cited sources
  • More quotes
  • Full list of judges

Also available for download:

Cited sources

  1. http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2013/ted_20130405.htm
  2. http://chronicle.com/article/The-Employment-Mismatch/137625/ – id=overview
  3. https://www.asme.org/getmedia/752441b6-d335-4d93-9722-de8dc47321de/State-of-Mechanical-Engineering-Today-and-Beyond.aspx

More quotes

Dr Ian D’Souza, Mission Scientist, COM DEV, Canada

“There is a perception among scientists and engineers that because technical writing requires an objective, sober sentence structure to convey unembellished, exact meaning, that it must necessarily be colorless and mind-numbingly dull.  This free-pass to not worry about one’s writing and communication skills keeps good science trapped inside a prison, never to be part of the social thought-stream, and never to be mentioned in civilian conversations. In filling this void, non-technical writers take liberty with adjectives to spark the imagination of people, while technical writers merely chuckle at their inaccuracies from the peanut gallery.

Dr Tom Carlson, Research Associate, EPFL, Switzerland and Lecturer, University College London, UK

“Perhaps Isaac Newton saw further by standing on the shoulders of giants. As a scientist, if you don’t want your life’s work to sit on a shelf gathering dust, you need to be able to explain it to the wider world. This means not only persuading your peers of the intricate details, but convincing the scientific community of its importance and the general public of its practical use. If you succeed—giant or not—you will help others to see further.”

Dr David Allan, Principal Beamline Scientist, Diamond Light Source, UK

“It’s important for scientists and engineers to explain their activities not only to their peers but to the general public also. Each audience will need a different approach but, nevertheless, the message should be clear, easy to understand and be completely accurate. Communication with the general public and opinion formers is especially important as non-commercial science and engineering has to be publicly funded and the public will want to see the benefit gained from the work they support through their taxes.”

Full list of judges

Dr David Allan, Principal Beamline Scientist, Diamond Light Source, UK

Dr George Barbastathis, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT

Dr Brendan Burkett, Scientist, A*STAR, Singapore

Dr Geoff Burr, Researcher, IBM Almaden, USA

Dr Tom Carlson, Research Associate, EPFL, Switzerland and Lecturer, University College London, UK

Dr Ian D’Souza, Mission Scientist, COM DEV, Canada

Dr Leo Irakliotis, Dean for the College of Information Technology, Western Governors University, USA

Dr Robert Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Global Environmental Change, Duke, USA

Dr Kate McGrath, Professor of Chemistry, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ

Dr Steven Niederer, Lecturer, Kings College London, UK

Cookies on The Briefing website

Our website uses cookies to allow you to customise your content, use the site as a registered user, and to provide us with important information about visitors. By continuing to browse the site we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies set by The Briefing.