Filmmakers, are you ready for an academic project to inspire your storytelling? Would you like to collaborate with some of the world’s leading scholars? Could your film skills make some brilliant academic research accessible to wider audiences?
Academics, do you have a research story that could be turned into a documentary film project? Would you like to collaborate with a professional filmmaker with an established track record? Do you want to share your research with a wide public audience?
To celebrate our new Creative Documentary by Practice MFA (to be led by Sophie Fiennes, Kim Longinotto and Riete Oord), Open City Documentary Festival are relaunching their Border Crossings initiative with a £5,000 development fund for filmmakers collaborating with academics who have a research story in search of an author. A runner’s up prize of £2,500 will also be awarded.
Taking place as part of UCL’s Festival of Culture, this is an exciting ‘speed-dating’ initiative aiming to build partnerships, to create opportunities for research and knowledge to be translated into insightful and engaging documentary and to allow filmmakers access to table-turning research stories.
The deadline for applications is midnight on 23rd May 2018
There are places for 10 filmmakers and 10 researchers. During the course of the two hour session, researchers and filmmakers will meet to discuss their work and will form teams following this meeting. These teams will be eligible to apply for the £5,000 development fund. All applicants will pitch their projects to a panel of expert judges during Open City Documentary Festival 2018 (4th – 9th September). The award will go to the most exciting and viable project pitched.
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.
The Public Engagement with Research Committee (PERC) invites UoB researchers and PGRs to enter our ‘Storytelling Researcher’ video competition. This is the second time PERC has run a research video competition, but this year we have a great opportunity for entrants to get valuable training via the free MOOC course on Digital Storytelling: Filmmaking for the Web available here: Digital Storytelling for the Web MOOC
The free online course starts on Sept 28th and runs for 4 weeks. Please note, you do not need to have signed on to the MOOC course to submit a video entry for the competition, but the course may be a very useful resource and support tool for you. We also have useful resources from last year’s competition here: ThinkPE – How Do I Create a video?
Deadline for video submission: Monday 30th November 2015 at 12 noon.
Only University of Birmingham researchers and research postgraduates are eligible to enter.
Details of competition
PERC want to celebrate and showcase the best of our research in the most creative and exciting ways possible. We are therefore offering 3 prizes for the best 5 minute videos based on Birmingham research aimed at a general audience. 1st place wins £200, 2nd place wins £100 and 3rd place wins £50. We welcome creative videos from senior staff as well as post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers, whether individually or representing wider groups. The video can either be in the form of a presentation, interview, exercise, activity, role-play, cartoon or in any way that you feel conveys your research most effectively.
That won’t be the end of the journey for great content, whether you’re a prize winner or not – we hope to screen these videos to the public at festival events, on new areas of our website and any other innovative ways we can find to showcase your research excellence and creative efforts.
Professor Alice Roberts (the University’s very own Professor of Public Engagement with Science) will present the top 3 videos at the annual UoB Public Engagement with Research Event in December 2015. Time & Date: TBC.