Just before Easter Elsevier launched the Researchers’ Choice Communication Award RCCA #RCCA2018. They’d be delighted if you would encourage your faculty departments and your student groups to nominate their outstanding early career researchers and peers via Mendeley, the social network for scientists. There are several ways you can do this:
The winner, chosen by their judging panel, will be announced at the awards ceremony in the presence of UK research leaders and the CEO of Elsevier on 4th October at the Royal Society in London. Chairman of the ceremony is President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University and Fulbright Commissioner, Professor Colin Riordan.
Nominating a researcher for the RCCA – How does it work?
Improve familiarity and literacy in communicating on science and religion
Explore areas of faith, trust, belief, and religion in science communication
Support attendees to develop new outputs, partnerships and projects
Sessions will be led by science communication practitioners and academics from a variety of disciplines researching the intersection of science and religion in public spaces. The sessions will be framed by preliminary data from the Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum project and there will be practical exercises built around case-studies, proposals and evaluation plans. The full programme will be released over the next few weeks, with sessions including:
Storytelling: balancing narrative and ‘truth’
Hosting constructive debates
Science and religion, past and present
Partnerships and participation: an external perspective
Beyond box ticking: The evaluation, revision, and re-delivery cycle
Trust in science, trust in sci-comm? Moving the conversation forward
The event is free to attend, including travel and accommodation costs associated with attendance. Places are limited, so early-sign-up is encouraged. A deposit of £15 is payable to secure your place on this event, which will be refunded upon attendance.
Note that this workshop is funded by the Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum project. Attendance, travel, and accommodation are provided free of charge on the understanding that participants contribute to the workshop debates and engage with the project’s research. Post workshop there will be opportunities for attendees to create science communication materials and outputs related to the workshop content and wider research findings of the project.
The Midlands region is holding Famelab 2017 heats on Monday 12th December 2016, from 18:30 in PureCraft Bar, Birmingham. FameLab is an international competition that challenges scientists to communicate their knowledge in short three minute talks. The University of Birmingham had a UK finalist in 2016. You can watch Alex’s performance here if you want inspiration. It would be brilliant if we could repeat that success.
You’ll have three minutes to share your topic with a public audience. Remember, you cannot use slides and only use the props you can carry on stage. Entrants must be 21 years old or older, studying or working in science, engineering, technology, medicine or mathematics.
Sign up to perform your three minutes as soon as possible as spaces are limited. Audiences (including your students) can book free tickets here so feel free to invite everyone. Posters are attached for colleagues and audiences. For further info contact PERC stalwart Jon Wood: email@example.com [Internal Ext. 45081]
Jordan Gaines Lewis a Neuroscience Doctoral Candidate, Penn State College of Medicine talks to THE CONVERSATION about how science communication has made her a better scientist. You can read the full article over at THE CONVERSATION, but we have a quick overview below:
“Scientists are often told to reach out to general audiences about their research for the public’s benefit:
We need to establish trust! Taxpayers deserve to understand where their money is going! We need to clear up misconceptions about GMOs and vaccines and climate change!
While these arguments are absolutely true, many scientists find this hard to do. Science communication can become a time-consuming side job. And for many, such a responsibility to the general public can be extremely daunting.
But it’s okay for scientists to practice their communication skills for non-philanthropic reasons, too. Despite my initial college lab experience, telling stories as a science communicator today has made me a much, much better scientist in a few unexpected ways.”
1. I read more and write more. So I read and write better.
While it’s impossible to know everything that’s going on at all times, being a science communicator has helped enormously. Scouting for story ideas or researching for a piece means I’m constantly coming across new findings, new methods and new hypotheses. Being active on social media, particularly Twitter, has introduced me to the diverse work of my journalistic peers, too.
But perhaps the best part is this: writing is significantly easier and infinitely less daunting than it used to be. Sitting down to write is hard, and finding your voice is harder. But the more one writes – whether a short, snarky blog post or a 12-page grant application – the easier and better it gets.
2. Simplifying my work makes for better conversations
Here’s a confession that many scientists may relate to, but few may admit: when I attend a talk outside my field, I’m lucky if I understand 50% of what is going on.
The purpose of science communication is to simplify, but not dumb down, your work so that the average non-scientist can understand it. Nowadays, when I design posters or oral presentations, I aim to do the same thing regardless of whether I’m introducing my work to scientists or non-scientists. My research posters, in fact, are almost laughably simple. Well under 200 words, with large, blocky figures, at first glance they may resemble a high school science project – certainly not a typical graduate student’s work at an international conference.
Since applying what I’ve learned from being a science communicator, my conference poster experience has completely changed. I’m frequently bombarded by a non-stop stream of scientists from all different fields, never having more than a free minute or two to sneak a swig of water. The best part is that because they understand what’s on the paper, our discussions can go deeper.
3. Unique opportunities and credibility
Since college, I’ve wanted to attend the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, the largest gathering of neuroscientists worldwide. This year, I got to do just that thanks to a travel stipend through the SfN Science Journalism Student Award – something I couldn’t have done if, obviously, I hadn’t started my quirky little hobby. In a roundabout way, I was able to attend an event I would have never been able to afford, and I returned to the lab with fresh ideas for my own research.
As people begin to recognise me as an “expert” in my field, I’m solicited for quotes and radio interviews. I’ve made a few odd dollars here and there for writing pieces, supplementing my lavish graduate student lifestyle. I even gave a TED talk in July – something I never imagined I’d have the chance to do.
While certainly not all scientists wish to seek out these types of public displays, it’s exciting to discover the countless venues for us to share our work with others.
So, scientists, here’s the bottom line: if you’re hesitant to reach out to the public due to lack of time, ambivalence, or just not knowing where to start, it’s understandable. It takes a fair bit of work, and it’s not easy. But if you want the chance to expand your horizons, improve your writing, enjoy unique opportunities, and engage more people – scientists and non-scientists alike – you might want to give science communication a shot.
In addition to making your work accessible to the general public, you might be surprised by how much your benchwork benefits, too.
Research For All: Universities and Society is a new journal for anyone, working inside or outside universities, who is committed to seeing research make a difference in society.
Engagement with research goes further than participation in it. Engaged individuals and communities initiate, advise, challenge or collaborate with researchers. Their involvement is always active and they have a crucial influence on the conduct of the research – on its design or methods, products, dissemination or use. Research For All focuses on research that involves universities and communities, services or industries working together.
Contributors and readers are from both inside and outside of higher education. They include researchers, policymakers, managers, practitioners, community-based organizations, schools, businesses and the intermediaries who bring these people together. The journal aims to raise the quality of engaged research by stimulating discussion about the effectiveness of engagement with researchers, research outcomes and processes.
We are currently looking for articles that describe, explain and analyse engaged research. Articles may include words, images, audio and video.
We’ve come across an interesting & well written blog piece from The Royal Institution, we highly recommend giving it a read. In the piece, their 2013 Christmas Lecturer Alison Woollard writes about the importance of science communication and public engagement. Below is an excerpt, but the article can be read in full HERE.
“My advice? Find out the questions before you prescribe the answers! Importantly, remember that engagement is a two-way process. It is about being interested in people and listening to what they say. Science is not an elitist club that most people cannot join – and public engagement should not be an overt ‘knowledge dissemination strategy’. Good science communication is a huge learning experience for the communicator as well as the audience – it certainly was for me.”