Tag Archives: science

Speaking to… Brian Glanz

“Open science is science by everybody for anybody.”

Brian-Glanz-Science-CommunicationThis feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Brian Glanz

Brian Glanz works for the Open Science Federation, a group in the US that attempts to break down the barriers that stop everyone accessing science.

I met Brian at Mozfest 2013, and took the opportunity to find out how OSF facilitates science communication between scientists and non-scientists to make their work more transparent.

We talk about what open science is, how OSF facilitates it using science communication techniques, and whether it is possible or not.

You can follow Brian on Twitter at @brianglanz or see what he’s up to on his website.

Speaking to… Brian Wecht about The Story Collider

“True stories about how science has affected peoples lives.”

Brian-Wecht-Science-CommunicationThis feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Brian Wecht

Stories. Wonderful Stories.

We’ve had a few different science communication interviews on Speaking of Science about science, science stories, and science and stories.

This podcast is going to add to that – this is an interview with Brian Wecht, one half of the founding team of The Story Collider, a live show and podcast that brings stories and science together.

In this podcast we talk about what The Story Collider is, how it started, and how it appears that the British scientists are more reluctant to talk about their emotions when it comes to science…

This Thursday (24th of October 2013), The Story Collider is hosting it’s third UK show in London.

You can get tickets (FREE) from here.

And I would love to recommend their podcast, which you can download and subscribe to via iTunes.

Speaking to… Robin Ince and Trent Burton about The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome

The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome

This feature podcast is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Robin Ince and Trent Burton about The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome

Today’s feature podcast about science communication is with Robin Ince, “comedian, writer and that sort of thing” and Trent Burton founder of Trunkman Productions, who are the face and brains behind the new app The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome. This app showcases a myriad of interviews with scientists and science communicators about what it is they do…..sounds slightly familiar…So I went to meet them in one of their pop-up studios at UCL to find out a bit more about the app.

It is a rather long interview, but super fun so stick with it!

You can find out more about the cosmic genome app on their website, or follow them on Twitter at @cosmicgenome


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

Haylie Gillespie

Speaking to… Hayley Gillespie

Hayley Gillespie
© Cole Weatherby

“don’t waste any opportunities! And be friendly”

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


Hayley Gillespie

Where are you based?

Austin, Texas, USA

Who do you work for?


What type of science communication do you do?

Right now I’m primarily working on science communication projects that engage people in the sciences through the visual arts. The arts are a great way to get people into thinking about science in a non-traditional way. Did you know, for example, that some of the earliest depictions of human embryos were seen by the public not through anatomist Emil Zuckerkandl’s academic work, but through Gustav Klimt’s paintings in the early 1900s? (If you like this story, check out Eric Kandel’s book The Age of Insight).

I started doing this type of science communication on a blog I founded in 2011. My work on the blog inspired me to open my own art gallery that curates exhibits of science-related art, provides science communication training for scientists and offers fun science classes for everyone! We also want to provide a space for art-science collaboration of all kinds, so bringing artists in to learn more about science and scientists to learn more about art, and hosting public lectures are all a part of our mission.

I also founded a working group about the endangered salamanders I study called Euryce Alliance, because communication with other scientists about the work you are doing in your field is also very important. I’m also teaching a course in field ecology and natural history at Southwestern University because it’s very important to participate in training new generations of scientists and teach them good communication skills.

Who is your main audience?

My projects through Art.Science.Gallery. have three main audiences: the general public, scientists and artists. We want to create a space where people from all backgrounds can discover both art and the natural sciences through new lenses.

How did you get into it?

I’ve always been an artist – there are a lot of artists in my family – but I’ve also known since I was in preschool at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History that I wanted to be a biologist. I was a biology major in college with minors in environmental studies and fine art. I just finished up my PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 (where I studied endangered salamanders)! So, I’ve spent my whole life doing both art and science, though not necessarily at the same time. In graduate school I helped start a public lecture series run by graduate students called Science Under The Stars with the goal of creating opportunities for young scientists to gain experience speaking about science for general audiences. Now that I’ve graduated, I can’t stay away, so Art.Science.Gallery. is now producing pre-lecture slideshows of science-related for the lecture series. It’s really fun!

Why do you do it?

1) it’s fun and 2) it’s important (see next question).

Why do you think science communication is important?

It’s so important that we have science communicators in the world because no matter what your background, profession, or belief system, we live in a universe that is governed by natural and scientific principles. No matter who you are you have the right to understand how your own body works, how the Earth supports life (including your life!), how important technologies in your life work, and how to solve problems that affect you. We are not all born with a gift for mathematics, or scientific research – but that doesn’t mean we should be left to fear or loathe science. Science is fun, and very important! Also, public funding of science (and art) have been dwindling in the US, and so it is critical that there be people out there who appreciate the importance of science so that it continues to be taught and funded. And, if you are a scientist and your work is funded in part by the taxpayers in your country – you owe it to them to let them know the fascinating things you have discovered (and they are probably not going to read your academic article). Science communication is a very important part of the equation.

What do you love about science communication?

My particular flavor of science communication combines by love of science and art. It’s fun to tell people what you’re passionate about, and it’s rewarding to know that it increases science literacy and empowers people at the same time. And I get to do this for a living!

What has been your favourite project?

Charles Darwin
© Hayley Gillespie

Taking the leap of faith to open Art.Science.Gallery. has definitely been rewarding, but my favorite project so far is probably The Darwin Day Portrait Project. The project is a series of collaged portraits of great naturalists, starting with Charles Darwin. A new portrait in this series is created each year in celebration of Darwin’s birthday (Feb 12th). I design and direct the project, and visitors to the Darwin Day celebration at the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin, TX help me collage images of biodiversity taken from magazines and field guides onto the portrait. Then I take the portrait back to my studio and finish it up so that it’s ready to show in the museum. It’s so fun interacting with the visitors and helping them create art – while teaching them about natural history. The children are usually the most

excited about gluing a picture of an animal or plant onto the portrait, and the parents get absorbed in flipping through the National Geographic magazines we often use for collage materials. You can see a video about the 2012 portrait of Charles Darwin here.

Hayley Gillespie and Jane Goodall
© Hayley Gillespie

The 2012 portrait is now on loan to the Texas Memorial Museum where visitors can come back and see the project they helped to make. The 2013 portrait is of primatologist Jane Goodall, and I recently got to meet this great naturalist and show her the portrait – which she signed! It was fabulous!

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

As a matter of fact we are about 11 days into a crowd-funding project for Art.Science.Gallery. to raise the funds we need to evolve from being a “pop-up” gallery (being guests in other spaces) to having our very own brick-and-mortar gallery space! Everyone who joins our community gets some really great science-art thank-you gifts that have been contributed by science artists, and everyone will get their name incorporated into a unique piece of science art that will be on display in our gallery forever! We are seeing a great response from our community and have raised nearly 30% of our goal with about 30 days left to go before our May 9th deadline. Having our own gallery space will allow us to significantly increase the number of science communication workshops and art-science classes we are able to offer, and it will also give us much more freedom to curate our own exhibitions and work with more science artists. We’ll also get to have a permanent space in which to interact with our community and keep sharing the science we love!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

We need more science communicators in the world! My advice would be – especially if you are in the academic sciences – please seek all the training you can get in science communication! Learn how to interact well with the media, learn how to speak for a public audience, start a blog for your thesis or research or lab group, learn how to make great data visualizations. Write “lay summaries” of your research papers and put them on your blog if a publisher won’t accept them as “supplementary information”. Collaborate with other creative and passionate people! You don’t have to do it through art like I do – find your own interests and do your own thing. But don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste of time! Even chance encounters doing everyday things can lead to interesting conversations with others about science (I recently had an hour-long conversation about science and endangered species with a total stranger in an auto shop) – don’t waste any opportunities! And be friendly.

Credit The Pod Delusion

Speaking to… James O’Malley from The Pod Delusion

Credit The Pod Delusion

“getting to interview David Attenborough was pretty damn exciting. (Also: terrifying)”

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… James O’Malley from The Pod Delusion


James O’Malley

Who do you work for?

I’m editor of The Pod Delusion, but that’s just a time consuming hobby. My day job is at social audio start-up Audioboo. (The two are unrelated – The Pod Delusion is purely an out of work thing!).

What type of science communication do you do?

Any science communication is purely accidental! The Pod Delusion is a weekly news-magazine podcast and radio programme about ‘interesting things’. We cover everything from politics, to science, to culture – all from a pro-science, rationalistic point of view. So we’re a fairly newsy programme – and we like to examine claims, and tell interesting stories that our audience may have missed in the proper media. We have lots of scientists who contribute to the programme – as well as science being a focus, so inevitably many of the segments on the show are scientists talking about the latest developments in any given field.

Who is your main audience?

It’s hard to describe exactly – we seem to appeal to a wide range of people, but generally our listeners tend to be a clever bunch, who like learning about a wide variety of things. When we setup our interviews we tend to tell guests that our audience are “science enthusiasts, but not necessarily scientists” – so perhaps people who are on board with the idea of science being awesome, but not working in the field. Though we do get tweets from people saying they listen in the lab and stuff too!

How did you get into it?

It was fairly accidental. I’m a humanities graduate (I’ve got a Masters in International Relations) but I started attending Skeptics in the Pub meetings – and made friends there who were more into science. Some time later I decided I wanted to start a podcast but didn’t really know what to do – which I why I gave it the remit of being about “interesting things”. Then I recruited several of my friends from skeptic circles to contribute – so naturally the things we’d talk about would have a bit of a scientific slant. So we’ve only really focused on science a lot by accident!

Why do you do it?

It’s rewarding in itself – though time consuming for both me and our deputy editor, Liz Lutgendorff, we get to go to interesting things and meet interesting people – which we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do. It’s always cool too when you’re at an event and someone recognises you by your voice.

What do you love about science communication?

As I’m not a science communication insider I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this, though broadly I like the fact that you don’t need a certain qualification to be able to do it. All you need to do is be able to cite your sources, defer to evidence and get enthusiastic about cool things.

What has been your favourite project?

It’s hard to define as we don’t have discrete “projects”, but getting to interview David Attenborough was pretty damn exciting. (Also: terrifying).

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

Each episode of the show is a project in itself, so every Monday we essentially start afresh. More broadly though I recommend checking out Soho Skeptics, which we’re involved with – a new series of public talks and lectures and events advocating a scientific worldview.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

I’m genuinely not sure if I’m actually “in” science communication – though the obvious advice would be to get your work out there. The reason we’ve had success is because we’re publishing audio content every week. Don’t hide it away, revising it – just publish!

Follow The Pod Delusions’ activities on Twitter at @poddelusion