Aquaculture students ‘on the right course’

A top academic course in sustainable aquaculture that works hand-in-hand with industry has been held up as a model for the future by two internationally renowned science communication consultants.
Dr Alex Bielak, associated Fellow at the United Nations University, and Louise Shaxson, research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, have praised the new Joint Masters Degree at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) UHI for its ‘phenomenal networks’ and links between research and industry.
The consultants were at SAMS UHI last week to deliver an intensive communications masterclass as part of the two-year Aquaculture Environment and Society (ACES) Erasmus + programme, run through the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).
ACES, one of Europe’s top-ranked academic programmes, attracts elite marine science graduates from across the globe to study at SAMS UHI, in Oban, as well as the universities of Nantes and Crete.
This allows them to study a range of specialisms, including finfish and shellfish aquaculture, and create contact networks across Europe. Fully funded scholarships are available to high academic achievers.
Following the well-received three-day course in science communication, knowledge translation and brokering, Dr Bielak said: ‘These students are international but no matter where they come from they must be multi-lingual; they must learn to communicate with different audiences like industry, media, policy makers and the public, not just their peers.
‘We really challenged them but they were receptive to being taken out of their comfort zone.
‘This is a very talented group of students who are incredibly privileged to have access to the Erasmus scholarship, one of the most generous scholarships I have come across.’
ACES works alongside partners such as Sainsbury’s, the Shellfish Association of Great Britain and the European Aquaculture Society to ensure the course is relevant to industry.
Shaxson agreed this was a strength of the course, saying: ‘There is an increasing pressure on public sector funding and people ask why industry is not taking up the recommendations of some research. Industry is looking for different approaches and ideas and I think this type of course will be successful in doing that.
‘The students are phenomenally lucky to have this opportunity but they have to be extremely talented to get on the programme.’
ACES is currently accepting applications for the 2016 – 2017 academic year. The course has been specifically designed alongside industry to address major scientific, technological and social obstacles facing the sustainable development of the global aquaculture industry.
Course leader Dr Liz Cook of SAMS UHI said: ‘It has been a real privilege to have Alex and Louise on our course. Their expertise fits in perfectly with one of the key aims of ACES: to improve the exchange and communication of aquaculture research between science and industry.
‘Our students were really challenged but came away from the three-day course with a much deeper understanding of where science fits into the bigger picture and how they can best communicate their research.’
Picture (l-r): Dr Liz Cook, Louise Shaxson and Dr Alex Bielak