“There are still many ways to communicate science that I want to try!”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Sarah Cosgriff
Where are you based?
Who do you work for?
What type of science communication do you do?
All sorts – I present, podcast and occasionally write. I also run a postgraduate event called PG TalkFest which involves postgrads presenting informally to other postgrads – the aim is to give them some experience before presenting to the public. I’m also a STEM ambassador so I go into schools to talk about science and careers.
Who is your main audience?
I’d like to think that it is anyone – some of what I do is for the science community and I also communicate to a general audience of all ages. It really depends on what I’m doing.
How did you get into it?
It was one of those by chance things – I went to a careers evening at my university and someone talked to me about their career in science communication. Before that point I thought it was mainly media but it turns out it was a much bigger world than I thought! Some months after that, I left my PhD and realised that I wanted to become a science communicator. I started looking for opportunities. I started off by getting in touch with a science communication group called EUSci in Edinburgh for podcasting and I’ve been a correspondent for them since. Around the same time, a contact emailed me asking me to fill in a spare slot for Science Showoff, and my presenting has gone from there. Since, I’ve been taking up opportunities as I go and I learn more and more about what’s out there.
Why do you do it?
I really enjoy it – I particularly love presenting. I think it’s great that I get to talk about the stuff that I’m interested in. I also find it really rewarding – to be able to increase someone’s interest in science is a great feeling.
Why do you think science communication is important?
I think it’s really important for the public to understand what research has been done and why as it will affect them. Science can be sometimes seen as a bit scary. The sort of comments I get regularly from people are “I was never good at science at school” or “I’m not clever enough to understand that stuff” when I mention my biology background. If a person feels this way, they may feel reluctant to read science stories which may affect them. I also think that science is misreported a lot – luckily there are great science writers out there who want to correct this.
What do you love about science communication?
I really appreciate the creative side of science communication – every time I do something, I think of ‘how can I get this across to the audience?’ and really challenge myself in the different ways I could do it. On top of that, I get a great feeling from someone who says to me ‘wow, that is interesting’.
What has been your favourite project?
I think it’s been PG TalkFest – I’ve set up a place where other people can practice speaking and it’s wonderful to see how they do it. I feel that I’ve been able to pass on my presenting experience but have also learnt from the presenters.
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
In a few days I’ll be doing an ecology workshop in a school, the following week I’ll be doing a Cafe Scientifique in my area and I’m trying to get into festivals. I’m also planning to put together an interview I conducted with an PhD student a couple of weeks ago. There are still many ways to communicate science that I want to try!
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
There are so many different ways in which you can do it, so you’ll be able to find something that suits the amount of time you have and the kind of person you are. See what is already out there – on the internet or maybe where you work – and just give it a go! Also try to get some contacts by attending events or follow people on Twitter. I was able to start presenting thanks to a contact I had.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter @Sarah_Cosgriff