UiS researchers joining forces in a new lab

In a newly established research lab, UiS researchers join forces for the benefit of evidence-based policymaking and organizational change.

Synapse Lab illustration Synapse Lab has its name from the Greek "sunapsis", which means to join together or connect.

– Schools and childcare, organizations and businesses often implement new practices in a desire to increase motivation and learning. However, they often do not learn much about how effective these measures actually are. Also, the practices and policies they put in place, are often not built on what we know, from existing research, may be effective, says Professor Mari Rege at the UiS Business School.

Together with Professor Oddny Judith Solheim from the Norwegian Reading Centre, UiS, Rege heads the newly established Synapse Lab: A UiS research laboratory with the vision to develop and investigate research-based interventions to increase motivation and learning in education and work life.

A win-win connection

The social science scholars in Synapse Lab are internationally recognized for their research on motivation and learning, and have a particular interest in randomized experiments (RCTs).

– Although we come from different disciplines and work in different faculties across UiS, we share an interest in interventions that can increase motivation and learning. By establishing Synapse Lab, we will join forces in order to make each other and our research even better, Rege says.

She says that Synapse Lab’s goal is to create a win-win-connection between organizations and researchers.

– The collaborating organizations obtain free, professional support from researchers in developing new practices and policies. We as researchers obtain valuable access to the field, giving us the opportunity to conduct research at a high international level. 

– A driving force

Rector Marit Boyesen says that Synapse Lab will be an important part of UiS strategic commitments and vision to be a driving force in knowledge development and societal change.

– Solving the challenges that society is facing today requires that researchers work together, across academic disciplines. I am convinced that the cross-disciplinarian focus of the Lab, and the collaborations with schools and organizations, will benefit the greater community, and that Synapse Lab will be a key player in further developing the quality of UiS research. The researchers affiliated with the Lab have an extensive network of researchers both in Norway and internationally. These kinds of initiatives play an important role in putting UiS on the map in an highly competitive environment, she says.

A “gold standard” in research

The use of randomized experiments has become increasingly popular and prevalent in social science research. The US Department of Education has labeled randomized experiments as the “gold standard” in educational research, and the World Bank often requires developing countries to use randomization in determining the assignment and use of new policy.

Successful collaborations with practicioners

Synapse Lab researchers share a history of successful collaboration with the practice field in a number of high-quality RCTs.

– Our researchers are behind some of the largest RCTs in the Norwegian education sector, Rege says.

The Agder project involves 700 preschool age children in 70 preschools, Two Teachers involves 5500 primary school children in 150 schools, and U-say involves 11 000 youths in Rogaland and Akershus counties.

– These interventions are all built on renowned, international research on what can have an effect. They are adapted for a Norwegian context, and developed in close collaboration with the practitioners. These projects will provide us with knowledge that can make Norwegian schools and kindergartens even better, Rege says.

However, Synapse Lab research does not only focus on the education sector.

– We are also in the start-up phase of a number of projects focusing on increasing motivation and learning in the work force, says Rege.  

By: Eilsabeth Rongved, communications advisor, UiS
Illustration: Joanne T. Taylor / NettOp

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PhD course on RCTs in the social sciences Do you want to learn more about RCTs in the social sciences? The PhD course Randomized controlled trials in the social sciences is available for future and existing researchers in the social sciences, and is instructed by Stanford Professor and world-leading RCT expert Eric Bettinger. 

About Synapse Lab: UiS Synapse Lab develops and investigates interventions for promoting motivation and learning in education and work life. Our research contributes to evidence based policymaking and organizational change.

Meet the researchers: Synapse Lab consists of social science researchers at the University of Stavanger, in addition to collaborating scholars at other universities. The fields of the most active researchers in the Lab are education, economics of education, labor economics, psychology and public health. In most of our research projects, we work across disciplines.

 Professor Mari Rege, UiS Business School

Professor Mari Rege, UiS Business School