Compiled by: Maria Shah
Edited by: Tehreem Jamil
IDRACK is a non-profit initiative, specializing in scientific computing and research methods in natural sciences and healthcare. It focuses on improving the state of research in Pakistan, through a comprehensive three-tiered approach including exposure, training and research.
Research scholars in Pakistan do not have sufficient opportunities where they can get comprehensive training and awareness about research challenges and advancements. Research is only useful if it matches with the latest demand of the techniques and tools. Global research is growing at an exponential pace, as reflected in the development of new technologies and tools. Therefore, a shift from conventional research is in order to meet modern research standards.
To this end recently, in one of its outreach endeavors, IDRACK organized a series of workshops and talks across a number of universities. The targeted audience were research scholars and peers from National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, COMSATS, Islamabad, Sharif Medical College and University of Engineering and Technology Lahore.
National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad
The workshop organized in NUST, Islamabad comprised lecture sessions followed by hands-on training. Students from various backgrounds like bio-sciences, engineering and computer science joined the session. Women were well represented, comprising more than 50% of the people in attendance. The workshop met the expectations of the audience with one student stating, “It was eloquently delivered and excellently grabbed by the audience”. The workshop was centered on computational modelling and its broad role in almost all scientific fields with a special emphasis in the area of biological sciences. From the general feedback received from the audience, the workshop managed to raise awareness regarding modelling and its importance in advanced research areas. The hands-on training built on theoretical aspects by introducing computational simulation methods. The suggestions by the people in attendance included giving more time for training in the workshop.
Sharif Medical College, Lahore
In Sharif Medical College, students and faculty, from both medical and engineering background benefited from the talk, with both genders well represented in the audience. Given the venue, the overuse of p-value as a metric to indicate the significance of a result, especially in clinical studies, was discussed. While the faculty, in most cases was already aware of this problem in literature, the students benefited greatly from the detailed explanation of how the p-value is calculated and where it should and should not be used.
University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore
The talk titled, “Computational Thinking” in UET Lahore was also well received. However, in this case the audience comprised mostly male students. This was not surprising as most disciplines in engineering universities in Pakistan have this imbalance, except for a few disciplines such as computer science and architecture, where women outnumber men. A student from UET Lahore expressed a great level of excitement by saying “Today for the first time I got to know that how computational science can impact all the diverse fields of sciences”. Students received training on using advanced analytical and computational tools. Students asserted that the session would have been more productive, had the duration been longer.
In COMSATS, Islamabad current research challenges faced by researchers were described in a two hour lecture attended by a well balanced audience, in terms of gender representation, the majority of which were from bio-sciences. Many of the students among the audience were grateful for getting awareness regarding new aspects of critical research analysis and the challenges that need to be addressed before the research can be published. The audience related well to the lecture. According to a PhD scholar “The talk inspired me to think out of the box”. He further added that it gave him the idea that PhD isn’t just about academics, one can take up more incentives such as entrepreneurship. Some of the audience stated that the talk was not titled well, which might have discouraged some people to attend the lecture. A consensus amongst the audience was that the talk would have been more advantageous if it was longer.
While the limited time issue was raised repeatedly, the demonstrator (Ashar Malik) stated that the objective of the outreach session was not to teach but only to raise awareness among the research community on what practices to use to make the research in Pakistan more competitive. To this end, IDRACK was successful in introducing students with sufficient background information for them to explore these on their own. The initiative itself directed the attention toward the need for more talks and training sessions.