“Science is a human endowment. It belongs to all of us, and should be accessible to all of us, physically and intellectually”
Monica Gonzalez-Marquez develops evidence-based methods to teach science reading skills as a staff researcher at Aachen University (Germany). She says that while every university has a writing center of some sort, almost no attention is paid to reading. However, writing is an exercise in imitation: one cannot write well about something one does not understand. Monica thinks that this is at the heart of the problem with the current worldwide epidemic of plagiarism, and why professors continuously complain about their students’ lack of writing skills. To solve this problem, Monica wants to establish reading and interpretation of scientific texts as a core part of the scientific curriculum for students.
Monica believes that scientific knowledge should be accessible to everyone. Because of this, she wants to develop a program to also teach lay people how to approach and understand scientific literature. She acknowledges that this is an ambitious goal, but she is convinced that with political will and funding, it will be achievable.
During her curation, Monica will not only talk about her work to improve the scientific literacy in students and lay people. She will also talk about the “Reviewer Guidelines for Questionable Research Practices”. For this she will be joined by her colleague Remi Gau.
Monica grew up in Boyle Heights, close to East Los Angeles (California, USA), in a very traditional Mexican family. The whole neighborhood spoke Spanish, and it was a largely Mexican culture. Her community was somewhat isolated from the English speaking white Americans, with whom she had little contact, except in school. She writes that she hated school, and found it boring. But she loved to learn, so she enjoyed spending time at the library: “I devoured novels and history, along with the obligatory adolescent brief dabbling in the occult :-)”.
After high school, Monica ‘escaped to San Francisco’, where she lived a ‘rather bohemian’ life through her early 20s, taking courses at San Francisco City College when she could. But eventually she transferred to University of California in Santa Cruz. There she first majored in philosophy and then in linguistics.
Monica wanted an academic career and to continue learning. But her attempt at a theory heavy PhD in Romance linguistics didn’t work for her. She wanted to do more evidence driven work. So she went back for another B.A. in Cognitive Studies at California State University, Stanislaus, and then went on to a PhD in experimental psychology at Cornell University. For her studies on German/French bilinguals, she’d already been traveling back and forth between the USA and Europe. So, when her husband wanted to pursue a PhD at Bielefeld University, moving to Germany made sense for her, too.
Monica started to think about the importance of scientific reading skills, when she was editing science research articles for money. This job is well payed and flexible, so she could do it while raising her son at home. Reading all these different manuscripts, she noticed an apparent lack of understanding of the referenced literature. She had read and thought about narrative quite a bit, and she found parallels between traditional literature and the ‘plots’ in science articles. Her research began as a joke over dinner: ‘wouldn’t it be great if reading a paper was as easy as reading a novel?’