Monday, February 22, 2010

Speed Geeking at Research Week

Research Week is packed with exciting events where students will showcase their science communication skills and research. It highlights all the research activities at the graduate and faculty level that are going on at Laurentian University. Wednesday and Thursday will have a graduate student symposium with talks and posters from students.

I can't wait for "Lightning talks" or "Speed geeking" on Thursday. Students will have to sum up their research in 1 minute to a crowd of people. Like most science people I used to ramble on about what I researched, so having to do it in only a minute will be a challenge.

The public is invited to all the events, so if you are in the Sudbury area, come on out!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Science communication in a nutshell

Science communication in a nutshell. Adapted from Mulder et al. 2008.

Science communication can sometimes be a hard field to define, simply because it is a combination of many other disciplines. You need to know the science to communicate it, the context of the science and issues, how to communicate it to a variety of audiences through various media and the ability to evaluate whether it was effective. I found a diagram in Mulder et al. 2008 which I've adapted for this post. It is a great representation of what science communication is all about.

In the SciComm program, you come with a good background in science (top left circle of the diagram). You understand it and how it works and have an appreciation for it. In the program, they teach you how to do the rest.

All of our courses fit snuggly into the diagram. With Educational Studies (top right circle) we have the courses: Learning - Theories and Practice, and Research Methods in Science Communication.

In Social Studies of Science (bottom left circle), we have the course: Audiences and Issues, and a plethora of guest lectures from people in the field.

Communication Studies (bottom right circle) is covered by the courses: Theories and Principles of Science Communication, Design Theory in Science Communication, Science Communication Practice, Communicating through Exhibits, Live Programing, Mass Media and Information Technology.

Finally, our Research Project in Science Communication and our internship uses combination of everything in the diagram.

Science communication is a diverse field, but it is that breadth that allows you to work almost anywhere.

Mulder, H.A.J., Longnecker, N., and Davis, L.S. 2008. The state of science communication programs at universities around the world. Science Communication. 30:277-287.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

UNB Information Session

If you are in the Fredericton, NB area, drop by the UNB campus to hear my talk on the Science Communication program!

The information session will be on Wednesday, Feburary 17 at 3pm. It will be in room 27, Bailey Hall (Biology) at Fredericton Campus. When you walk in the main doors of the Bailey Building you turn left and it is right next to the main office.

Hope to see you there!

Deadline for applications for the 2010-2011 year are due on March 30, 2010! Visit the website ( for more information.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Public Engagement with Theoretical Physics

If you talked to me about communicating theoretical physics to the general public a month ago, I probably would have run in the opposite direction screaming. Physics is just one of those things that seem really hard to communicate. Compared to chemistry or biology, theoretical physics has a lot of abstract concepts that makes it difficult to relate to your Joe Public on the street. It doesn't help that physics was just one of those subjects I never terribly cared for. (Not that I don't have an appreciation for physics and physicists mind you.)

Today however, changed everything. Today we visited the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, ON. Their mandate is to conduct research and educational outreach, two goals at which the definitely excel. These guys have an impressive set of outreach programs designed to reach teachers, students and the general public. From cartoons (Alice and Bob in Wonderland) to summer camps aimed at top high school students and teacher resources, the outreach and communications department has certainly outdone themselves. They also hold public lectures every month related to the field of physics in which a few hundred local people attend. Talk about public engagement of science!

Waiting for a lecture to start at the Perimeter Institute.

I especially like their page on "Meet the scientist". One of the big things about a scientists' image is that they are expected to be the best of the best students in school and followed the straight and narrow path towards science. That is certainly not true as there are many paths to science. These short 5 minute videos show the human side of scientists which brings them a bit closer to the public.

Perimeter Institute deserves top marks for their breadth and depth of outreach on such a seemingly difficult topic. Visit their site and take advantage of their great materials.

Well.. this is day one of our field trip. If anyone from the Perimeter Institute reads this... Thanks for the great hospitality! Now I need to get a good nights sleep for our trip to Daily Planet and the Ontario Science Centre tomorrow. The adventure continues....