Tag Archives: media

Jack Croxall

Speaking to… Jack Croxall

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Jack Croxall

“Learning and communicating things about how the world works is an incredible way to spend your life, I find I’m surprised and fascinated by something every day.”

 

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

Name?

Jack Croxall

Where are you based?

A small village in rural Nottinghamshire, it’s lovely!

Who do you work for?

Myself! I’m a science writer and an author, but I’m also the co-creator and editor of Unpopular Science, a website which aims to share and discuss the science stories which missed the front pages with anyone and everyone.

What type of science communication do you do?

I write a lot of short articles for Unpopular Science and other media outlets, but I’ve recently got into writing/presenting little videos and have even tried my hand at radio a couple of times. I think a science communicator should always be attempting to gain experience in a variety of mediums so he/she can reach as many people as possible. Science is for everyone, not just scientists; the best communicators will use a variety of platforms to connect with as wide an audience as possible.

On the author side of things, I have recently released my debut novel Tethers.The book is a Victorian adventure story that sees two teenagers, Karl and Esther, drawn into a treacherous conspiracy. That conspiracy has been engineered by a group of scientists who have discovered something with world-changing potential, and the novel asks the question, just how much does the justification of ‘the greater good’ allow a scientist to risk.

Who is your main audience?

We try to make Unpopular Science as accessible as possible, which means keeping things fun and simple, as well as clarifying any jargon. We try to include links and facts at the end of our articles that may interest anybody involved in the specific field we are talking about, however. As for Tethers, the genre is young-adult fiction, but, to me, that does not mean that only teenagers are welcome. The novel has a variety of themes and characters of different ages and so I would hope that anyone, young or old, would find something to enjoy amongst its pages.

How did you get into it?

I started writing science stories for student publications and blogs whilst I was an undergraduate. I quickly worked out it was something I enjoyed immensely, so, after I graduated, I sorted myself out with some work experience at BBC Factual. That cemented my desire to become a science communicator and so I enrolled on a postgraduate course to learn more. There I met Charlie Harvey who I eventually set up Unpopular Science with.

Why do you do it?

Quite simply, because I love it. Learning and communicating things about how the world works is an incredible way to spend your life, I find I’m surprised and fascinated by something every day. On top of that I feel as though I’m doing something worthwhile and important, and I’ve met some truly wonderful and remarkable people along the way.

Why do you think science communication is important?

Science is a hugely important aspect of our society and no one owns the right to scientific knowledge. A science communicator’s job is to bridge the gap between the public and experts in a specific field, essentially helping to share the knowledge around so we can all benefit from it.

What do you love about science communication?

I’ve already written that I love learning fascinating new things, but I love it even more if I can be the one to inspire that reaction in other people.

What has been your favourite project?

Probably writing Tethers. I had to learn a lot of new skills and do a lot of research to produce that book, and I am immensely pleased with the result. When I was younger and reading His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (based around The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics) I never dreamt that anyone would read a story that I wrote and possibly even enjoy it. So, when people write a review or get in touch with me, it really does make me so incredibly happy and thankful!

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

As well as continuing to work on Unpopular Science, I’m currently working on the second instalment of The Tethers Trilogy, but I’m also planning on making a few more videos.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Start practising and get on social media and start connecting and chatting with other sciency types! If you want a platform for your work, we consider articles from anyone, no matter what their experience level! If your work isn’t quite up to scratch, or it doesn’t quite match our ethos, we’ll let you know what you need to do to change it, or where you can take it if it matches another outlets brief better. So please, get in contact, we’d love to hear from you!

You can follow Jack on Twitter at @JackCroxall and Unpopular Science at @UnpopularScience

Speaking to… Professor Jim Al-Khalili

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Professor Jim Al-Khalili

This feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Professor Jim Al-Khalili

Professor Jim Al-Khalili is a bit of a specialist when it comes to balancing his time between research and doing plenty of science communication. I went to visit him at the University of Surrey for a chat to see just how he does it.

You can follow Jim on Twitter at @jimalkhalili and follow his many activities on his website.

Speaking to… Andrew Cohen: Science on TV

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Andrew Cohen
Image Credit: The IET

This feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Andrew Cohen

Making a career in television production is not an easy feat, but in the 18 years that Andrew has been in science communication he has gone from working for the BBC as a runner to head of the Science in BBC Vision department.

I went to meet Andrew Cohen at the new BBC Broadcasting House to find out just how he did it.

Juliette Mutheu

Speaking to… Juliette Mutheu

Juliette-Mutheu-science-communication
Juliette Mutheu

“Do it for the passion. I feel science communication demands a lot of creativity. If you have no passion chances are you will have pretty low levels of creativity.”

 

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

Name?

Juliette Mutheu-Asego

Where are you based?

Physically: Nairobi, Kenya
Mentally: Anywhere in the world where interesting things are happening J

Who do you work for?

The African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP)

What type of science communication do you do?

Well, as opposed to communicating basic science i.e. explaining to people how the malaria parasite develops and affects the body. I am now focusing more on communicating scientific research evidence; providing research evidence in a simple way and encouraging its use to inform action or also just gained/shared knowledge with no expected action.

Who is your main audience?

At the moment my major focus is policy makers, and then media, development partners as well as the general public-‘man on the street’. Providing them with well packaged information on issues on population and reproductive health, more specifically family planning.

How did you get into it?

I usually like to link it back to when I was doing my honours degree on population health and epidemiology at Monash University. I joined a radio station at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia, called SYN 90.7, a community radio station for students. At SYN a group of young researchers and medical students run a programme called DrWhat which really spoke about various health issues: the facts, the stats and the people living with these health problems. Basically, during the week, I was involved in research and on weekends I spoke about it; what scientific research evidence there was about the various diseases we were talking about, sharing the data and the knowledge I was acquiring which I was pretty sure was not being accessed by our listeners! The best thing about the radio show was being able to interview experts (doctors, researchers etc) as well as interviewing other people which at times included celebrities.

Why do you think science communication is important?

The type of science communication that I do I feel is important because it informs policies that play a role in improving the lives of citizens. Take for example population growth, research from various sources suggests that the population of Africa will grow from its current 900million or so people to about 2billion by 2050. Majority of the population is youthful and provides an opportunity for African governments to tap into this future large labour surplus. These governments can do so by adequately investing in sectors such as education, health, and creation of more jobs to build the capacities and opportunities for this large future workforce. Providing this needed evidence to support development and seeing policies begin to change is really exciting. As a researcher I felt as though with my research lens I was zooming into one of the worlds millions of problems and trying to really understand this one issue in great detail. As a science communicator I feel like I am bringing various sources of information together and then sharing it in a simple way and building on the quality of discussions people are having.

What do you love about science communication?

That it UPs the level of debate/discussions people are having. Engaging people in scientific research evidence leads to people having debates based on evidence as opposed to myths, old wives tales or speculations. I sometimes listen to people debating on something that I think could be answered by someone doing a research on that problem or perhaps finding out if answers to those questions are already available. I feel that Science Communication elevates discussions; as opposed to having a debate on the question/problem it allows people to have a debate on the available answers/solutions.

What has been your favourite project?

Not one but three. The DrWhat show on SYN 90.7 in Melbourne, Australia, the Science Café’s in Kenya and doing a stint as a science writer for the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, in Okinawa, Japan. They were all different in their own merit. The radio show and the Science Café’s happened before I did my masters in science communication at Imperial College, so they were more experimental and relied a lot more on raw enthusiasm and dedication. The science writing skills I gained from Imperial College London, has sort of challenged me to really think about issues as I write about them as well as thinking about my audiences and if what I am writing will make sense to them. The beautiful thing about writing is that it cuts across the board; one needs it in radio, TV, Web etc.

Audio: DrWhat show

Audio: Science Café’s on BBC

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

No not at the moment. I am on hiatus, almost like I have taken a break to build on the basics of science communication; improving on my writing, learning from others as well as just reflecting on the few things I have done and looking outwards and onwards.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Do it for the passion. I feel science communication demands a lot of creativity. If you have no passion chances are you will have pretty low levels of creativity.

You can follow Juliette on Twitter at @JulietteJM

Speaking to… Dr Julie Sharp: Science communication and cancer

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Dr Julie Sharp
Credit BBC

This feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Dr Julie Sharp.

Communicating delicate subjects is not an easy task, and yet, Cancer Research UK makes it look relatively simple.

They’re science communication team needs to be able to communicate advanced and complicated science to an audience that relies on its progress. Unfortunately, this progress can sometimes be overhyped.

I spoke to Dr Julie Sharp, the senior science manager from Cancer Research UK, about how they manage to keep the calm.

Have a look at the CRUK blog which looks behind the headlines to find out just what is going on.

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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?

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Guest post: Reporting on science vs religion

Rory Fenton, a physicist, humanist, and budding science communicator has written for the Guardian and was shortlisted for Amnesty International’s Student Human Rights Reporter of the Year 2011. Here gives his ideas of how best to go about the science vs religion debate.

3978414091_a12244faff_mI’ve ended up writing quite a bit about the science/ religion question over the last few years- mostly because my own view kept changing. I’ve gone from conservative Catholic then to bat-shit-crazy atheist now, my metaphorical needle head-banging its way along the science-religion compass in a flurry of self-contradiction.

But along the way I’ve picked up some ideas about how to actually report on the debate in the first place. I suffered, dear reader, so you don’t have to.

The most important thing I can say about the “Can you be religious and a scientist?” debate is that it’s REALLY, REALLY BORING. I don’t think I can stress that enough. It’s boring because the answer is evident- yes, yes you can be. There are too many religious scientists like Robert Winston for anyone to say otherwise. Likewise asking, “Does science disprove God”, “Is science just a form of religion” and so on. The attention grabbing topics tend to result in heading banging articles. Much more interesting are the more nuanced questions- questions that aren’t so much designed to provoke wild debate as just interesting thoughts. Try asking an atheist scientist what questions she doesn’t think science can answer. Now that can be an interesting discussion. How about asking a religious thinker what they think they can learn from the scientific method. Getting people to reflect on what they believe rather than attack what others believe is more likely to lead to an interesting piece. After all, people should know more abut their own beliefs.

But maybe I’m wrong. Could just going for the Big Questions and bashing heads together produce interesting articles? Let me know your thoughts!