Wichita State's Sigma Xi chapter wins award for excellence
The Wichita State University Chapter of Sigma Xi has been recognized as “singularly exceptional” with a Chapter Program Award by the scientific research society. The WSU chapter was chosen because of public programs on scientific integrity in publishing, leading to a series of articles published in Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Sciences (KAS).
Those articles arose from a talk given by WSU Sigma Xi President Mark Schneegurt at a meeting of the KAS and on the Wichita State campus. His topic was ethics in scientific publication, a synopsis, he says, of things learned at a Sigma Xi national meeting. Schneegurt was invited to write the articles for Transactions as a refresher course for new and published researchers on ethics in science.
Revived three years ago by Schneegurt, professor of biological sciences, and James Bann, associate professor of biochemistry, the WSU chapter of Sigma Xi has become a valuable resource for science students on and off campus.
Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society was founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage cooperation among researchers in all fields.
“Sigma Xi allows me to interact with scientists that I would never meet otherwise,” said Schneegurt. “That’s where you get good ideas; the kind of translational research that only happens when you interact with people who know things you don’t.”
Besides funding research and promoting the advancement of science, Sigma Xi takes scientific ethics and responsible conduct of research seriously.
“As a scientist, the main thing you bring to the table is your integrity,” Schneegurt said. “One little white lie will put you out of business – your career is done. People have to be able to believe your data because that’s what makes science work.”
Among other projects, Schneegurt made use of a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to do science outreach in public schools, sending a diverse population of science students to talk with kids about science and college. The program sponsored science activities across the Wichita School District, working with about 10,000 students. They even organized research clubs in high schools and published the findings in professional scientific journals so the students would know what real research was like.
“That gave kids in the community real research experience,” he said. “That’s the kind of applied learning that we focus on at WSU. We plant the idea in young minds that they can be scientists and that WSU has good science programs where they can go and study.”
According to Schneegurt, training new generations of scientists is just as important as educating the public about what scientists really do – both are necessary to advance science.
“Scientists need to bring that ivory tower down to ground level and let outsiders in,” he said. “Sigma Xi helps scientists connect with the public about the work they’re doing. This is something I see starting to happen at Wichita State. The community knows that WSU has good aviation and aerospace programs. Now they’re learning about our killer health sciences program, or that we have one of the best business programs in the country, or that we’re studying cancer and energy and things that are important to them. The public needs to know that these are things we do every day, right here in every lab at Wichita State and in Sigma Xi.”