Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Where are the other communicators?

Here's something I have always wondered. Why are there no law communications summits, or courses in finance communications, or blogs about philosophy communications? Why is it that only science communication is a thing?

I'm not complaining, obviously due to the fact the science communication is my job, but really, why is there no politics communication? Is science communication special? Is that a deluded question?

Why is there a need to communicate science. Are we that bad at science that we have to have people who are trained in telling others about it? Should we really have to celebrate scientists that are good at science communication? There are too many questions here, but I'm afraid I don't really understand, so I may as well ask more.

Communications is a thing, I get that, is science communication simply under that umbrella? If so then why do we separate ourselves from those conferences or faculties etc? We call ourselves science communicators which implies that we really do specialise in the communication of science and not other things. I would certainly not like to claim to be an expert on communications communication.

Being a science communicator for me, is a wonderful and fulfilling job. I love it. I have never worked so hard in my life, but also, have never enjoyed my work so much. I love my job. I get to walk the corridors of a world leading Physics School past some of the greatest minds I'll ever know, and talk with them about what they do, and I do absolutely consider it a privilege that my role is to then talk about their work to others.

But why is that my role? Why would I never meet someone who does my job for teachers, or for mechanics? (again, not complaining). Perhaps scientists are terrible at communicating. Or perhaps every other discipline hasn't thought of it yet, and we will start to see some music communicators or sculpture communicators. Or something else entirely.

Have I got this completely wrong?

Friday, June 7, 2013

What's the plan?

Day 2 at the Big science communication summit has got me to think about what I'll do. That's the point of a conference right?

1. Make YouTube videos of research
I'll try and get researchers to do it, firstly by example, and also encourage things like dance your PhD. I think this is a great idea, well worth a try, if nothing else it'll build a pool of resources.

2. Encourage social media
I like the idea of having people do this on their own but supported and championed by our institutions. I'm not going to force a Uni twitter account, or change much what happens on our Facebook page etc, but find ways use social media the way it is designed. As a social network of interconnected things, not a forced, uncool activity for the sake of appearances.

3. Not let momentum in science communication fall. this includes me contributing to that from my institution. What I'd really like to start pushing for is a stronger representation of science communication in teaching and learning at University. There aren't many places that do this and I don't know why. I'll be thinking ,and talking with others, very seriously about programs in science based science communications. Program's for students, postgrads etc. there are standards we have to cover on this, and like it was said, every job that we apply for, will have some sort of communications role.

Interesting ideas to think about.
1. Viral media attempts. Inspired by the Baw Baw, this is pretty easy from physics. Astronomy is a bit of a gimme!
2. Science based Q&A-style show, or panel show. There are heaps of formats to choose from. The panel, Q&A, spicks and specks... This doesn't have to be a tv show by the way. Google+ hangout can be a format.
3. And y'know, heaps of other stuff!

Thanks heaps!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Whats the lesson?

Things I learnt from today.

I was at the science rewired Big Science Communication Summit today and have a few thoughts and comments about the sessions, speakers and conversations. Heres my top 3:

1. Collaboration. This sort of implies that we dont have to go about all this by ourselves. My job is science communicator, but that doesn't mean I have to do it all. I've been worried about this a little bit lately. I used to think that there are heaps of people better at scicomm than me, but I've now realised that instead of being better, they are complimentary to what i do and what we all do. We can't do it all by ourselves, and neither should we be expected to. I'm a big supporter of collaboration. We tell students all the time that scientists collaborate. So...we are scientists, we should collaborate more!

2. Social Media. This one gets thrown around a lot and it worries me that we keep talking about it but not a lot seems to be done. It is very hard ot have a social media presence in a place like a University that has a brand, guidelines, etc. I dont think we should force people to get into social media. As an ex-teacher, I can tell you that as soon as you tell someone what is cool and what they should be doing, it is instantly UN-cool and not worth doing. We shouldn't make people tweet, we shouldn't even make Universities tweet, or blog. What we should do is embrace their voice if they do. There are a number of excellent social media savvy people that I work with, and their following is far greater than any institution could drum up. I don't think we should be afraid of that. Social media should be organic. People can tell when places like universities try too hard.

3. This sentence "what happened to climate science can happen to any other form of science." - Alvin Stone. This got me right in the feels. We have to be careful and we have to be good. The graph that showed perceived trends from scientists and non scientists was a great illustration, imo, of what we were all talking about today (and I'll post it here when I find it). I love graphs, and I love it that it was a graph that floored me.

What I expected to see was a bit more coverage of research based science communication. To fully advance our field of scicomm as a science, we should embrace scicomm research, which we do I think, I just didn't see much of it today, maybe I wasn't paying attention!

In addition, I got to see some old friends and chin wag for a little bit, make some new friends and even a little bit of professional networking. Finally, the great day was finished up by some wonderful cuddles by my family and a yummy lasagne dinner! A great day, looking forward to tomorrow.