Tag Archives: podcast

Speaking to… Alok Jha

“You need to get science into the deep down and dirty discussion areas, so like politics.”

Alok-Jha-Science-Communication
Alok Jha

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

In this interview Alok Jha, science correspondent at the Guardian, gets frank about his opinion on science communication and science journalism, and the difference between them.

This is the second part of a longer interview. The first part will go up at a later date!

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.

Speaking to… Eric R Olson

“I love that it pushes me to use both the creative and analytic parts of my brain.”

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Eric R Olson

Name?

Eric R Olson

Where are you based?

New York City

Who do you work for?

I am the sole video editor & producer for Scientific American magazine. Previous to that I split my time as a multimedia editor for both Nature & Scientific American.

What type of science communication do you do?

Science videos, both editorial and educational. To a lesser degree: writing, podcasts and audio slideshows.

Who is your main audience?

The science-interested general public.

How did you get into it?

I started off at very young age with an interest in making short films (usually recruiting my younger siblings to star in them). At university, my interests gravitated toward science and, in particular, molecular biology and genetics. After graduating and working in a human genetics lab as a technician for six years, I knew I either needed to go back to school for a PhD or do something else entirely. So I decided to try to combine my interests in filmmaking and science. To  some degree, I think I’ve been successful.

Why do you do it?

I really enjoy the process of making difficult information easier to understand, the creative process of filmmaking and learning new things about the natural world. What could be better?

Why do you think science communication is important?

As a society, I don’t think we can make good decisions about our collective future unless we stay informed. Science is the best tool we have for getting at the truth of what’s happening around us and therefore it’s crucial that we help people to understand both the process of science and the insights it produces.

What do you love about science communication?

I love that it pushes me to use both the creative and analytic parts of my brain.

What has been your favourite project?

A video I produced on the neuroscience of magic n 2010. We flew out a magician from Las Vegas whose expertise is pick-pocketing and recruited fellow employees to be his “victims”. After each pick-pocketing, we had two neuroscientists who specialize in illusions explain how the magician had fooled the subject.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I do, but I can’t really talk about them before publication.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Learning to communicate science is very much a hands-on, iterative process. In other words, you only get better by doing it over and over again and learning from your mistakes. In addition, these days anyone can start a blog or YouTube channel and become their own publisher overnight. So while I think there is value in a formal science communication program, there’s no barrier to going it alone. You can really start communicating science this very moment. And for some people that is going to be an easier, more direct, and much less costly alternative to additional schooling.

You can follow Eric on Twitter at @ericrolson or see what he’s up to on his website at ericrolson.com

Carrine Piekeman

Speaking to… Carinne Piekema

“As a neuroscientist my work focused on one or two tiny parts of the brain; since becoming a science communicator, I have been immersed in topics ranging from quantum biology to geology and from cosmology to engineering and everything in between.”

Carrine-Piekema-science-communication
Carrine Piekema

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

Name?

Carinne Piekema

Where are you based?

In the UK.

Who do you work for?

I am a freelance science communicator, so have worked for quite a few different outlets – the BBC Radio Science Unit and FQXi (http://www.fqxi.org/ – a US-based physics funder) have been my most frequent. Being freelance makes my work really varied and interesting, though it is still sometimes hard to predict when I’ll have several jobs on the go at once or when I am a lady of leisure!

What type of science communication do you do?

I write, but my main passion is creating audio packages and radio documentaries. I love using different voices and trying to create soundscapes to help explain what are sometimes incredibly complicated topics – the nature of time, the workings of the brain, for instance – to allow them come to life for my audience. For me, the quickest and most enjoyable way of learning something new is by making it a good story. I am a devoted fan of the American radio programme Radiolab which manages to narrate the most amazing and engaging stories to create that sense of wonder and discovery that is at the centre of so much good science.

Who is your main audience?

That completely depends on which organisation I am working for. Sometimes it is the highly general, domestic UK audience of BBC Radio 4, sometimes the global, multicultural background of World Service listeners; on other occasions, my audiences are much more specialist and consist mainly of experts in fields I am reporting on. Having that spread of audiences makes every project an individual challenge and requires very different approaches. I love that variation.

How did you get into it?

For most of my adult life, I was a research scientist, studying how our brains fuse together the different aspects of our memories and how this might go wrong in different neuropsychiatric diseases. But even during my PhD, one of the things I enjoyed most was talking about the science and explaining it to my parents, friends, actually to pretty much anyone who wanted to listen! During my postdoctoral position, I started writing about different aspects of science for the first time and was fortunate enough to get some of my articles published.

While the discovery of science is exciting, the everyday life of a scientist can be quite strange – uncertain, lacking in routine, tedious at times – and I started to realise that I actually enjoyed explaining science more than producing it myself.

So, after a lot of thought, I decided to leave the relative safety of my 7-year scientific career behind to become a science communicator. Several months of work experience at the Science Media Centre in London set me up perfectly for a place on the Science Media Production course at Imperial College London and the course turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences of my life. While it was initially hard going back to being a student after working life (I hadn’t written an essay or taken an exam for years!), I look back on the year with great pleasure as I had such fun learning the practical and theoretical mechanics of making science films and audio. Undoubtedly, it has been the pivotal point of my career as a science communicator. Being taught how to communicate my personal, hard-won understanding of the scientific process is invaluable to me every day in this job.

Why do you do it?

Being allowed – even expected – to digest and understand new ideas in wildly varying fields of science all the time is possibly one of the most rewarding experiences you can expect from a job. As a neuroscientist my work focused on one or two tiny parts of the brain; since becoming a science communicator, I have been immersed in topics ranging from quantum biology to geology and from cosmology to engineering and everything in between.

Why do you think science communication is important?

There are so many reasons why science communication – and not just science communication, but good science communication – is critical and, while all have their merits, probably the most important one for me is that there is an unparalleled beauty in understanding the world around you. Sure, you can enjoy a walk in the woods just for what it is, but isn’t it all the more incredible if you realise that every single living being in that forest, including the trees and the plants, are made up of the same basic building blocks as we are? And isn’t it fascinating to know that we are happily carrying at least 500 different species of bacteria in our guts and that without them we couldn’t exist? Science is not something separate to our everyday existence. If I can help bring a little bit of that wonder to my audience, I think it is a job worth doing.

What do you love about science communication?

One of the things I really love about my work is that whenever I report on a topic outside of my direct scientific expertise, I have to go through the same process as my listeners and readers will have to go through. Working for the Foundational Questions Institute, where I report on all matters physics and cosmology, has especially been fun as I have managed to get a much better grasp of how the physical world around us might actually work. It was so exciting to go from a state of complete ignorance about, say, quantum physics and string theory, by talking directly to scientists doing potentially ground-breaking research on this topic, to comprehend how the physics of black holes might actually reveal some of the secrets of what happened during the Big Bang. Understanding the world a little better makes life more fun – and sometimes more confusing too (I won’t get into the podcast I did on the birth of time and multiple universe hypotheses!).

What has been your favourite project?

I have enjoyed most of my projects because they have all been very different.  If I had to pick one, I think I would have to say that the original ‘Music to Deaf Ears’ documentary I made during my Masters at Imperial College comes high on the list. It was my first long feature, has some wonderful characters in it and, with the help of one of the auditory neuroscientists I interviewed, I was able to create a representation of what deafness actually ‘sounds’ like. It was a wonderful learning experience, both in terms of the topic as well as in developing my skills as an interviewer and radio producer.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I have my ongoing collaborations, but on top of that I have a lot of recordings lying around – wonderful material collected in Iceland, a fabulous rambunctious interview with Brian Blessed on what it is like to be at high altitude, and a little personal project called ‘Sounds of the Everyday’ – all of which I am looking forward to editing and putting up on my audio blog as soon as time allows.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Practice, gain experience, think about different platforms (radio, print, online etc.). Ask people for help. I have found that the science communication world is very open to helping others out. Many of them will have gone through the same process as you are going through and people are more than happy to give you advice. And practice telling stories. One of my first courses on my MSc at Imperial was about how to read film and, while it might have felt initially incongruous on a science communication course, I came to see how it was just one of several ways we were being shown about the different tools that can be used to convey meaning.

You can follow Carinne on Twitter at @CarinneP

 

 

 

Speaking to… Michael and Praveen: The Pint of Science Festival!

Pint-of-science-science-communicationThis feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Michael and Praveen about the Pint of Science Festival!

This week, London, Cambridge and Oxford are hosting a new science communication festival: the Pint of Science Festival from the 14th to the 16th of May!

I caught up with Michael and Praveen, two of the organisers, to find out a little bit more about it

You can keep up with the events on Twitter by following @pintofscience

Sarah Cosgriff

Speaking to… Sarah Cosgriff

Sarah-Cosgriff-science-communication
Sarah Cosgriff

There are still many ways to communicate science that I want to try!”

 

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

Name?

Sarah Cosgriff

Where are you based?

Warwickshire.

Who do you work for?

Freelance.

What type of science communication do you do?

All sorts – I present, podcast and occasionally write.  I also run a postgraduate event called PG TalkFest which involves postgrads presenting informally to other postgrads – the aim is to give them some experience before presenting to the public.  I’m also a STEM ambassador so I go into schools to talk about science and careers.

Who is your main audience?  

I’d like to think that it is anyone – some of what I do is for the science community and I also communicate to a general audience of all ages. It really depends on what I’m doing.

How did you get into it?

It was one of those by chance things – I went to a careers evening at my university and someone talked to me about their career in science communication. Before that point I thought it was mainly media but it turns out it was a much bigger world than I thought! Some months after that, I left my PhD and realised that I wanted to become a science communicator. I started looking for opportunities.  I started off by getting in touch with a science communication group called EUSci in Edinburgh for podcasting and I’ve been a correspondent for them since. Around the same time, a contact emailed me asking me to fill in a spare slot for Science Showoff, and my presenting has gone from there. Since, I’ve been taking up opportunities as I go and I learn more and more about what’s out there.

Why do you do it?

I really enjoy it – I particularly love presenting. I think it’s great that I get to talk about the stuff that I’m interested in. I also find it really rewarding – to be able to increase someone’s interest in science is a great feeling.

Why do you think science communication is important?

I think it’s really important for the public to understand what research has been done and why as it will affect them. Science can be sometimes seen as a bit scary. The sort of comments I get regularly from people are “I was never good at science at school” or “I’m not clever enough to understand that stuff” when I mention my biology background. If a person feels this way, they may feel reluctant to read science stories which may affect them. I also think that science is misreported a lot – luckily there are great science writers out there who want to correct this.

What do you love about science communication?

I really appreciate the creative side of science communication – every time I do something, I think of ‘how can I get this across to the audience?’ and really challenge myself in the different ways I could do it. On top of that, I get a great feeling from someone who says to me ‘wow, that is interesting’.

What has been your favourite project?

I think it’s been PG TalkFest – I’ve set up a place where other people can practice speaking and it’s wonderful to see how they do it. I feel that I’ve been able to pass on my presenting experience but have also learnt from the presenters.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

In a few days I’ll be doing an ecology workshop in a school, the following week I’ll be doing a Cafe Scientifique in my area and I’m trying to get into festivals. I’m also planning to put together an interview I conducted with an PhD student a couple of weeks ago. There are still many ways to communicate science that I want to try!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

There are so many different ways in which you can do it, so you’ll be able to find something that suits the amount of time you have and the kind of person you are. See what is already out there – on the internet or maybe where you work – and just give it a go! Also try to get some contacts by attending events or follow people on Twitter. I was able to start presenting thanks to a contact I had.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @Sarah_Cosgriff