UNCOVER's working model is based on collaboration between student and staff volunteers, to conduct evidence reviews to answer public health questions for policy-makers.
UNCOVER's student volunteers gain insight and experience in applying public health skills in complex, real-world settings. In addition to strengthening students' systematic review skills, through practical application and access to workshops, UNCOVER volunteers often have the opportunity to develop other important transferable skills, through peer mentorship, presenting at conferences, working with external partners and more.
We have a small number of basic requirements, related to quality of academic work and experience of systematic reviews, which apply to student volunteers who wish to get involved in UNCOVER's review work. However, there are also opportunities for students who are new to systematic reviews to participate in UNCOVER, through our open meetings and workshops. Peer mentorship is central to UNCOVER, and we aim to ensure that anyone who is working on an UNCOVER review for the first time is well supported by a more experienced volunteer.
All Students: Meetings and Workshops
All University of Edinburgh students are welcome to observe UNCOVER's community meetings, which take place fortnightly on a Thursday morning from 11-12. UNCOVER is a virtual community, with members based all around the world, from India to Canada. All our meetings are online and, where possible, we try to hold meetings at times that work across the majority of timezones, or to record our meetings for people who can't attend in person to catch up afterwards.
UNCOVER also has an ongoing programme of workshops focused on skills development. Past workshops have covered everything from stats for systematic reviews, to writing for publication. Workshops tend to take place every two months on average, depending on presenter availability, and are advertised via the UNCOVER mailing list.
We have ongoing opportunities for students to get involved with UNCOVER's reviews and related work. To join a review team, there are two basic requirements:
- You must have training in, or experience of, systematic reviews; and
- You must be averaging at least 60% in your course marks.
These requirements have been in place since UNCOVER was set up, as we need to be able to provide reliable, good quality evidence to policy-makers on demand. This requires a common baseline of skills and experience across our teams. However, no one is expected to know it all from the start. New volunteers working on an UNCOVER review will be supported by a more experienced peer mentor, and the core team are also happy to answer questions and provide guidance.
Experienced UNCOVER volunteers frequently go on to mentor newer students, including students carrying out extended projects with UNCOVER, and may also step into positions of more responsibility in terms of coordinating a review.
Most UNCOVER student volunteers are in the second half of an MPH or other related Masters programme, or completing an SSC5 project, or a PhD. However, UNCOVER's work is interdisciplinary by design, and we welcome student volunteers from other backgrounds too.
Other Student Opportunities
From time to time, UNCOVER may be able to offer additional opportunities to our student volunteers. In 2020-21, this has included presenting at UNCOVER conferences and external conferences, taking part in our pilot internship scheme, and designing and leading a project to improve the student experience of UNCOVER, funded by a Principal's Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS) grant. When these opportunities become available, they are shared via UNCOVER's mailing list and there is typically a competitive application process within UNCOVER. While students will need to demonstrate commitment and relevant skills, we aim to ensure that, wherever possible, opportunities are offered to newer students as well as more-experienced volunteers, so that there is an ongoing pathway of development opportunities for everyone involved with UNCOVER.
In addition to peer mentorship, UNCOVER has a dedicated Staff Student Liaison, Dr Neneh Rowa-Dewar, who is a member of the core team and who facilitates a monthly open Student Forum for all UNCOVER student volunteers, together with UNCOVER's Project Manager, Emilie McSwiggan. Neneh and Emilie are always happy to be contacted by any student with questions about UNCOVER. Get in touch with Neneh on firstname.lastname@example.org and with Emilie on email@example.com.