Tag Archives: Physics

Julie-Bellingham-science-communication

Speaking to… Julie Bellingham

“I’m really honoured to play a small part in some massive global endeavours and it’s fun to be able to share that excitement.”

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

Name?

Julie Bellingham

Where are you based?

Swindon, UK

Who do you work for?

Science and Technology Facilities Council

What type of science communication do you do?

I communicate the contract opportunities available to industry at a number of large science facilities like CERN. I don’t think it’s what people traditionally think of when they think of science communication, but I have to help industry understand what large science facilities are and get them interested, so there’s a large component of communicating science and hopefully inspiring people to be interested.

Who is your main audience?

Industry and businesses are my main audience, but this covers a huge range of people and knowledge levels. For instance, a company that makes magnets for particle accelerators will already have a good understanding of what particle accelerators do, but providers of language classes or IT manufacturers won’t necessarily have heard of CERN or other facilities.

I have to think about what will interest that individual and then focus on that. With CERN for example, most people are interested to hear that it has an annual procurement budget of around £325M but then I try to tailor my message. When we were trying to find patent lawyers to respond to a market survey, I focussed on the fact that people working at CERN have made a huge number of technology discoveries during their work. The biggest of these is the World Wide Web, but they have also made advances in touch screen technologies and developed particle beams which are used in cancer treatments. When contracts in civil engineering are released, I focus on the fact that CERN has a particle accelerator in a ring which is 27km diameter, straddling the border of France and Switzerland and 100m underground. In addition to its amazing science, CERN is also a major civil engineering accomplishment.

Once I’ve piqued their interest, I end with the ‘wow’ factor that CERN is a worldwide endeavour to understand the origins of the universe. I think that the companies who are working with CERN are genuinely proud and excited to be part of something so special.

How did you get into it?

I did a PhD in physics and joined STFC to work at the ISIS neutron source. I managed a project to coordinate the development of new instrumentation for neutron sources across Europe, so I always had a focus on technology for large facilities. I moved to Swindon to STFC’s head office and when a vacancy for the industry liaison role opened up, I thought it would be really interesting and so I applied.

Why do you do it?

I really enjoy developing new procedures and improving the way things are done. When I started my role, I looked at how to improve the way we communicated with industry and how to engage them and I think that’s shown a real increase in the number of companies who are interested in working with facilities. Over the last three years, the UK has won over £47M worth of contracts. These contracts have benefitted hundreds of companies and it’s great to have played a part in that.

Why do you think science communication is important?

As taxpayers fund science facilities, we have a duty to explain where that money goes and the work that the facilities are doing. Last week I met someone from industry who was quite cynical about why we should fund facilities. I spent a while explaining the benefits both to industry, technology and society as a whole and they left knowing why being involved in these global projects is worthwhile. We need to have that support for science and that only comes through understanding.

What do you love about science communication?

I love the variety of my work and enjoying speaking with a wide range of people. I’m really honoured to play a small part in some massive global endeavours and it’s fun to be able to share that excitement.

What has been your favourite project?

I needed to find companies who would be able to respond to heating and ventilation contracts coming up at CERN. I found a number of suitable companies and spent three days with a team from CERN travelling around the UK to visit industrial sites. One of the companies CERN met has gone on to win £1M worth of work and it’s satisfying to know that I helped to play a part in that.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I don’t have specific projects as such but this is a part of my daily work.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Science communication can be part of many different jobs. It doesn’t have to be public facing or to schools necessarily, which is what I think most people think of when they imagine science communication.

You can follow Julie on Twitter at @julie_bee

Speaking to… Laurie Winkless

 

Laurie-Winkless-science-communicationThis feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Laurie Winkless

As the Nobel Prizes are announced this week, I thought it would be a great idea to put this interview up! Laurie Winkless is the editor for Nobel Media.

Having literally only just moved there, she talks about her research background in Physics, how she became interested in science communication, and what she enjoys about where she is now.

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.

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

Special Speaking to… Dr Phil Marshall (part 2)

Dr-Phil-Marshall-science-communication
Dr Phil Marshall

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

A few weeks ago I spoke to Phil about Space Warps, a new citizen science project that is on the look of out citizen scientists to help classify images that may or may not contain a gravitational lens.

This time, we’ll be hearing the second part of that interview, which delved a little deeper into his other science communication adventures, including blogging, open days, the USA and a hypothetical journalist.

whiteboard-science-communication
Open day whiteboard!

During the podcast he spoke about the white board on his door: this is what it looked like after the open day!

You can find out what is happening in the Space Warps project on Twitter at @spacewarps and you can follow Phil on Twitter at @drphilmarshall