Tag Archives: chemistry

David Bradley

Speaking to… David Bradley

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


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


Guest post: Dancing in Science Class

Dancing-in-science-communicationAlanna Orpen is studying Science Communication Msc at Imperial College. In this post she explores dancing in science and how the two could be integrated; how can dance help encourage those who are normally put off by science to enjoy it in a new way. She has also explored this subject on Refractive Index.

Science is one of the key learning areas within the educational curriculum, valued of great importance in every child’s life to aid them in their quest of exploration and to develop their understanding of the world around them. Stereotypically, science is a subject that children consider ‘boring’, but by adopting a suitable method, teachers should be able to encourage an atmosphere of enthusiasm and curiosity to stimulate a pupil’s interest.

Children learn in many ways, yet traditional schooling relies on a limited range of learning and teaching methods. The classroom and book-based learning caters for linguistic and visual learners, while kinaesthetic learners, who prefer learning using their body and hands in physical activity, struggle to understand class material. It is important to cater for all learning styles and abilities, thus innovative educators in America concerned with improving student achievement are seeking ways to create rigorous, relevant and engaging curriculum.

Dance and science may appear to be of two different worlds. The former considered merely as a form of exercise and entertainment, inhabited by artists and athletes, while the latter viewed as an academic discipline and a systemic enterprise, inhabited by researchers seeking to build and organise knowledge. However, a new movement has arisen, where dance and science unite raising students’ interest and helping them to achieve greater levels of competency in understanding scientific concepts. Teachers are leaping out of the classical routine to perform chemical ballets and explore the solar system through interpretive dance. They are realizing that dance is a powerful non verbal form of communication, which can be an important educational tool that not only motivates and encourages students, but is proving to be an excellent vehicle that promotes deeper understanding through experiential learning.

Dr Zafra Lerman, a former science professor at Columbia College in Chicago, has examined how a dance partnership with chemistry can enhance student comprehension. The chemical bond has become one of the most attractive subjects for dance projects, which helps students learn the chemical concepts as well as retaining the information longer than by traditional teaching methods. Similarly, a former science teacher, Jane Burke, helped children at Mount Everett School in Massachusetts dance their way to understanding. For two weeks, she shared her classroom with a professional dancer to explore the abstract ideas behind chemical reactions through movement. The students jumped, twirled and embraced one another to explore ionic, covalent and metallic bonding and the types of chemical reactions.

By depicting the subject through dance, the students reached a depth of exploration that would not have occurred in the regular classroom setting. Many found it helpful to think about the concepts in a different way, as dancing out the reactions provided a means to picture the invisible. The connection between the choreography and the science enabled the students to visualize the concepts that they originally found challenging.  Therefore, this shows that dance can aid in the deeper conceptualization of knowledge by providing ‘a way of doing’.

The integration of dance into core academic science classes is a creative and innovative approach that is gaining a foothold in public schools around America. Fostering imaginative and abstract thinking through movement helps students of all ages grasp a broad spectrum of scientific concepts, where primary school children enjoy dancing through the stages of photosynthesis and the water cycle, while more advanced students dance out chemical reactions.  These teachers who are pushing beyond the boundaries of traditional disciplines are witnessing the positive results of this interdisciplinary approach. The success of dancing in science class projects in America highlights the potential of integrated curriculum to act as a bridge to increase student engagement and achievement. Could the Americans be setting a trend that other nations will shortly be adopting? Will dance manage to waltz its way into British school laboratories?

Image credit: Tony Ingram bboyscience