DAY 2 (see Day 1 post here)
The plenary speaker events on the second day were really good. The day started with Tim Smit a Dutch-born British business man famous for the Eden project. This man knew how to grab the attention of the audience by the adept use of highly controversial thoughts. Here are some of the most interesting quotes:
- If you can get 3 people to believe in something it will happen: the Tinkerbell theory. (1)
- Most science centers are profoundly crap. Dominated by middle aged men who believe in interactivity but have never done it. (2)
- Science centres are missing the concepts of mystery and romance in their infrastructure.
- We don’t let our scientists who look like scientists in front of the public. (3)
- Reform the few most charismatic students in a school and you’ll reform the school.
- We are living at an exciting time, much more exciting than the time when the Renaissance began.
- The more you charge people the better they think about the offer you are making.
- I feel like a pork sausage that’s walked into a convention that doesn’t like pigs. (4)
- Science & Art begin with the same idea of learning from observation. We need to bring that forth.
What Tim Smit suggested is an overhaul in the way science is communicated today and he made that message in a way that attracted a lot of attention.
Next up was a panel discussion titled: Is it time we took a rain check on climate change? The panel included the Director of the Science Museum, Chris Rapley; Director of the Department of Environmental Sciences at UEA, Jackie Burgess and Policy & Communications Director at the LSE’s Institute of Climate Change, Bob Ward.
Chris highlighted that the understanding of people about climate change is very poor compared to the presence of this phenomenon in the media. He urged that we should bring in emotions to this campaign to highlight the true urgency of the situation. Jackie started by defending her colleagues at the UEA who were involved in the climate change email controversy. She went on to commenting that the blogosphere has been unruly about climate change and is out there to get on their backs. She said that we should have a moratorium on climate change discussions, take a step back and think hard about our methodology of climate change debate. Bob came in and opened by opposing her idea of a moratorium. He said in an urgent situation like ours, the climate will not allow us the time to take a step back to reconsider issues. He wanted to focus on building a connection with the public to gain their trust on this issue. He insisted that the talk about uncertainties in climate change has become the language of inaction. It could take up to four years to build the trust that the public has lost in climate change science. There was a suggestion about having climate change champions to regain this trust. If celebrities are involved it might happen sooner, suggested Chris.
The next session I attended was Engaging young people in research on public health and medicines chaired by a very interesting man, Colin Johnson. The session was about how can we teach about clinical trials. We also had two kids who attended the training to speak about their experience. I very useful insight to have from this session is that if we are able to explain the science to children then we have probably achieved the best way of explaining that science. This experience of the young children has made me want to go to my school and talk about science.
After the lunch break which consisted of an amazing dessert, I headed to the the Fostering ‘good’ science communicators session. The session proved to be quite useless to me because it was about how can we make use of different kinds of frameworks to ensure that ‘good’ science communication occurs in an institute. But it was interesting to know that such a framework exists at most good institutes. Something to keep in mind if ever I am involved in an academic institute’s management.
Some interesting points from Alison Macleod’s research on how to become an expert in science communication:
Skills needed for Science Communication:
How to train to gain these skills
Different stages of learning in science communication
She also mentioned that if possible one should get a mentor in our training to become a good science communicator. It will lead to better learning and greater insight into the process. These points seemed quite handy!
The last event was going to be Stand-Up mathematics by Matt Parker. A funny bloke who loved maths enough to make it funny. He cracked a few good ones but I had to leave before he finished. All in all it was a great experience attending the conference, meeting some really interesting people and gain a lot of knowledge about this broad term called science communication. I am grateful to the donors for my bursary to have made this possible.