“Enthusiasm + Curiosity = Good Science Communicator.”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Lauren Reid
Where are you based?
Who do you work for?
What type of science communication do you do?
My job title is “outreach science communicator”, which basically involves loading a van full of science shows and exhibit workshops and taking them out on the road every day, to schools and community groups.
Who is your main audience?
With the science centre outreach, our main audience is definitely school children, from primary 1 right through to s2 (the equivalent of year 9 in England). However on a personal level, I write a blog which is more aimed towards a non-specialist adult audience.
How did you get into it?
I really got into science communication during a gap-year I took between my BSc (in psychology) and my MSc (in evolution & behaviour). I was working a fairly boring job in a call centre and spent a lot of my time reading science blogs and loved them. I thought, these guys are taking complicated scientific research and making it not only understandable for a non-specialist audience, but they are actually making it sound fun, interesting and relevant. I knew that’s what I wanted to do, and that’s when I started writing.
Why do you do it?
My job is the best in the world. I get to travel all over the country teaching kids about how amazing science is in an engaging, interactive way. What could be better than that?! As for blogging, I do that because writing about a topic forces me to fully understand and learn about it before sharing what I’ve learned, which is a process I really enjoy. Even if no one reads the article, I still get a lot out of the writing process so it’s never a waste of time.
Why do you think science communication is important?
The work that we do is important to show children that science is an important and fascinating subject and is part of everything we do. We’re not necessarily trying to make a generation of white-coat scientists, but we want them to understand that science is more than what you learn in school and it is relevant to the lives of everyone. More generally, science communication has never been more important than it is now. We are living in a world where trust in authority is waning, and more and more the public are demanding transparency. We need professionals out there translating important but jargon-filled scientific research into something that the non-specialists can engage with and therefore be in a position to make informed decisions about.
What do you love about science communication?
I love interacting with so many different people in so many different environments. Every day is an adventure!
What has been your favourite project?
My favourite part of the programme we currently offer is a live, interactive science show called “Blood, Bile & Body Bits”. It’s a show about the digestive system and the kids go crazy for it because it can get pretty gross at parts. Outside of work, the most enjoyable project I’ve ever done was a Bright Club stand-up comedy set in Newcastle last year – it was just the best experience. My set was about how a now-infamous article about a duck’s penis set me on my path to science communication.
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
I try to keep up to date with my blog and being active on social media, but I would definitely like to have more projects like this in the future, whether that be science writing, presenting, or podcasts. Any offers?! Watch this space!
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
Enthusiasm + Curiosity = Good Science Communicator.
Get on twitter.
If you like to write, write about an aspect of science that interests you. If you like public engagement, get involved with STEMNET and volunteer for various events. But most of all, love what you do. If you are not excited about something, don’t expect anyone else to be!
You can follow Lauren on Twitter at @PygmyLoris