“Being a researcher requires you to delve deeply into a single subject. I love the way blogging allows me to do exactly the opposite and flirt with a huge range of different subjects.”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Sarah Fox
Where are you based?
The University of Manchester
Who do you work for?
The University of Manchester/GlaxoSmithKline
What type of science communication do you do?
At the moment I’m completing a Ph.D. project exploring how Alzheimer’s disease changes the way our brains store memories. So I spend most my time analysing huge data files and shouting at computers. But, in my free time I manage and contribute to a popular science blog ‘The Brain Bank‘.
Who is your main audience?
My intention has always been to reach out to anyone with an interest in science. So, I try to make sure our blog is accessible to readers of all backgrounds.
How did you get into it?
Ph.D. courses at Manchester are great for encouraging sci-comm activities. My first experience was during a seminar series where we wrote lay abstracts explaining our research. I really enjoyed the deviation from rigid scientific writing; that and my abstract won me a box of Maltesers. So I guess you could say it was a mixture of passion and Operant conditioning which drew me to sci-comms.
Why do you do it?
Being a ‘bench scientist’ can leave you feeling a bit blinkered to the real world. I find the more time I spend obsessing over minute scientific details the more detached I become. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t even own a TV. Science communication gives me an excuse to re-engage with the real world and an opportunity to see my work through new eyes. It helps me relax and feel like part of the bigger picture again, if only for a short while.
Why do you think science communication is important?
I think science communication is a two way street. Since the public help fund our research it’s important they stay informed about what we’re doing. And, since we know what can happen when things get misrepresented, it’s important that research is disseminated by the people who know the most about it: the scientists themselves. Scientists also benefit from this relationship since public engagement gives them the opportunity to see their work as part of the bigger picture and understand the wider issues in their field.
What do you love about science communication?
There are so many things I love about sci-comms, but I think two of the best are:
1) Being able to be creative: Sci-comms, especially running a blog, means you can really experiment with things. Once the pressures of finishing my studies are lifted I hope I can spend more time experimenting with blogging styles and different methods of communication.
2) Covering a huge breadth of knowledge: Being a researcher requires you to delve deeply into a single subject. I love the way blogging allows me to do exactly the opposite and flirt with a huge range of different subjects.
What has been your favourite project?
A couple of years ago I became involved in a project designed to foster a link between writers and scientists. This led to the publication of an awesome little book which re-imagined a number of scientific breakthroughs, ‘eureka moments’ as short fictional narratives. This gave me the opportunity to work alongside some wonderfully talented writers and ultimately see some of my writing in print! I think short fiction offers a brilliant way to disseminate science without making it too technical. On the side, I’m playing with this style of writing myself and hope to introduce more of this to the blog in the next year or so.
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
I’m lucky to work with a talented and dedicated team of writers, we’ve recently been brainstorming and are looking to make some big changes to the Brain Bank. But, with so many of us approaching the end of our studies free time is a big factor, so watch this space.
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
If you’re interested in writing, my top tip would be to start your own blog. It’s free, simple and gives you the perfect platform to play around and perfect your style.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @FoxWoo84