Recently, the intricate work by three British Professors which awarded them a Nobel Prize, was explained using bagels. This is fantastic. It is profoundly easier to recall what this article was about once I had the images of the bagel and pastries. Using imagery and props prompts memory recall to a much higher extent than words alone for me. I am an outsider to the world of physics and their research, but this culinary explanation was an invitation in. This is what outreach to the public should achieve – an encompassing welcome into the domain of science, extinguishing alienation and trepidation.
If the public’s perception of science is that it is too difficult and intimidating, we are accountable for this as scientists. We are responsible for allowing research to become available and accessible to anyone. Communicating and engaging with the public is an invigorating and positive experience for both sides and is brimming with benefits. It allows for direct interaction with researchers who can educate and abate misconceptions, implore fresh outlooks on their research sprouting new creative avenues to explore, or inspire interest in a variety of new subjects that people may not have considered before.
It is an important skill to be able to communicate something complex to a general audience, and should be practiced and encouraged by all in research and academia. You learn a great deal about what you know by explaining something to someone else. The more visual, hands-on, and unusual the interaction the more memorable and interesting it will be for your audience to observe, and for you to perform.
Achievements in science should be shared broadly and celebrated just like other disciplines such as music and literature. It is sad that the art of science is not appreciated and exhibited in the same manner but is often presented with a hushed and elitist demeanour. Science needs to be re-painted to the public through increased, engaging outreach by all.
Pint of Science is a hugely successful international festival for the public which made its debut in Nottingham in May 2016 through the UoN STEM Outreach Society and the genius capabilities of a certain Matthew Young. The event involves running broad themes such as ‘Beautiful Mind’ or ‘Planet Earth’ across 3 nights in different venues across the city where researchers discuss their work with the public in a relaxed, casual environment. Between talks, many imaginative activities and games are performed and displayed. We had almost 900 attendees representing a broad range of ages and backgrounds. The festival successful engaged the public in Nottingham and increased their confidence in talking about science. I am very excited for the next one already!
We will soon be looking for new team members to join us in preparing for #Pint17 so don’t miss your chance to be part of an amazing experience that I am positive it will be :). Keep a look out on our social media and sign up to our mailing list here.