Tag Archives: Abu Dhabi Science Festival 2013


Speaking to… Nicola Shepherd

“In a mall there’s shops and what-not, and then there’s these weird bikes and these crazy people in brightly coloured lab coats, but they are still equally excited.”

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

The Abu Dhabi Science Festival 2013 is based at two main locations: one half in a big blue cross-shaped tent on Yas Island, and the other on the Corniche – a large stretch of beach in the main city centre.

Nicola Shepherd is one member of the Busking Bikes team that takes the Science Festival beyond these locations, to people in other areas of Abu Dhabi.

In this podcast, Nicola Shepherd and I talk about the busking bikes, the reactions that people have to the busks, she shows me a demo and she tells me how she got into this international busking life.

The ideas behind science busking is to try and get people to see everyday things in a different way. To get them to explore everyday life from a science point-of-view.

Children are children – everywhere and anywhere they will react the same to a demonstration, according to Nicola. The interesting reactions come from parents.

Parents are often taking their children to events to entertain them, but it is probably surprising to them when they realise they are being entertained too.

Their reactions also vary depending on where they are being entertained: when they bring their children to a science festival, they are ready and prepared for it. In a shopping mall or waterworld, these weird buskers in crazy lab coats are encroaching their space. But even so, the ability for parents to become children again is what Nicola finds fascinating.

There are also differences between busking here and at home: at home, people are used seeing people being silly on the street. Over here, it isnt part of the culture to do things on the streets, but yet they still seem to take to it.

We also discuss Nicola’s trip to Bangalore in India. This was a unique experience; a community experience where the buskers were really well received.

And how did she get to Bangalore and Abu Dhabi as a science busker? Her background is actually in performing arts.

Finally, Nicola shows me how you can put a kebab stick through a balloon, without it bursting!

Speaking to… James Piercy

“I got a standing ovation from a group of people who I hugely respect. And afterwards I thought, I should do more of this because it’s really helped me. And I thought, maybe it could help other people, help understand.”

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

James Piercy, from science made simple, has been doing science shows for more than an decade, and I was lucky enough to bump into him at the Abu Dhabi Science Festival.

James likes to explore everyday things that we come across all the time, but he tries to get his audiences to look at them. To see what they really are and why they are like that. His first ever science show did exactly this with bubbles – how do they form, why do they have pretty colours? His show at the Abu Dhabi Science Festival 2013 takes this to the next level.

A few years ago, James was involved in a  car accident, and unfortunately suffered serious damage to his brain. After being off work for 6months, James plucked up the courage to face his colleauges at the BIG Conference of 2011, and told them all what happened to him.

This talk was emotional, tough, and yet somehow helped him in his recovery. By talking to people he respected, he found that he was able to deal with things better. Now, James talks about his accident to all sorts of audiences – from clinicians, to children, to other patients who have suffered similar things.

Finally, James and I talk about the science communication training he does with scientists and industry specialists. His favourite students are those that come with a sceptical view of science communication, and somehow, during his workshop, they realise that what he is teaching them is a valuable and important thing.

You can follow James Piercy on Twitter at @thepiercy