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Undergraduate Research in Australia

Can Undergraduates Become Part of the Academic Research Community?

Can or should undergraduate students become part of the community of researchers and scholars in the university? There are many different views on this. The National Science Foundation in the US, for example, views undergraduate research as a vital part of the nationís research effort (National Science Foundation 2001). Some Canadian research councils also fund undergraduate research to this end and in the UK, the government invested some 40 million pounds to develop 'research-informed teaching'. Engaging undergraduate students in research is seen not only to benefit student learning, but also to benefit universities' research efforts and staff engagement.

There is variation in the extent to which students consider themselves part of the research community. Robertson & Blackler's (2006) study shows disciplinary differences in this regard. Students who become research associates when engaged in undergraduate research schemes are reported to feel part of the research community. They are treated as junior colleagues rather than just 'students' engaged in courses. Their relationship with academics changes to a more inclusive one (Blackmore & Cousin 2003; Seymour et al 2004). On the other hand, many undergraduate students typically find themselves alienated from the research culture (Lindsay, Breen, & Jenkins 2002).