Tag Archives: film

Martyn Bull

Speaking to… Martyn Bull

Martyn-Bull-science-communication
Martyn Bull

“love the intellectual challenge of wrestling with a topic and distilling it down to the key ingredients that will tell the story in an engaging way, whilst being true the facts and spirit of the topic.”

 

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

Name?

Martyn Bull

Where are you based?

Oxfordshire, UK

Who do you work for?

I am a freelance filmmaker and writer specialising in science and technology, architecture and design. So I work for whoever has projects that they need doing and is willing to hire me. I’m also Chair of the Physics Communicators Group at the Institute of Physics.

What type of science communication do you do?

I help people and companies across the world to turn the complexities of their everyday research or business into easy-to-follow stories through film and text.

I like to reveal the humanity and character of the people involved in the work to balance the depth and detail of the science and technology of the story.

My work involves applying the principles of good communication at all stages of a project: pitching to clients and winning work; getting people to talk freely without reserve about their research; clarifying the logical progression of images, ideas, words to tell the story; writing scripts and texts; directing the production crew on set to get the right picture and environment for the story; coaching the people in front of the camera to give a brilliant performance.

Who is your main audience?

The main audience varies with each project depending on who the client wants to reach. A common thread is ‘the interested non-specialist’, and part of the process at the start of a project is to define more specifically who that person might be and how to connect meaningfully with them.

How did you get into it? Why do you do it?

I trained as an experimental physicist, getting a PhD from Birkbeck College, University of London and then working for many years as a scientist at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, a large research centre at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford.

Whilst there, I started making educational resources to showcase the research and running training courses for teachers and school students. I realised I was quite good at presenting research in an understandable way to non-specialists. I got selected for the British Science Association media fellowship scheme to work at Times Higher Education, and I learnt there that many of my scientific skills served me well in the world of journalism, and I continued writing for the newspaper for several years after the fellowship finished.

Later, I was asked to set up a small communications team within ISIS at the start of a huge five year construction project to expand the research centre. I spent days worrying about a move away from active science research, but once I started I realised just how happy I felt doing this type of work – media relations, internal communications, writing, developing events and exhibitions, speaking about science on radio and TV.

My interest in filmmaking began at this time as we documented the project, and now I’ve made another big career leap to pursue filmmaking and writing full time.

Why do you think science communication is important?

Good science communication is vital in the modern world. Clear communication of science and technology is essential for people to be able to appreciate and understand how science affects their lives. People need to feel comfortable discussing science knowledgeably without fear or embarrassment. People need to feel empowered in their decision making.

So much in modern research and technology revolves around highly specialised language and terminology understood only by small minorities. Science communication is the essential activity to build understandable communication bridges between these small, specialised communities and the wider world. That includes bridges between specialised scientific disciplines and bridges to people beyond the immediate world of science.

What do you love about science communication?

I love the intellectual challenge of wrestling with a topic and distilling it down to the key ingredients that will tell the story in an engaging way, whilst being true the facts and spirit of the topic.

I love the discipline of film, composing a story through the images and sound and not just words alone.

I love the discipline of presenting a story to fit into a particular length of time or page space.

I love learning about new research and expanding my knowledge.

I love seeing people smile when they realise that they can talk clearly about their research in front of a camera without needing jargon.

I love knowing that I’ve succeeded in conveying complex ideas and giving people new understanding about science.

What has been your favourite project?

All the projects I work on! Every project has facets that make it my favourite for different reasons.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

Lots!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Learn about the power of people and story to communicate science.

Free yourself from the stifling indoctrination of tradition that pervades formal science training for writing journal papers, making presentations and giving lectures.

Watch and listen to science shows, news, documentary, drama and films on TV, radio, YouTube, Vimeo and study how the stories are put together and draw you in, particularly for topics you don’t normally like. Watch TV drama and films and see how picture and sound help to move the story along.

Join networks of like-minded people such as the IOP Physics Communicators Group, British Interactive Group, PSCI-COM mailing list, STEMPRA, CIPR STEM group to keep up with trends and get fresh new ideas.

You can follow Martyn on Twitter at @moomoobull or visit his website here to see what he’s up to.

Speaking to… Robin Ince and Trent Burton about The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome

TIMOTCG-science-communication
The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome

This feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Robin Ince and Trent Burton about The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome

Today’s feature podcast about science communication is with Robin Ince, “comedian, writer and that sort of thing” and Trent Burton founder of Trunkman Productions, who are the face and brains behind the new app The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome. This app showcases a myriad of interviews with scientists and science communicators about what it is they do…..sounds slightly familiar…So I went to meet them in one of their pop-up studios at UCL to find out a bit more about the app.

It is a rather long interview, but super fun so stick with it!

You can find out more about the cosmic genome app on their website, or follow them on Twitter at @cosmicgenome

Dr Jamie Lewis

Speaking to… Dr Jamie Lewis

Dr-Jamie-Lewis-science-communication
Dr Jamie Lewis

“Once in it however it does grab you as something exciting and, despite the energy required to do it, a worthy endeavour.”

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Dr Jamie Lewis

Name?

Dr. Jamie Lewis

Where are you based?

I am a sociologist of science based in the School of Medicine at Cardiff University.

Who do you work for?

I am currently closing in on 4 years through a 5-year post as a Research Associate into Public Engagement based at the Medical Research Council funded Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics. The Centre brings together world-leading researchers from within the School of Medicine and from across the University to undertake discovery and translational research – based on genetics and genomics, but increasingly moving into clinical and basic neurosciences – to understand the major causes of mental illness.

What type of science communication do you do?

I am a sociologist of science who is influenced by the literatures of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Public Understanding of Science (PUS). I take a dialogical approach to public engagement in the area of psychiatric genetics and genomics.  As a sociologist I am particularly interested in the social and ethical implications of new developments in the area which are invariably captured under the concept of stigma in psychiatric genetics, and in how people experience and define science in their social lives. With a background in STS I am also interested in engaging with science as a place of work: unpacking the concept of laboratory, exploring how ‘facts’ are created and disseminated. Essentially, unpacking what we mean by scientific understanding – does that mean being technically proficient, understanding its principles and methods rather than particular content or its institutional characteristics (see Michael 1992).

Who is your main audience?

Obviously the literature of PUS uses the term publics to show that there are many public groups and the public is not a homogenous mass. However most of my public engagement events have involved a rather general audience rather than specific publics with particular interests. I am however interested in engaging with an older audience. I do find a lot of science communication and public engagement events target young people, students, children etc. which is great and there are obvious benefits in that. In an increasing aging society and in a period where lifelong learning is being pushed, I am keen to engage with an older adult audience. For example I have noted with interest that a number of retired people have attended some of the events I have been involved in.

How did you get into it?

The simple answer is that it is my job. Once in it however it does grab you as something exciting and, despite the energy required to do it, a worthy endeavour.  As someone who is publicly funded, I believe it is our job to engage with and communicate with a ‘public audience’, but I have found also found the experience enlightening – it has improved me as a researcher, a speaker and a thinker. Embracing the dialogue model of engagement, I do try to take back what I learn to the lab (or in my case, my desk).

Why do you do it?

See above

Why do you think science communication is important?

It is important because in a democratic society science should be for the people.

It is important to engage with the social, cultural and ethical issues that might arise from developments in science and technology.

It is important because science is a part of society and not separate to it.

It is important to engage with the issues that effect people at the local level.

It is important because if you embrace it the activity you will improve as a researcher. You are never to old to keep learning and sci-com or PE can influence your work in new ways.

What do you love about science communication?

I believe PE or sci-com can be a source of multi-disciplinary collaboration. Many of the events I have been involved with have brought together academics from different disciplinary backgrounds to talk about issues rather than their individual disciplinary hinterland. I think those who have attended any of these events have found that quite stimulating.

What has been your favourite project?

Can I pick two? Keeping with the theme of a multi-disciplinary approach, two main projects I have been involved with has brought science together with the arts, humanities and social sciences. Back in March 2010, I co-launched Cardiff sciSCREEN (www.cardiffsciscreen.blogspot.com and www.cardiffsciscreen.co.uk).  Cardiff sciSCREEN is a cross-disciplinary programme that promotes the engagement of publics with science and the academy. Using special showings of new release films, sciSCREEN uses local academic expertise to discuss contemporary developments in science in an understandable and entertaining way, facilitating debate on the wider social and cultural implications of these advances. These discussions draw on a range of disciplinary perspectives and the broad repertoire of themes found within contemporary cinema. Since its launch we have run 18 Cardiff sciSCREENs and 5 other sciSCREEN lites (1 speaker introducing a film) with over 1500 people attending the events.

The other project that I have enjoyed has been to work with artists, in particular Julia Thomas and Rhys Bevan Jones. This culminated in an exhibition in October 2011 called Translation: From Bench to Brain.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

2013 is the Medical Research Council’s centenary year. To celebrate this landmark, the centre where I work have been organising centenary events and from July 1st to 6th we will be holding another public engagement arts exhibition called How the Light Gets In at BayArt in Cardiff. This is one event among a number of activities we are organising and you can keep abreast of what is going on via Twitter. As part of the exhibition there is a sister arts project going on right now founded by Julia Thomas and Sara Annwyl called Cardiff ATTIC.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?:

Only a few. They would be to enjoy it, to embrace it, to not expect to know everything, to learn from it, not to talk down to people and to keep doing it. Public Engagement or Science Communication is not an event – it is a process. And also, be comfortable in saying “I don’t know” if you don’t know the answer to a question asked by a member of the public. You are not an expert on everything.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter at @JLew1979.