Tag Archives: broadcast

David Gregory-Kumar

Speaking to… David Gregory-Kumar

David-Gregory-Kumar-science-communication
David Gregory-Kumar

“It’s never the same day twice.”

 

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… David Gregory-Kumar

Name?

David Gregory-Kumar

Where are you based?

Birmingham

Who do you work for?

The BBC

What type of science communication do you do?

I cover Science and Environment issues for BBC TV, radio and online usually based here in the Midlands. So my job is to either find science stories that aren’t being covered elsewhere or to add expert commentary to science stories that are in the news.

Who is your main audience?

In terms of numbers the biggest audience I broadcast to will be those watching BBC Midlands Today at 1830 on BBC One which can get close to a million people on a really good day. But for me any one watching or listening is important.

How did you get into it?

I was a physicist but I’d always been interested in journalism. While I worked on the research for my PhD I managed to freelance a few pieces for the science sections of some newspapers and after I finished my research I did some work for BBC Radio 5 Live. Then I got this job.

Why do you do it?

It really is the best job in the world. I love science and I love explaining how it works to a general audience. And the tools I have at my disposal to do that have grown thanks to evolving technology. So we can create better tv and radio reports, go live from places it would never have been possible before and back it all up with more detailed analysis on my BBC blog.

Why do you think science communication is important?

Because there are big decisions made using science and research and we need to explain them clearly. We’ll shortly see the start of a badger cull and it’s vital to explain the science behind it to our viewers and listeners. Especially as both sides of the debate over culling turn to science to back up their arguments.

What do you love about science communication?

It’s never the same day twice.

What has been your favourite project?

It’s always fun to report from a big lab be it CERN or T2K in Japan.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

This summer we’re looking to return to CERN and ask where they go next after discovering the Higgs.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Be yourself.

You can follow David on Twitter at @DrDavidGK

Frank Swain Credit studyshots.co.uk

Speaking to… Frank Swain

Frank-swain-science-communication
Frank Swain
Credit studyshots.co.uk

“Someone once told me: “The only reason to be a writer is because you can’t help it”, I think that sums it up.”

 

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

Name?

Frank Swain

Where are you based?

Right now, no place. I’ve just finished a running a journalism training project in London, I haven’t decided where to live next.

Who do you work for?

Whoever will pay me. Being a freelancer means you don’t really get to be fussy. I’m lucky to have supportive editors at Wired, New Scientist, Slate and the Guardian, and many other great outlets, who continue to employ me.

What type of science communication do you do?

I write, I speak, on occasion I’ll do some broadcast work. The hourly wage of each increases respectively, but so does the difficulty in securing a commission.

Who is your main audience?

It depends on who I’m writing more, but “science-interested public” covers it mostly.

How did you get into it?

I’ve always written – I ran a blog for years and before that I was publishing a paper-and-glue zine. Eventually, to my surprise, people started paying me to do it.

Why do you do it?

Someone once told me: “The only reason to be a writer is because you can’t help it”, I think that sums it up.

Why do you think science communication is important?

I think science deserves a place in the centre of of our culture; we’re immersed in the products of science so it’s essential that we have a public who are engaged with science and can take part in the discussions and decisions of how we allow it to shape our lives.

What do you love about science communication?

Love might be an overstatement. It’s the most enjoyable way I’ve found to get paid, yet.

What has been your favourite project?

A trip to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, USA, to meet the people who disarm and disable stray chemical weapons. A really smart, compassionate group of people.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I’ve always got a dozen projects on the back burner, but whether any of them will ever see the light of day is another question. I’m working on a few unusual ones right now – a fictional science column, and something I call an anti-blog. The goal is to learn a bit more about writing by breaking all of the rules…

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Work like a dog and build up a body of work. Shamelessly self-promote. Get to know other people in your chosen field. And never, ever work for free.

You can follow Frank on Twitter at @SciencePunk or visiting his website.

Alexandra Feachem and Tim Minchin

Speaking to… Alexandra (Sasha) Feachem

“I never thought, when I started my career in science journalism back in 1997 that I’d be able to combine my slightly worrying obsession with celebrities and Heat magazine, with a respected and bona-fide career in science communication…but slightly strangely I seemed to have managed it!”

 

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Alexandra (Sasha) Feachem

Alexandra Feachem with Brian Cox and Robin Ince
Alexandra Feachem with Brian Cox and Robin Ince

Name?

Alexandra (Sasha) Feachem

Where are you based?  

BBC Broadcasting House

Who do you work for?

Producer, BBC Radio Science Unit.  Producer of BBC Radio 4’s “The Infinite Monkey Cage” presented by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince.

What type of science communication do you do?

I produce Radio programmes for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, including documentaries and magazine programmes, although my main responsibility these days is the  science/comedy panel show “The Infinite Monkey Cage” for BBC Radio 4.

Who is your main audience?

“The Infinite Monkey Cage”  actually attracts a much younger audience than is normal for Radio 4. We know from emails, letter and twitter that lots of students listen, school age and university and lots of people who say they wouldn’t normally listen to a science programme, which is always nice to hear.

How did you get into it?

I did a degree in Zoology and then went to live in the USA for a few years, and was lucky enough to get an internship on the science desk at National Public Radio in Washington DC. It was a fantastic training ground, and from there I was lucky enough to get my first position at the BBC.

What do you love about science communication?

Learning new things every day, the people I meet and work with,  and the variety. I never thought, when I started my career in science journalism back in 1997 that I’d be able to combine my slightly worrying obsession with celebrities and Heat magazine, with a respected and bona-fide career in science communication…but slightly strangely I seemed to have managed it!

Why do you think science communication is important?

Because science underpins virtually every aspect of our lives, and if you want to have an opinion on the issues that effect your daily life, its good if it can be the best-informed one possible!

What has been your favourite project?

Infinite Monkey Cage of course! But I was also the producer responsible for Big Bang Day on Radio 4, back in 2008 to mark the switch on of the Large Hadron Collider. It was a project that took several years to plan, and meant I spent a lot of time at CERN just outside Geneva. It was one of the most challenging and interesting productions I’ve ever done, and to get such amazing access to such a monumental scientific achievement is one of the highlights of my career. In fact, it was working on this, with Brian Cox that led to the idea of The Infinite Monkey Cage, as we ended up meeting many of the comedians and celebrities who are now regular guests on the programme. Until then, we hadn’t realised how many of them had a genuine enthusiasm and passion for science, or even, in several cases, had studied science at university. Several of them featured in programmes that were broadcast as part of that day eg. Ben Miller who got most of the way through a PhD in quantum physics, and Dara O’Briain, Cosmology graduate.

Have you got any new science communication projects coming up? 

I’m currently working on a documentary for Radio 4 on the science of crying, and plotting and planning the next series of Monkey Cage, which will be back in June.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Get as much experience as you can of the technical side of things…particularly if you are interested in Radio or Television. Any work experience, or internships that you can do to get you the technical training is invaluable. And listen to/watch or read as much science output as you can, across all genres to really be familiar with what makes a good story and the creative and interesting ways you can cover it.

You can follow Sasha and The Infinite Monkey Cage on Twitter at @sashafeachem and @themonkeycage and listen to all the shows Sasha produces on BBC Radio 4.

A_stack_of_newspapers

Guest post by Gina Maffey: Same demands, different disciplines

Gina Maffey is a PhD student in Applied Ecology at the University of Aberdeen. Among other things she talks about deer a lot. If you like deer, and other things, you can find her @ginazoo on twitter. She who has recently completed a Media Fellowship with the British Science Association and this post she tells us about the similarities she discovered between science and the media.

A_stack_of_newspapers“Why are you applying for a British Science Association media fellowship?”

This was one of the questions that was on the media fellowship application form, and the one that I felt most prepared to answer. “Science communication is a vital part of the research process.” “It will help further my own PhD.” “I want to get a true understanding of how ‘the other side’ works.” I still stand by the first two of these statements. However, ‘the other side’, may not be a phrase that I continue to use in the future.

For six weeks this summer I spent my time at the BBC in Birmingham with Countryfile, Costing the Earth and Farming Today. It was an eye-opening experience and one that I would happily repeat. The fellowships are designed to help bridge the communication gap between journalists and scientists facilitating a better relationship between the two disciplines. There are a lot of things that have already been said of the differences between science and the media, and there has been much work done by the Science Media Centre to improve links and dialogue across the two. For me it was the three similarities that I found in both science and the media that were more surprising.

Money, time and audience. Research and filming are both restricted by money. If you haven’t got the funding a research project can’t go ahead and a film can’t be recorded, no matter how interesting you think it is. Time is also a major limiting factor. The time required to put a project together, the time to get the right people involved. Science and the media just work on slightly different scales. And finally, audience. If you’re not making pieces that engage with people, if you’re not conducting research that research councils are interested in it’s difficult to be sustainable. In short, it’s difficult to do anything if no one is listening.

If, however, the media do start listening it’s important to remember that the media is made up of people too. Yes, some can be intimidating and a minor few might be out to trip you up, but the majority are friendly, polite and inquisitive people (just maybe a little time pressured). At the end of the day it’s a conversation that one of you is going to learn something from. And, I’d ask, how is that any different from Science?