On Friday 14 March, I attended the Standing up for Science media workshop, run by the VoYS group of Sense about Science. It was held at the University of Manchester, the size of which really puts UoA to shame!
The morning started with tea and coffee, which is always a great ice-breaker, especially as a coffee addict in tea-centric Britain. It was humbling to realise how many hugely intelligent and highly-educated young scientists were just as keen as I was to reach the public with our scientific knowledge. One of the best things about this workshop was that right from the start, there were no awkward silences when the discussion was opened to the floor, you know the kind that you usually get when faced with a room full of eminent academics, or a class of seventeen year olds for that matter. The anecdotes from Susanne, Jeff and Matthew were humorous and inspiring, and for me, just starting out, the most encouraging words from Matthew were to just get out there and be involved, say “Yes” to everything because it is all experience. Of course, this conjures up images of situations such as those encountered by Jim Carrey in “Yes Man,” but nonetheless, I have already found these to be pearls of wisdom if one is serious about science communication in the very public domain of the media.
Victoria Gill and David Derbyshire gave valuable insight into the life of a journalist, the search for a story, the time and word limitations, and pressures faced within their workplace. It made me so thankful I had chosen science as a career path instead! The third panel stressed the importance of connecting with a University Press Office or media relations officers at your place of employment, as well as other like-minded individuals such as those found within VoYS, and how each little step can combine to form a journey that really makes a difference. From reforming recycling policy to curtailing wild advertising gimics, this group of young volunteers has already made a tangible difference to the everyday lives of British people, who might not even realise it. Check out this great organisation at http://www.senseaboutscience.org.
So overall, the message I got was this: don’t stay quiet, and locked away in your lab or office. Get out and talk to people, tweet, blog, ask questions, and make a fuss when you spot something that is misleading or blatantly incorrect, because if you don’t do it, who will?
A giant thank you to Victoria and Chris for alowing me to attand such an inspiring and superbly run workshop!