This is a guest post by Kirk Englehardt, Director of Research Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also a father to two boys whose fascination with science is increasing every day.
It was a cool January night and my two boys were ready for bed, when I said I had a surprise for them. They were going to see Jupiter that night, and they seemed genuinely excited. We grabbed our binoculars and ran outside. I watched as they stood in the driveway staring at the little white dot just to the left of the full moon. It took only ten minutes, but that night they realized science was more than just something you read about in books; it was real and it is everywhere.
Children have an endless supply of questions about the world around them, and science helps provide them with answers. I remember the teachers who inspired my love of science. While there are still many superb science teachers inspiring young people, their job is becoming more difficult. Now more than ever, parents and science communicators need to play a role in inspiring the doctors, scientists and engineers of the future.
“In several countries, research or science is seen as a stand alone activity, and all we have to do is to communicate to other researchers in the same field. Whereas I think in Britain people have really started to open up to the idea that actually we do science for the broader public”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Will Ball and Mat Stiller-Reeve from Climate Snack
Climate Snack founder Mathew Stiller-Reeve realised quite early on in his science career that his writing wasn’t up to scratch. After receiving negative feedback on his potential publications from peer-reviewers, “I’d been using the passive voice too much and the flow was wrong and I was framing my arguments in the wrong way.” So he decided to take action. But instead of banging his head against a brick wall on his own, he started Climate Snack, and joined forces with Will Ball. Continue reading →
Last year, Speaking of Science put out a call to scientists and science communicators to see if anyone would be interested in blogging for Speakers of Science.
Thank goodness that there was interest – and this week we launched! Speakers of Science is here!
speakers of science is an extension of Speaking of Science. I’ve learned so much from all the interviews I’ve done, but the most frequent tip: Just get out and do it! is something I wanted to harness. So, the aim of Speakers of Science is to become a community of bloggers that can get together and learn from each other, share ideas and create some great science communication content. They are getting out there and doing it.
Science communication is so much more than just communication. You have to think about how you best communicate: am I a writer, an artist or someone who can play with sounds to get a concept across? The other thing to think about is: what is the best format of communication for what you are trying to tell? Some stories work best when written down, others are much better in pictures or video.
This is another aspect of Speakers of Science: it is a place for experimentation, a place where the writers can find their voice that fits with their science.
I’d like to thanks everyone that sent in applications – it was a tough choice. We’re only starting small, so I couldn’t pick everyone I’m afraid.
Jeff Howe, the man who co-coined the term “crowdsourcing” has had many adventures in science communication in his time. I managed to speak to him at the Citizen Cyberscience Summit in London yesterday, and in this interview we explore how he coined the term crowdsourcing, some of his multimedia teaching methods and his new book.
Jeff first used the word Crowdsourcing in a 2006 article in Wired: The rise of crowdsourcing. It was all about the disruptive elements, as well as promise of sourcing out to the crowd. His focus was on the democratisation of crafts that are usually the premise of professionals. Continue reading →
” I love talking about science, I enjoy the theatricality of giving talks and broadcasting work, even at the early stages, has taken me to fascinating people and places around the world.”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Adam Hart
Professor Adam Hart
Where are you based?
Who do you work for?
University of Gloucestershire
What type of science communication do you do?
All sorts! The last two weeks have seen me talking to various audiences about the cross-over between biology and engineering and insect pheromones; interviewing a developmental biologist for a Radio 4 documentary; helping to develop and plan an upcoming TV documentary I am doing; chaperoning undergraduate students in the Houses of Parliament learning about how science informs policy; analysing and planning ongoing citizen science projects with the Society of Biology (The Flying Ant Survey and Spider in da House); writing two magazine articles; assessing a CREST science project in a local 6th form; thinking ahead about National Insect Week and doing a local radio interview. Looking back through the diary that’s pretty typical and it can be a struggle fitting it in with university responsibilities, teaching and an active research programme. I’ve learnt to be very time efficient, I work well on trains and I have a very understanding employer! Continue reading →
I have been passionate about natural history for as long as I can remember and communicating my interest has always been so intertwined with the natural history itself – the two go together. As a small child I would write booklets on wild animals and as a teenager I enjoyed helping to put together an annual report on a local nature reserve for the Natural History Society magazine. As an undergraduate I enjoyed writing for the University newspaper. So it is perhaps not surprising that alongside my career as an ecologist I have taken every opportunity to communicate my research interests and discoveries in as many different ways as I can – I am very fortunate that I have been given lots of opportunities to pursue my desire for communicating science. Science communication is an essential part of the scientific process.
What type of science communication do you do?
Much of my science communication has been in relation to my research on ladybird ecology and in particular through the UK Ladybird Survey (which I co-lead). I enjoy writing for peer-reviewed journals but I also enjoy writing for more popular publications such as entomological magazines or British Wildlife. I have also had the opportunity to work with journalists on newspaper article, radio and television interviews and features. Additionally I have a twitter account for the UK Ladybird Survey – which I thoroughly enjoy. I have also contributed to blog entries for a number of science blogs. In 2009 I worked with the BBC on their Breathing Places initiative and had the utter pleasure of writing ladybird “top trump” cards. I have led a number of exhibitions including a contribution to the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in 2009 – that was amazing! I also get invited to give talks for natural history societies and wildlife groups, Café Scientifique and other groups – I thoroughly enjoy the discussions with so many people who attend these events across the country. The UK ladybird Survey has an e-mail account and I respond to every enquiry – another fun communication activity! I even still write the occasional letter in response to a postal enquiry.
Who is your main audience?
Many, many different people – most frequently the people contributing to the UK Ladybird Survey but really anyone who will listen and chat!
Why do you do it?
First and foremost it is the privilege and the pleasure of having the opportunity to do so. It is fun. It gives me such a tremendous buzz.I come away with new ideas. Secondly I feel that I have a responsible to share my findings with others and to help people get involved with science. A connection to nature, in whatever way, is so important.
Why do you think science communication is important?
There are some enormous questions to be addressed in science and some difficult decisions to make going forward – particularly in relation to environmental change. It is really important that we work together to address such demanding questions and there is a part that everyone can play. Science communication helps increase understanding and is underpinned by a call to action in some cases.
What do you love about science communication?
Science involves a systematic approach to understanding our natural world. Some people might consider it as a factual and solitary pursuit but to me it is so creative and hugely collaborative. Science communication allows me to extend my collaborations from the science community to the wider world. It is the most amazing experience to talk to others about something that delights me on a daily basis – science.
What has been your favourite project?
The UK Ladybird Survey. I remember my first observations of ladybirds as a 6 year old in my back garden on the Isle of Wight. Here I am decades later still as captivated as I was in 1976.
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
I am delighted that this year I will be working with the British Science Association and EDF Energy on a project with schools (and others) to record insects visiting flowers – I am really excited to be working alongside communication experts and a colleague at CEH Dr Michael Pocock – we have some really exciting plans for the year ahead!
The UK Ladybird Survey will continue to be a focus of activity for me – I run this as a volunteer alongside Dr Peter Brown (Anglia Ruskin University) and Richard Comont (Bumblebee Conservation Trust). It is the most enjoyable hobby – and the information we gather from the thousands of people who contribute records is making amazing contributions to our understanding of ladybird ecology in the UK.
I am extremely keen to get people recording the parasites of ladybirds and I have already begun to ask people to look out for one very special parasitic wasp which forms a fuzzy straw-brown cocoon under the ladybird and so is very easy to spot. We are interested in exploring the way in which this parasite attacks the harlequin ladybird compared to other species of ladybird such as the 7-spot – we are getting some interesting sightings.
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?