“Think about why you want to do it. If it’s for the glamour and the glory, forget it, because there isn’t much.”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to…Sophia Collins
Where are you based?
Edinburgh, at the moment
Who do you work for?
What type of science communication do you do?
I prefer the term public engagement – science communication is often so deficit model. What I care about is creating opportunities for scientists and non-scientists to interact. I developed and ran a project called I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here! That’s now a big, nationwide project involving hundreds of scientists and thousands of school students every year, but they don’t need me any more!:-) So I’m now developing a new project/format – Tales from the River. We did the Trent last year as a very experimental pilot. We’re doing the River Tweed next, with funding and involving a lot more people.
Who is your main audience?
Like I said, I’m all about the two-way engagement, so I see two audiences – ‘experts’ and ‘public’ (although I have problems with both terms). For Tales from the River, ‘experts’ are academics or other professionals with an interest in the Tweed – from geologists to historians to pollution officers to fishermen. The ‘publics’ are people living in communities along the River Tweed.
How did you get into it?
Science communication in general? Science degree (pharmacology) but a big interest in comms (writing for student newspaper at Uni, etc). I felt the world didn’t really need more scientists but it did need more people bringing science and the public together constructively. I heard about the Science communication MSc at Imperial and knew that was for me.
Why do you do it?
I think science is fab in many ways, but it can be a bit blind to its own flaws, or think it doesn’t need to be accountable or listen to those outside of science. But EVERYONE will have to live in the world science makes and everyone funds science (mostly) so I think everyone should have opportunities to engage and that science should be constantly making the effort to listen to outside voices. I’m summarising horribly because I could go on about this for hours…
Why do you think science communication is important?
What do you love about science communication?
Trying to make a difference. Being good at what I do. Meeting cool people. Cool geeky stuff.
What has been your favourite project?
I’m a Scientist will always be my baby because it was the first project I took from crazy idea to making it really work. But I guess I should say the next one!
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
Tales from the Tweed
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
Think about why you want to do it. If it’s for the glamour and the glory, forget it, because there isn’t much. But that should help you work out what kind of science communication you want to do – there’s a huge variety and the career paths are very different I think (see some of the other interviews on this blog!). Keep a science communication diary for a bit (doesn’t have to be loads of work or really regimented – just a jotter or something) note down bits of scicomm you come across and what you think of them. That will help you to see what you’re most interested in and engaged by. It will also make you think in more depth about the scicomm you come across and give you more to talk about in interviews and stuff. Do the MSc at Imperial – it’s brill. Follow your interests. Say yes to opportunities, you never know where they will lead you.
Follow Sophia on Twitter at @sophiacol, or see where she’s at along the River with #talesfromtheriver