Tag Archives: blogging

Suzi-gage-science-communication

Speaking to… Suzi Gage

 “Since I work in health sciences, findings if misrepresented in the media could potentially lead to harm. Findings can sometimes be exaggerated or presented without important caveats, which isn’t ideal. A good clear explanation of risks is hard to do, but really important, particularly in terms of health.”

Suzi-gage-science-communicationThis is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Suzi Gage

Name?

Suzi Gage

Where are you based?

Bristol

Who do you work for?

University of Bristol

What type of science communication do you do?

I blog at the Guardian, but I also do outreach stuff at the University, and I was involved in the ScienceGrrl calendar.

Who is your main audience?

People who read the Guardian online would be my main audience, but also the good folk of twitter, and occasionally people outside of those populations too, if I get the chance. I love getting the opportunity to write for a new audience, only a few weeks ago I wrote for the Telegraph, and the British Science Association blog.

How did you get into it?

In the first year of my PhD, I took part in a scheme called I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here. It involved scientists of all disciplines answering questions from school children across the country. It was so much fun, and so rewarding, that I decided to do more public engagement and communication. So along with a couple of other PhD students in my department I set up a blog, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why do you do it?

First and foremost because I enjoy it!  I also think as most science is publicly funded, we have an obligation to communicate our findings to the people who provide our resources. Scientific articles are often behind paywalls, and even if they’re not, they can be written in pretty dry and impenetrable language. I try and write for an interested lay-person.

Why do you think science communication is important?

I suppose my answer above covers this. Also, since I work in health sciences, findings if misrepresented in the media could potentially lead to harm. Findings can sometimes be exaggerated or presented without important caveats, which isn’t ideal. A good clear explanation of risks is hard to do, but really important, particularly in terms of health.

What do you love about science communication?

I love the questions I get asked. That’s why I’m a Scientist was so inspiring for me. Two weeks of answering the questions of school children really opened my eyes as to what people think science is, and I got the bug from that.

What has been your favourite project?

Probably ResearchFest, which was an event I helped put on in Bristol. I work with the data from the Children of the 90s birth cohort, which is a group of originally 14,000 mothers and their children, who have been followed since pregnancy. It’s a huge resource, and turned 21 years old last year. ResearchFest was a conference for the participants in the study to attend, so they could see what us researchers do with.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I’m probably going to have to cut back on my science communication projects for the next year, as I’ve just started writing up my PhD, but hopefully I’ll be able to keep some ongoing projects going, like my blog. I’ve also got something else in the pipeline that I’ve been working on for AGES, so watch this space.

Is it difficult to balance the research and science communication lives you lead?

A little, maybe. I do the science communications stuff in my spare time, so maybe it’s my social life that suffers, although I’ve got to meet some awesome people and make great friends through science communication, particularly the people in and involved with the Science Grrl calendar. But yes, it can be very time consuming (and often voluntary), which can be challenging.

Do you feel you need to be careful when communicating your research?

Oh, definitely! Because I work in a field which is directly relevant to people (recreational drug use and mental health) I try and be really careful about the language that I use. I want to be sensitive to people who might be affected by the issues I discuss, and I try not to put any judgement in to the pieces I write, or if I do, make it completely clear what’s research, and what’s opinion. Even so I’ve drawn the ire of certain individuals when I’ve written about standardised packaging of cigarettes, which has led to some nasty things said about me online, and a lot of speculation about my beliefs on various issues (which are for the most part complete fiction). Because I’m often under scrutiny though, this is even more of a reason to choose my words very carefully.

As a scientist, do you think that science communication is encouraged enough?

Hmm, this is a tricky one, because I think it varies hugely. For me, I have had a fabulous mentor who’s really encouraged and supported me right from the offset. This has meant I’ve always felt science communication to be part of being a scientist. I was surprised the first time I spoke to scientists who had been actively discouraged from doing communication activities by their superiors or institutions. I hope this is an attitude that is getting less prevalent. These days

What are the barriers that are stopping scientists to communicate more?

Time is probably the biggest one. Communication activities are usually extra curricular, and rarely funded, so you have to be passionate and willing to give up your free time for nothing to want to seek them out.

Is there a way around them?

More science jobs should include a science communication aspect as standard, so some of your time at work is designated for sci comm. But, of course, researchers already work far beyond the hours they’re paid for, science is very much a vocational career, so in practical terms it would just be one extra thing to do. I don’t really know what a solution would be. Time turners? 😉

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Do it! Join twitter, there’s a whole community of scientists and science communicators who can offer advice and support, and just find something you enjoy doing and do it!

You can follow Suzi on Twitter at @soozaphone, or read her Guardian blog

Corrine-Burns-Science-Communication

Speaking to… Corrinne Burns

“You have to learn to put yourself in visitor’s shoes – they have a whole museum at their disposal, so how am I going to persuade them to look at this object?”

Corrine-Burns-Science-CommunicationThis is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Corrinne Burns

Name?

Corrinne Burns

Where are you based?

London

Who do you work for?

Science Museum London

What type of science communication do you do?

I research and develop exhibitions about contemporary science and engineering. I also write for the Guardian’s “Notes and Theories” blog.

What does your role at the Museum involve?

It’s very much like a TV researcher role – we have to find science and engineering stories that are relevant to our visitors’ lives. Then, we need to identify a suitable expert to interview, and a cool object for display. Once all that is in place, we start the logistics of bringing the object in, arranging interviews and photoshoots, and writing all the labels and interpretative text for the gallery. We work with new media engineers to creative interactive displays, and with designers to ensure the physical layout of the exhibit is attractive. Then, once the exhibit is live on gallery, we liaise with our Press office to ensure as much publicity as possible. In between there is much coffee and swearing. Again, rather like TV.

Who is your main audience?

The Museum attracts a vast range of people: school groups, families, independent adults and retired people. My Guardian stuff has an audience of … well, Guardian readers. And friends who feels obliged (under pain of My Fake Disapproval) to read them.

How did you get into it?

In 2004 I entered the New Scientist essay competition, and won a runner up prize. That got me thinking that maybe I was quite good at this stuff, so I decided to enter all the writing and poster competitions that I could. I was pretty successful at that, and I loved doing it, so stared to think about scicomm as a career.

I was still doing my PhD at this point, but I started trying to do some freelance work. I write a few pieces for Mexicolore and Herbs magazine, and then, whilst doing my postdoc, I had an article accepted by the Guardian. Around this time – somewhat informed by my cack-handedness in delicate laboratory situations – I decide to go for a full-time science communication career. (I figured that by writing about science, rather than doing it, I was less likely to cause an environmental and or/diplomatic incident.) I did an internship at the BBC’s Science Development department, and after that I landed here at the Museum.

Why do you do it?

I think I’m fairly good at talking and writing about science in a friendly, accessible way. I like finding out what scientist and engineers are doing, and telling the wider world about it.

Apart form being good at writing, what is it about it that gives you pleasure?

I love language anyway, so I take pride in crafting a well-structured sentence.

Is there a specific format to the writing that you do?

That depends – Museum textual content does follow a specific format, and we have our excellent proof-reader, Lawrence, to ensure that we stick to Museum style.

The Guardian encourages an individual voice, so as long as I am accurate with the facts, I feel able to be quite free with my style.

How tricky is it to write about something you have no expertise in?

It’s not always easy, but the best thing to do is talk to the experts, and ask them to explain anything you don’t understand. No-one is expert in everything – it’s an ongoing learning process, for me as much as for our visitors. And what I like about the Guardian is that it encourages readers to contribute– going Below The Line can be a nerve-wracking experience, but also an educational one.

As some one who writes, what does content development at the Museum do for you? 

It forces us to distil a story down to its essence – we have to work to very strict word limits. I have to remember that what interests me is not necessarily what will interest the greater number of people. You have to learn to put yourself in visitor’s shoes – they have a whole museum at their disposal, so how am I going to persuade them to look at this object? Your text must grab their attention within the first sentence. Otherwise they’ll go next door, and look at the dinosaurs.

Why do you think science communication is important?

If we’re going to inspire young people to a career in science or engineering, then we need to ensure that they get to hear about the activities of scientists and engineers – we need to show that these careers are accessible, and that science isn’t an esoteric activity done in isolation from the rest of the world.

The same goes for an adult audience too, I think – I’d like to show that science belongs to everybody, whether they are an active part of the research process or not. All informed opinions on science are useful, so we need to ensure that as many people as possible have access to the information they need to develop an informed opinion.

What do you love about science communication?

I get to talk to some fascinating people. Honestly, I am never bored!

What has been your favourite project?

I can’t choose a favourite, but I did love the High Performancefestival that we held to mark International Women’s day 2013. HP was a festival of motorsport and aero engineering, and all of the engineers who took part were women. However, we put the emphasis firmly on the engineering and the science, rather than on the gender of the participants – we didn’t want to present the idea of “women engineers” as some kind of novelty – it’s totally normal for women to be engineers, even in the supposedly masculine world of motorsport. In that respect I think we were successful – visitors came to see the cool cars, and many people didn’t even notice that all the engineers were women.

You mention that many people didn’t notice the women were engineers at the HP festival, was that not a disappointment as you were trying to showcase Women in STEM? 

Not at all; I considered it a mark of success that people were unsurprised to see women doing engineering. One of the engineers told us that it was a pleasant change to finally be invited to talk about engineering, rather than being a “woman in engineering”. Personally I dislike being categorised as a “woman in STEM” – I am in STEM, and I just happen to be female.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

Aye, ongoing exhibition development at the Museum, and any articles I can persuade James K at the Guardian to look over.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

I’d start with creating your own science blog, just to get practise at writing for a non-specialist audience. Find original research articles, and try to explain them in no more than 400 words, with a few pictures. Once your blog has a good few articles on it, start pitching to editors. Send a pitch of around 100 words, and link to your blog – that’s the best way for an editor to gauge your writing style. Don’t be disheartened if you get rejections – I spent a good year being rejected before I got my first acceptance.

My BBC internship was really useful, but unpaid. I could only afford to do it because I’d saved up a couple of grand during my postdoc. I certainly could not have afforded it whilst studying. I wasn’t living in London when I got the internship, so I had to pay two sets of rent for the time that I was there. In that respect Londoners (or the wealthy) have a huge advantage when it comes to getting experience, which isn’t really fair. I would advise non-Londoners to try their local radio station, or ask their local paper if they’re interested in a weekly science column.

I’d also consider whether you ant to be a full-time science communicator, or an academic who also does science communication. If you want to go into TV, for example, you may be better off remaining in research. You will have noticed that most of the BBC factual presenters arefull-time researchers.

Finally – and it’s a cliché – don’t give up. I was never the star pupil; I left school with only two GCSEs, and ended up washing dishes in a hotel kitchen. It took a few years of that before I considered going back to education; I never considered myself to be one of the clever people. I still don’t. I think if I’ve got this far, it’s more from a refusal to accept reality than from any great skill – but here I am, anyway!

You can follow Corrine on Twitter at @corrinneburns

Deborah-Blum-Science-Communication

Speaking to… Deborah Blum

I’ve never been bored – it’s like having an infinite list of questions that, if you can get them answered, will each in their own way make life more interesting.”

Deborah-Blum-Science-CommunicationThis is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Deborah Blum

Name?

Deborah Blum

Where are you based?

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Who do you work for?

I have a lot of bosses. I’m a professor of journalism here at the University of Wisconsin. I’m a science blogger for Wired (Elemental). I write a monthly toxicology blog for The New York times (Poison Pen). I freelance for publications ranging from the Los Angeles Times to Tin House. I’m a non-fiction book author, most recently of The Poisoner’s Handbook.

What type of science communication do you do?

I’m a writer and I like to tell narrative stories. I do this across multiple platforms, blogs, newspapers, magazines, books and e-publications.

Who is your main audience?

A wide audience, I hope. I’m most interested in the audience that may have been turned off my science (say in high school) and lost the sense that it’s important in daily life. I like to tell stories – from murder to public health – that persuade them otherwise.

How did you get into it?

Well, my father is an entomologist and I grew up surrounded by his graduate students and post-docs. So I’m sure that influenced me. I spent about five years as a general interest newspaper reporter before going to grad school in science journalism. I wanted to write about science because I liked the way it helps us understand the world around us.

Why do you do it?

Partly for the fun of it. My kids tell me I’m a natural geek – I really do like understanding the world around us and science writing is a great way to get paid to ask all your favorite questions. I’ve stayed with it because I’ve never been bored – it’s like having an infinite list of questions that, if you can get them answered, will each in their own way make life more interesting. I’ve been a science writer for 30 years now and I still haven’t come to the end of the list.

Why do you think science communication is important?

Because science not only helps understand the way the world works – it helps us navigate it. And not just in a space exploration way. It’s important to our every day lives – how to be healthy, how to protect ourselves and our children and our communities – and I worry that people don’t fully understand it and I hope that what I do helps get that message across.

What do you love about science communication?

The ability to tell really good stories. The sense that I can make a difference. And fact that I learn all the time – thanks to the amazing generosity of scientists and to the many science communicators who are much smarter than me.

What has been your favourite project?

Boy that’s hard to pick. I’ve been writing about poisonous substances now for four years so I have to say that Poisoner’s Handbook has been incredibly influential in both subject matter and the way I tell stories. And I love the way it’s enabled me to reach a multitude of audiences. It was short-listed for a murder mystery award (The Agatha award after Agatha Christie ) and I’ve both spoken to murder mystery writers and even romance writers on the chemistry of killing people. Now those are new audiences for the science writer :)

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I’m working on a book on poisonous food. It’s due to Penguin next year and it’s such a fascinating story so I’m really excited about it.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

It’s a great time to be a science communicator because there are so many new platforms – blogging, podcasts, e-magazines and publishers. My advice is to just get started – launch a blog because it’s a great way to develop a writer’s voice. And build a network – go to meetings like ScienceOnLine or your science writers association. It’s not only that you make contacts but it’s so fun to hang out with people who love telling science stories the way you do. Which is probably my last point. Do it you do think it’s going to be fun – those are the best jobs anyway.

You can follow Deborah on Twitter at @deborahblum or see what she is up to on her website.

Colin Stuart

Speaking to… Colin Stuart

“network your backside off, particularly if you’re just starting out. The amount of opportunities that have come my way because of a Twitter conversation or a chance meeting in the pub etc is pretty high”

 

Colin-Stuart-science-communication
Colin Stuart

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Colin Stuart

Name?

Colin Stuart

Where are you based?

London

Who do you work for?

and myself

What type of science communication do you do?

A mixture really. I am part presenter, part writer. At the Observatory it is face-to-face communication – presenting planetarium shows, showing people the stars and planets through telescopes, running interactive school workshops and teaching adult evening courses about the latest developments in astronomy. On the freelance writing side it ranges from “typical” science journalism, through to writing educational resources for charities and then onto books.

Who is your main audience?

I wouldn’t say I have one. Over the course of a week I could be singing nursery rhymes about the planets to five-year-olds in the planetarium or speaking to the retirees who often come along to the adult evening courses. I could be writing an article for a specialist science website, but equally I could be writing a feature for The Guardian or New Scientist aimed at the general public.

How did you get into it?

I did a degree in astrophysics and I got to that point in my studies that I think a lot of people get to in the middle of their second year: what am I going to do next? I’d always loved astronomy since I was a kid but by that point I’d realised I no longer wanted to be a researcher. I thought about other ways that astronomy could feature in my career without having to be a research scientist and I’d always been quite good at public speaking and writing so I thought maybe I could do that. I honestly had never heard of the term “science communication” before. But when I thought about what that sort of stuff might be called I googled those words and a whole host of information poured out. I found the Science Communication MSc at Imperial very quickly and within a few days set about getting the sort of experience that would make sure my application was successful. Part of that was volunteering at the Observatory and that has led on to a part time job there.

Why do you do it?

For the love of it (most of the time!). Astronomy has always been my passion and passion can be infectious. I wanted to share my love of the universe with others and get across that sense of awe and insignificance that astronomy is so good at delivering. At the same time it keeps me honest. My job forces me to keep up-to-date with the latest research and I get to talk to some of the scientists doing some really cool research. Basically I get to geek-out on a daily basis and get paid for the privilege.

 

Why do you think science communication is important?

Well first there are the clichés. That science is funded by taxpayers and so taxpayers need to be engaged in science. That our world is becoming increasing scientific and so people need to be more engaged with science and perhaps we can inspire the next generation of scientists by grabbing their attention early. Those things are all true in varying degrees. But the more I do science communication the more I think that the answer is because it is real. Particularly for my line of work in astronomy, we’re finding out the ways in which our universe really works and often that is so far removed from our everyday experience of the daily grind. Science communication, done well, can offer the same escapism as novels or movies with the added bonus of being real. If that doesn’t sound too pretentious! That’s certainly what got me hooked as a kid. I could read story books, but I could also read equally exciting books about the planets and their moons but the latter stories weren’t make-believe.

What do you love about science communication?

The fact that I get to immerse myself in science every single day. And the fact that you can often see the effects of a job well done. If a kid gasps during a planetarium show because you’ve shown them something that’s blown their mind or when an adult laughs at one of your jokes – I’ve been doing it five years but that still gives me a buzz. I also love the fact that I am always learning, about astronomy but also about ways to communicate. I am a much better presenter and writer than I was five years ago, but I know I’ll go on improving because there is always something to learn or another way to look at things. I also still love getting my head around a new concept, just as I did at uni.

What has been your favourite project?

That’s a tough one. What I do can be so varied that it is hard to compare projects, but I think it was writing my first book. As as writer I have always dreamed of having a book out there on the shelves and that’s nearly a reality as The Big Questions in Science is published soon. It is co-written with two good friends – Hayley Birch and Mun-Keat Looi – and it tackles twenty of the biggest unanswered questions in science today detailing the efforts of extravagant millionaires, biologists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, philosophers, explorers and engineers to push the boundaries of our knowledge. My chapters tackle concepts like dark matter, dark energy, exoplanets, antimatter, parallel universes, time travel, alien life, black holes, wormholes and quantum physics and so it was really fun to write.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I am currently trying to get a kids book on astronomy off the ground, so watch this space!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Work hard, the competition is becoming increasingly fierce. Love what you do, you’re going to be spending a lot of time doing it so you better enjoy it. Practice, a lot. You might think you are good, and you might be, but you can always be better. Lastly, network your backside off, particularly if you’re just starting out. The amount of opportunities that have come my way because of a Twitter conversation or a chance meeting in the pub etc is pretty high. There are plenty of opportunities out there if you do enough digging.

You can follow Colin on Twitter at @skyponderer or find out what he’s up to on his website.

Ben Valsler

Speaking to… Ben Valsler

Ben-Valsler-science-communication
Ben Valsler

“I meet interesting people & visit interesting places, I get to learn new things without having to take an exam and I revel in the positive feedback”

 

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Ben Valsler

Name?

Benjamin Valsler, but you can call me Ben.

Who do you work for?

I’ve recently started a new job as the Online and Multimedia Editor of Chemistry World, the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  Before that, I was a radio and podcast producer at Cambridge University’s Naked Scientists.

What type of science communication do you do?

So far, I’ve predominantly been involved in radio and podcasting, making magazine-style programmes and documentaries. I’m now doing more written communication (blogging etc), editing journalistic writing and producing short audio and video packages for online publication.

Who is your main audience?

I’ve produced content for a range of audiences. The magazine Chemistry World is distributed to RSC members, so the primary audience is people working in the chemical sciences. However, as online and multimedia editor, I will be reaching out to a broader, less specific audience, engaging through social media and the Chemistry World website.

How did you get into it?

Having recently graduated with a degree in Zoology, I was keen to do some travelling. I was teaching science in North East Thailand when I was given the opportunity to join some of my colleagues on the nightly “English hour” on Thai local radio. We had free reign to talk about whatever we wanted, as long as it was in English. I quickly realised that the topics I wanted to discus were the scientific topics I had been teaching.

With that epiphany, I then applied to do a Science Communication MSc at the University of West England in Bristol, and applied for the Association of British Science Writers Student Journalism Bursary to help with the costs. I was successful for both, and moved to Bristol on my return from Thailand.

Coincidentally around the time I finished my MSc course, a job came up at the Naked Scientists. I travelled to Cambridge for the interview, and just a few weeks later returned to take up the position.

Why do you do it?

There are a huge number of ways to justify communicating science. I’m sure you’re familiar with the arguments around improving scientific literacy, accounting for use of public funds in science and the slightly patronising “deficit model” idea that people would support science more if we told them more facts.

I have worked in South Africa throughout my time at the Naked Scientists, and been shocked to see roadside signs offering to “cure HIV with herbal tea”, and hear politicians broadly dismissing the AIDS epidemic. This put the arguments around improving scientific literacy in a new context for me. At the same time, the thirst for science in South Africa is huge, so there’s a positive and progressive feel, and it’s nice to be a part of that.

I have to confess, I mainly do it because I enjoy it. I meet interesting people & visit interesting places, I get to learn new things without having to take an exam and I revel in the positive feedback I get when I’ve shared something interesting or helped someone to understand something.

What do you love about science communication?

As a field, it inspires people to be creative, and often on a very tight budget. You meet people who communicate science because of their passion, not just because it’s a career.

What has been your favourite project?

Undoubtedly my work in South Africa, and in particular working with Professor Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand. Prof. Berger is a prominent anthropologist, and with him I’ve visited the cradle of mankind and held the skull of an early human ancestor. Very few people have these opportunities, and each visit has resulted in hours of engaging radio.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

As mentioned, I’ve recently started a new job as Online and Multimedia Editor for Chemistry World. It’s a brand new position, so I have a clean slate to start from. As such, I have plans for new video and audio series, webinars, interactive elements and much more.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

If you can afford the time and fees, a science communication MSc gives you an excellent grounding in the background and theory behind science communication, but it’s certainly not essential for a career in sci comm.

Take every opportunity you can get (and make your own!). If you have the chance, work with editors to improve your writing. If you’re interested in radio, record and listen to your own voice. Get used to how you sound and learn to control your rhythm and pace.

Consume science communication – listen to science podcasts, watch science TV, visit exhibits and see as many public events as possible. Find out what other people are doing well and doing badly, and then work that into your own ideas.

Talk to other science communicators about what works – we’re not always good at sharing our evaluations (when they even exist).

Mainly, enjoy it – enthusiasm is contagious.

You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenValsler

Emily Coyte

Speaking to… Emily Coyte

Emily-Coyte-science-communication
Emily Coyte

“Do stuff that scares you, and don’t be put off by the fact it’s scaring you.”

 

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Emily Coyte

Name?

Emily Coyte

Where are you based?

The lovely city of Bristol, England

Who do you work for?

I work as a teaching assistant in Biochemistry at the University of Bristol, where I graduated from. I help first year students in Biochemistry practicals, keeping them safe and enthusiastic about what they’re doing. Between practicals I give tutorials, maintain our interactive online laboratory manual eBiolabs and stay on top of all the marking! When the students are on holiday, I do various jobs such as developing new practicals and improving existing ones, and I’ve just finished constructing a massive scale-model of DNA to go in the teaching labs!

What type of science communication do you do?

My day job is a form of science communication. My goal is to make sure they understand the science, equipment and calculations to successfully complete the lab sessions. It’s especially lovely when I help a student understand about some aspect of their course they hadn’t considered before.

Beyond that, my main sci-comm love is writing.  I have a science blog with a nerdy twist called Memetic Drift which I share with Becky Brooks, a biochemistry PhD student at the University.

I also volunteer and have interned with the science and discovery centre, At-Bristol. Over three months I helped to develop and evaluate new events, experience behind-the-scenes workings of a science centre and even try out presenting in the Planetarium.

Just recently I did Science Showoff, which combines science with stand-up comedy. That was a scary but really great experience!

Who is your main audience?

Memetic Drift is a reasonably casual science blog. I’m not a fan of audience categorisation and I personally don’t have a particular demographic in mind. For this blog, Becky and I just want people to have fun and learn some cool stuff about science, nature and being a scientist.

A popular set of posts of mine is: “Real life species that look like they could be Pokémon”. I love writing these posts because it gives me a chance to learn about and share some fascinating facts about the natural world and get my geek on about video games at the same time!

How did you get into it?

I’ve wanted to write for a long time, even before I was an undergraduate. It was only in the last couple of years that I’ve had the confidence to really put myself out there. Volunteering at science and nature festivals and going to workshop days like the BIG Little Event were really helpful opportunities in meeting people and getting inspired.

Why do you do it?

On a personal level, I write because it keeps me learning new things. I think the universe is too amazing to pass up the chance to learn about it as much as possible during our lifetimes. If people want to read the stuff I’ve found out – bonus!

Why do you think science communication is important?

It’s undeniable that humanity has been transformed by past scientific and technological advancements accumulating into the modern world we see today. The fact is so obvious it’s actually quite easy to forget, so many people don’t see scientific literacy as the important skill it is. However, new advances are always around the corner; the boundaries are always being pushed. Rightfully, there are debates about the directions we should or should not be taking, and scientists and non-scientists ought to be involved. I believe science communication is important because if done right, it helps these debates stay rational and focussed on the evidence rather than being overpowered by fear-mongering and dogma. That’s my hope, anyway.

What do you love about science communication?

To be honest, I don’t think the information gap between researchers and everyone else should exist, but we currently live in a world where it does. Hugely expensive paywalls on journal subscriptions and biased news articles can prevent people from getting all the information they need and deserve.

Perhaps one day this gap will be small enough to cross easily, but until then I think science communicators are working hard to provide the stepping stones.

What has been your favourite project?

Usually the one I’m working on at the moment! So right now I’d have to say Memetic Drift. It’s only a few months old but it’s definitely gaining momentum and it’s really exciting watching it grow into the fun science blog I’ve always wanted to have.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

Nothing new planned at the moment – I’m keeping myself busy enough as it is. I’m always open to new ideas, though.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Do stuff that scares you, and don’t be put off by the fact it’s scaring you. In terms of writing, just get yourself a free blog site and start. It’s really weird talking into a void at first, but push on and that void will fill! I’d recommend drafting up about three posts before you go “live” so that you kick off with a strong start and readers get to know what it’s all about right from the beginning. Good luck!

You can follow Emily on Twitter at @EmilyCoyte