Research and Communication Skills Honed at Pre-Congress Training

IUFRO-SPDC Participants outside Snowbird, Utah, USA. Photo Credit: Ramin Korchidi
IUFRO-SPDC Participants outside Snowbird, Utah, USA. Photo Credit: Ramin Korchidi

Clouds, snow, and finally sun greeted 69 participants of the Pre-Congress Training Session as they practiced their skills in research methods and communicating forest science at the Snowbird Resort outside Salt Lake City, Utah on September 29 to October 2. Participants traveled from 30 countries, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America, to attend the 5-day session sponsored by IUFRO Special Program for Development of Capacities (SPDC).

“In a friendly and positive atmosphere, this training enhanced the competence of participants in research methods and communications–where science interacts with society at large,” said Michael Kleine, Director of IUFRO-SPDC. “The rugged Rocky Mountain setting was very different from what most participants have ever known. When combined with the multi-cultural aspect, an environment was created that helped each person to share unique and very meaningful experiences and knowledge during the sessions and informal gatherings.”

The research methods session provided a framework for preparing a research study plan. Rolfe Leary, retired U.S. Forest Service and John Kershaw, University of New Brunswick served as trainers in helping participants ask scientific questions, develop hypotheses, and design research approaches. They used gaming and other techniques to help participants think about research methods in a fresh way.

In the communications session, Cindy Miner, U.S Forest Service, provided communication theory and concepts and coached participants in writing communication strategies, press releases and blogs and also interviewing with the media. Michael Kleine and Bastiaan Louman, CATIE, Costa Rica, focused this session on making science relevant to policy makers and resource managers. Participants shared their many experiences communicating to non-scientists, providing diverse perspectives and lessons learned.

The last day, participants learned about the Global Forest information Service (GFIS) and how they can better promote their organizations information in an online environment.  Eero Mikkola, GFIS Coordinator, and Michael Huck, GFIS Communications Officer, coached participants through the session and shared the best practices in communicating and promoting forest information on the internet.

Originally a session on systematic review in forest science was offered by Gillian Petrokofsky, University of Oxford, UK. Unfortunately due to illness, Gillian was unable to attend in the days just before the Congress. We all wish Gillian a speedy recovery.

A highlight of Pre-Congress training was a field trip with a gondola ride high into the mountains. Some participants chose to also hike the mountain trails after they reached the top. All took in the view.

Written by: Cindy Miner

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