Tag Archives: blogging

David Bradley

Speaking to… David Bradley

David-Bradley-science-communication
David Bradley

“I couldn’t find a lab coat to fit and this way I get to “experience” all kinds of areas of science rather than being focused on a single research niche.”

 

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

Name?

David Bradley aka sciencebase

Where are you based?

Just outside Cambridge, England

Who do you work for?

I am a freelance science journalist

What type of science communication do you do?

I write news, features and opinion pieces for a wide range of outlets as well as doing some public relations work independently of the journalis.

Who is your main audience?

I have a several audiences from specialists in particular scientific areas (chemists, spectroscopists, crystallographers, materials scientists)

How did you get into it?

I trained as a chemist, quickly realised I was rubbish at all that test-tube stuff, but was quite good at writing up my lab book. I graduated, worked in the US, then in a QA lab for a food company for a short time and then landed a desk job with the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1989. I started writing news articles freelance for New Scientist etc in my spare time, got head-hunted by Science magazine ended up freelancing for them and built up my portfolio of regular clients to the point where there were no longer enough hours in the day and I ditched the day job and went freelance full time.

Why do you do it?

Like I say, I couldn’t find a lab coat to fit and this way I get to “experience” all kinds of areas of science rather than being focused on a single research niche.

Why do you think science communication is important?

It’s part of the human endeavour, just as much as politics, law, art, music etc. Moreover, it’s the only endeavour that provides a rational way to investigate the world around us without resorting to magical explanations or being coloured by opinion and emotion (mostly)

What do you love about science communication?

Well, it’s earned me a living during the last quarter of a century, made me lots of friends I wouldn’t necessarily have met in any other walk of life, given me the opportunity to share my thoughts with the world and have them critiqued on occasion and also allowed me to put some of them into a neat little book – Deceived Wisdom – available now from all good outlets and for download from my website http://sciencebase.com/dw

What has been your favourite project?

Well, in recent years, getting the commission to write the book was exciting, during the writing I was waking up far too early each day, full of ideas and desperate to get them typed up.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I have several outlets for which I write regularly as well as my own site sciencebase.com and the PR work to keep me busy, but I’ve also been hiving off spare time to do more music (songwriting and recording). I am currently working up a demo of a song I wrote called Pale Blue Dot, which is a tribute to Carl Sagan and the Voyager spacecraft and its “thoughts” at looking back at its birthplace, Earth, as it speeds out of the solar system. You can listen to the demo on my SoundCloud page – https://soundcloud.com/sciencebase/pale-blue-dot – ends with a Voyager “sound” courtesy of NASA.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

The entry points have changed since I started, there was no web back in 1989, blogs are a relatively recent invention, although I’ve been “blogging” online in some sense since 1995 although it wasn’t called that then. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. In terms of broader science communication, there are lots of courses now that didn’t exist when I started, I think some very successful science communicators have been on those and gone on to greater things in the national media and elsewhere. But, fundamentally, it’s still all about people, talking to people, being interested, listening to opinions, networking, following leads…all the usual stuff of journalism.

You can follow David on Twitter at @sciencebase

Khalil A. Cassimally

Speaking to… Khalil A. Cassimally

Khalil-A-Cassimally-science-communication
Khalil A. Cassimally

Write to make a difference (and remind yourself of this aim in hard times)”

 

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Khalil A. Cassimally

Name?

Khalil A. Cassimally

Where are you based?

Mauritius, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean!

Who do you work for?

I’m a freelance community manager and science writer although I’m currently attached to Nature Publishing Group (NPG) right now. I manage two science blogging networks: Scitable blogs from Nature Education, the educational division of NPG; and SciLogs.com, an international network by German publisher Spektrum der Wissenschaft and NPG.

What type of science communication do you do?

My job as a community manager is to enable bloggers to communicate science to as wide an audience as possible. This basically entails making sure that they have the appropriate tools and services to make their blogging as enjoyable as possible. And also work on strategies to actively get their content to lots of eyeballs.

As a science writer, I started by writing more about science that got me excited. The topics tended to be related to the biological sciences, especially biomedical science—no surprise considering that my academic background is in the biomedical sciences.

I’m now focusing more on science and science policy, especially in Africa. Africa is a giant that’s waking up and its contribution to our collective scientific knowledge is steadily increasing. But importantly, I also want to elicit attention on the various problems that many Africans face—problems that the developing world may have already solved. This disparity in how we put our scientific knowledge to use is, I think, unacceptable. I hope that if more people are aware of it, changes will happen. This is the main reason I am writing more about science and science policy in Africa.

Who is your main audience?

Scitable targets high school and undergrad science students as well as science enthusiasts. SciLogs.com’s audience spans from active scientists to science enthusiasts.

How did you get into it?

I started writing about science since I was 16, I think. A few years later, I joined as a blogger of a Scitable group blog. With time, I took on more responsibilities and there you go. I was really lucky to have Ilona Miko as my editor on Scitable. She really mentored me (still does) and gave me an opening in science communication.

I must say that it was not my intention to get into science communication full time. I initially wanted to be a scientist but after one year of full time research, it was pretty obvious that I was not enjoying doing research nor was I very good at it. Thankfully I was able to turn, what was until then a hobby, into a fulltime thing.

Why do you do it?

I started writing about science because I loved science and I liked writing. So writing about science seemed the natural thing to do. But as I did more work in science communication, I quickly realised that I was involved in a really decent endeavour that spanned way beyond my own life here…

Why do you think science communication is important?

… Pushing science to people has the potential to educate and sensitise them so that they can push policymakers to embrace policies that have a scientific grounding and promote continual scientific research for the good of humanity as a whole.

What do you love about science communication?

Knowing that every piece of writing I do has the potential to change and sensitise, change a mindset and who knows… elicit actual change. That’s the goal science writers should strive for, I think. Try to make a change.

What has been your favourite project?

I’ve enjoyed every project I’ve been involved in. But a real bright mind and I are currently working on an independent project that mixes science, journalism and underdeveloped and developing countries. I’m pretty excited about this.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I guess I already answered this question!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Write to make a difference (and remind yourself of this aim in hard times).

You can follow Khalil on Twitter at @notscientific

Natasha Bray

Speaking to… Natasha Bray

Natasha-Bray-science-communication
Natasha Bray

“you can’t inspire interest if you’re faking it yourself. Excitement is contagious.”

 

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

Name?

Natasha Bray (Tasha)

Where are you based?

The University of Manchester

Who do you work for?

Doing a funded PhD means I am working for my supervisors, the University, my funding body (BBSRC) and ultimately, UK taxpayers. Also, since I want to get the best out of my PhD, I guess I work for myself too!

What type of science communication do you do?

Bits and bobs. I write articles for a neuroscience blog called The Brain Bank. I’ve also given a few workshops and talks to local schoolkids, both by myself and in groups with other neuroscientists from my lab. Earlier this year I tried my hand at science stand-up comedy and survived to tell the tale.

Who is your main audience?

Obviously workshops with schoolchildren have to be aimed at certain age groups, while some of the material I had for Bright Club science stand-up was a bit more ‘adult’, which was an interesting contrast. The blog, on the other hand, is hopefully for anyone that takes an interest. I think neuroscience is so popular these days because so many concepts are relevant to anyone that has a brain.

How did you get into it?

Sarah Fox started the blog and reached out across the Faculty for more people to contribute to it. I sit a few metres away from her desk so I took the opportunity. The school workshops have mainly been organised through STEMNET (www.stemnet.org.uk), which links up local schools with scientists and provides loads of resources.

I was almost literally roped into doing the science stand-up as I was very nervous. Bright Club is a UK-wide phenomenon that gets academics out of their comfort zone by making them take their research much less seriously for 8 minutes.

Why do you do it?

A number of reasons. I started because I wanted to articulate to my less science-y friends why I love neuroscience. And, I’ll be honest, I reckoned it couldn’t hurt the old CV. The more I did it the more I realised how much fun it is. Now I think of science communication as a hobby.

Why do you think science communication is important?

Science has an almost unparalleled ability to change our world for the better, so it’s only right that everyone gets clued up about it, especially when they’re paying for research through their taxes. Science communication is also an important skill for scientists. You only have to sit through a few rubbish science talks to realise that the scientists who get their work noticed – and funded – are the ones who can communicate their findings clearly to people outside their bubble of research.

What do you love about science communication?

At the moment I find writing for the blog makes a great break from writing like a scientist within the limits of my PhD topic.

The best thing about communicating science to kids is when they come up with an inquisitive question that reveals they totally get what you’re on about and that they want to find out more. Perhaps unsurprisingly the best part of doing the science stand-up was getting laughs – it’s an absolutely intoxicating feeling.

What has been your favourite project?

I’d probably say the science stand-up, because although I adore watching live comedy I would never have the guts to try ‘real’ stand-up. Bright Club is a safe place for first-timers and developing the material with people from different academic backgrounds was brilliant fun. Because I was talking about my own research it felt more personal and it has transformed the way I talk about my work since.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

Aside from continuing with the blog, I’m thinking of joining Twitter so I can share stuff that interests me. And my thesis will technically count as a science communication project!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Accept that some things will take practice. Find other like-minded people doing, or wanting to do the same thing. If you don’t find an idea fun or interesting, scrap it; you can’t inspire interest if you’re faking it yourself. Excitement is contagious.

Louise Walker

Speaking to… Louise Walker

Louise-Walker-science-communication
Louise Walker

“You won’t lose anything by trying.”

 

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

Name?

Louise Walker

Where are you based?

The University of Manchester, currently doing a PhD

Who do you work for?

Professor Woodman, Faculty of Life Sciences

What type of science communication do you do?

I write for a blog, and have also written several cell biology revision guides for the website fastbleep.com

Who is your main audience?

I aim to write for anyone who has an interest in science but doesn’t necessarily do science for a living or come from a scientific background.

How did you get into it?

I’ve always liked writing so it’s something I’d been planning on doing for a while. The blog came about because there were plans to have an official “Faculty of Life Sciences” blog. Those plans fell through but a few of us started up our own blog, and it’s still going strong. The Fastbleep writing came from me answering an e-mail for contributors which was sent around the Faculty.

Why do you do it?

Because I love writing, and science is a fascinating thing to write about. I also think it’s incredibly important to have scientific stories, practices and discoveries explained properly and clearly. Misinterpretation of science is at best annoying and at worst disasterous.

Why do you think science communication is important?

See above. I also think it’s important to dispel the myths that scientists are either all chronic nerds with no social skills, or else we’re all out to dominate the world. I think scientists tend to get a bad rap with the media and that’s unfair. It also means sometimes people mistrust the science being reported because they don’t trust scientists – for example the GM crop debacle and Climategate.

What do you love about science communication?

I get to talk about things which I find interesting! I also like to explain exactly why the work someone has done is important, even if it doesn’t seem so at first. People deserve recognition for their hard work and amazing innovations.

What has been your favourite project?

The blog experience in general has been an incredibly fun learning curve. Not only have I learned lots about writing and editing, but we’ve managed to work together to produce a successful group blog. I’m very proud of that.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I’m still blogging! I’m taking a little break from science communication as my thesis for my PhD is due in in September, but after that I’m looking for a job that involves plenty of science communication (any offers?).

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

The two “golden rules” are

1) Start a blog and

2) Get on Twitter.

Both of those are the best ways of getting your name out there. One of the other pieces of advice I’ve been given is “never say no”. Don’t decide against entering a writing contest because you think you won’t win, or not apply for a science communication job because you probably won’t get it. You won’t lose anything by trying and it’s all good experience.

You can follow Louise on Twitter at @thinkscientific

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

Sarah Fox

Speaking to… Sarah Fox

Sarah-fox-science-communication
Sarah Fox

“Being a researcher requires you to delve deeply into a single subject. I love the way blogging allows me to do exactly the opposite and flirt with a huge range of different subjects.”

 

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

Name?

Sarah Fox

Where are you based?

The University of Manchester

Who do you work for?

The University of Manchester/GlaxoSmithKline

What type of science communication do you do?

At the moment I’m completing a Ph.D. project exploring how Alzheimer’s disease changes the way our brains store memories. So I spend most my time analysing huge data files and shouting at computers. But, in my free time I manage and contribute to a popular science blog ‘The Brain Bank‘.

Who is your main audience?

My intention has always been to reach out to anyone with an interest in science. So, I try to make sure our blog is accessible to readers of all backgrounds.

How did you get into it?

Ph.D. courses at Manchester are great for encouraging sci-comm activities. My first experience was during a seminar series where we wrote lay abstracts explaining our research. I really enjoyed the deviation from rigid scientific writing; that and my abstract won me a box of Maltesers. So I guess you could say it was a mixture of passion and Operant conditioning which drew me to sci-comms.

Why do you do it?

Being a ‘bench scientist’ can leave you feeling a bit blinkered to the real world. I find the more time I spend obsessing over minute scientific details the more detached I become. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t even own a TV. Science communication gives me an excuse to re-engage with the real world and an opportunity to see my work through new eyes. It helps me relax and feel like part of the bigger picture again, if only for a short while.

Why do you think science communication is important?

I think science communication is a two way street. Since the public help fund our research it’s important they stay informed about what we’re doing. And, since we know what can happen when things get misrepresented, it’s important that research is disseminated by the people who know the most about it: the scientists themselves. Scientists also benefit from this relationship since public engagement gives them the opportunity to see their work as part of the bigger picture and understand the wider issues in their field.

What do you love about science communication?

There are so many things I love about sci-comms, but I think two of the best are:

1)      Being able to be creative: Sci-comms, especially running a blog, means you can really experiment with things. Once the pressures of finishing my studies are lifted I hope I can spend more time experimenting with blogging styles and different methods of communication.

2)     Covering a huge breadth of knowledge: Being a researcher requires you to delve deeply into a single subject. I love the way blogging allows me to do exactly the opposite and flirt with a huge range of different subjects.

What has been your favourite project?

A couple of years ago I became involved in a project designed to foster a link between writers and scientists. This led to the publication of an awesome little book which re-imagined a number of scientific breakthroughs, ‘eureka moments’ as short fictional narratives. This gave me the opportunity to work alongside some wonderfully talented writers and ultimately see some of my writing in print! I think short fiction offers a brilliant way to disseminate science without making it too technical. On the side, I’m playing with this style of writing myself and hope to introduce more of this to the blog in the next year or so.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I’m lucky to work with a talented and dedicated team of writers, we’ve recently been brainstorming and are looking to make some big changes to the Brain Bank. But, with so many of us approaching the end of our studies free time is a big factor, so watch this space.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

If you’re interested in writing, my top tip would be to start your own blog. It’s free, simple and gives you the perfect platform to play around and perfect your style.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @FoxWoo84