Tag Archives: Famelab

Rosalind Davies

Speaking to… Rosalind Davies

Rosalind-Davies-science-communication
Rosalind Davies

“children are very expressive and it’s great to know you’ve got them interested in something new.”

 

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

Name?

Rosalind Davies

Where are you based?

Birmingham, England

Who do you work for?

I’m a PhD student at the University of Birmingham researching into new hydrogen storage materials for energy storage.

What type of science communication do you do?

My aim is to get people talking about cleaner energy, especially the use of hydrogen as a means of energy storage. I do this via twitter, as well as school visits and talking to anyone who will listen!

Activities I have been involved with range from model city demonstrations at the Cheltenham science festival to acting out how a fuel cell works, and the addition of an exploding hydrogen balloon to a presentation always goes down well!

When I finish my PhD I’d love to work full time in science communication, engaging with the public and, in particular, with policymakers. I’ve just finished a summer school on ‘Getting research into public policy’ here at the University of Birmingham which has given me more of an insight into how policy is made and how to get involved.

Who is your main audience?

Most of my activities have been engaging with school children of a variety of ages but I think that communicating with adults is just as important. The main reason for this being that my research is funded by the UK taxpayer, so I think they have a right to know about the amazing things researchers like me are finding out thanks to them.

How did you get into it?

Part of my PhD involves outreach projects on behalf of the university and this gave me the opportunity to give it a go and discover just how much I enjoyed it.

After hearing about the STEMNET scheme, which aims to inspire a new generation of scientists, I became a STEMNET Ambassador and this gave me the opportunity to attend more events promoting science. I’ve also trained and volunteered as an Imagineering tutor: an organisation that runs after school clubs to introduce children to engineering as it is a subject they don’t study at school.

Why do you do it?

I love science and I love talking! A lot of people seem to have lost interest in science but don’t realise how big a part it plays in their everyday life: realising that you have re-ignited a scientific interest in someone is very rewarding.

Why do you think science communication is important?

In the area of research that I am involved with, there seems very little point in developing new ways of using and storing energy if no-one knows anything about them. I think that it is crucial to get the public excited about the technology as they will be much more likely to use it in the future.

What do you love about science communication?

Being able to use twitter to communicate to people all over the world is great – it gives everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion.

Going into schools is a lot of fun, as children are very expressive and it’s great to know you’ve got them interested in something new.

What has been your favourite project?

My favourite project has been taking part in FameLab – a science communication competition where you get 3 minutes to talk about a science topic of your choice – here is me linking chocolate with renewable energy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VVHk3g6JDI&list=PLs37dDQJZnmExMVk-inXXuU__1HhX8jsv&index=6

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

The University of Birmingham is hosting a communication competition for researchers called ‘Three Minute Thesis’ which I’m really excited about entering!

In addition to this, during the next academic year I want to become more active online, blogging on science topics.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

My best tip would be to register with STEMNET as a way to get started as they run lots of events ideal for people who are new to communicating science.

You can follow Rosalind on Twitter at @RDscience

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Guest post by Wendy Saddler: E is for…?

Wendy Saddler is the director of Science Made Simple and Engineering Explained, companies that provides shows, workshops and more all geared towards communicating science and engineering.

Engineering-explained-science-communicationE is for engineering, engagement, and a few other ‘E’s’ besides…

I attended a fascinating event at the Royal Academy of Engineeringabout how engineering engagement and science engagement compare.

Speaking on the panel I proposed that engineering is still lacking in enough performers, or stars, that can infiltrate the mass media and thus reach large numbers of adults. Yes, of course this isn’t the in depth engagement we’d like there to be, where a dialogue happens with community groups affected by the topic in some way. But it is still a critical route for getting messages out to the masses about what engineering is. And for reaching parents who may influence their children.

People engage best with people. Mark Miodownik pointed out beautifully in the keynote that Steve Jobs gave Apple the human face that turned the company around. Engineering might sometimes be about the ‘shiny things’ produced, but the public still need a human face to help relate to that shiny thing.

Has anyone ever studied the characteristics of engineers vs scientists? Are scientists more extrovert or likely to be exhibitionists? Could that explain why more brilliant engineers have not yet made it onto the prime time TV slots occupied by Al-KhaliliMiodownikRoberts and Cox? Why have we not seen more explicit engineering on the pinnacle of STEM TV; The RI Christmas lectures? (1974 was the last time by my research).

My other theory is that many scientists might wander into the world of communication seeking a more immediate social reward than their research alone can give them. Most engineers tell me they are driven by the desire to improve lives, and the world more generally, so perhaps they get their social reward fix every day? After all most engineering has public engagement firmly built in with public consultation a critical part of the job. Not to mention of course that careers in engineering are lucrative, and it would take a dedicated person to sacrifice that financial lifestyle to become a poverty-stricken communicator full time.

So, do we need to dig harder to find the engineering presenting talent of the future? Or do we need to develop a support network of engineering communication professionals who can help get their message out for them? As Steve Cross put it, if you take away all the plethora of professional science communicators, perhaps scientists themselves haven’t greatly increased the amount of engagement they do directly, but we’ve just evolved a huge team of supporters who go out there speaking on their behalf.

When we tried to recruit an Engineering Communicator for our Engineering Explained project some years ago we received less applicants than for any other job we have advertised in 10 years. But if there are plenty of well paid, socially rewarding alternatives out there for engineers, why would they want to do it?

And Steve Jobs and Apple? Well possibly the biggest engineering company in the world, but you never hear the word engineering. Engineers are referred to as designers but we know engineering is what makes the product a success. Oh, and a lone genius, on a stage, performing and giving the product a human face. And all the time reinforcing the misleading message that engineering is conducted by single genius figures and not done by huge diverse teams.

So we need to see a range of engineering faces out there giving the public someone to emotionally engage with whilst understanding that engineering doesn’t progress on the back of one lone genius. It is going to be my mission now to talk to all the engineers I can find to dig out the extroverts and find out why they aren’t motivated to become the new face of engineering. FameLab Engineering could be a good first step.

Yes, E is for engineering and engagement, but we need to see a bit more extroversion and exhibitionism too (within the realms of decency of course!)  And for any engineers who are already out there in TV land, please stand your ground and tell people you are an engineer and not a scientist. Come out of the closet and let society see you!