Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums
What happens when you put a lot of science communicators in a room? No this is not the beginning of a joke.
This year’s National Science Communication Conference was held at the University of Surrey in Guildford from 30 April to 2 May. Something you should know about science communicators, they are a creative bunch and lack almost all inhibitions. The first event started off in such form with ‘Science Show off’ a stand-up comedy/cabaret night run by Steve Cross, Head of Public Engagement at UCL and founder of Science Show-Off, Museum Show-Off and Bright Club.
As communicators we are always trying to find new ways to bring science to different audiences. I myself have performed climate change karaoke at one of these events and I was not disappointed by the range on display at this show-off event. I was told a ghost story about sleep disorders, introduced to the ugly animal preservation society and not forgetting the Science Ceilidh demonstrating processes of the digestive system. As you do.
The rest of the conference was broken up to parallel workshops where we had to choose between far too many interesting talks and workshops. Highlights for me included a talk on how technology is changing the way we tell stories about science, by Matt Locke of Storythings. Rather than the designated communicator and the designated audience, the stories that we tell, in news, in classrooms, in museum exhibitions are constantly changing and evolving through the incredibly fast feedback mechanisms of social media and blogs, such as this one.
And surprisingly not about writing risk assessments, ‘The Science of Risk’ was an in depth discussion of what is and is not necessary to include in communication risk and uncertainty in creating a narrative around scientific data. How do we frame risk knowing that the language we use has implications to how it is received by the public? Is the glass half empty or half full? Are you being told the same information if you are told that there is an 80% chance you will survive a medical procedure rather than there is a 20% chance you will die? How about the uncertainty levels in predicting climate change? We are now in a society where data transparency is key, but including the data is not enough, how do we frame it?
So on the train ride home I had much to mull over and also after science speed dating (networking in an original format) it was time to use my newly filled brain to start planning a future programme of events at The Polar Museum.
Rosie Amos, Education and Events Officer, The Polar Museum