Learning to Communicate – a Johnston Post-Doctoral Development Fund report

This is a guest post by Andrew Holmes, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Mammalian Behaviour & Evolution group of the Institute of Integrative Biology.

 

The Johnston Post-Doctoral Development Fund enabled me to attend a Royal Society residential course in in communication and media skills in June 2017. The course was hosted at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre at Chicheley Hall in Buckinghamshire, a Grade I listed 18th century mansion set in 80 acres of beautiful grounds that has been used in films such as Pride and Prejudice and The Meaning of Life. Hidden amongst the trees near the house lurk two large fiberglass pterodactyls from an earlier Royal Society event, now abandoned and eerily weather-beaten.

Andrew1.pngImage: Chicheley Hall and gardens (left); Pterodactyls amongst the trees (right).

The course was run by Dr Jon Copley, an Associate Professor at the University of Southampton and former reporter and editor at New Scientist, and Geoff Marsh, a freelance multimedia producer and science writer for publications including Nature. It was great to ask them about their own experiences in science communication, in particular Dr Copley was able to provide insight into his experiences working with the BBC on nature documentaries.

In the first half of the course we discussed and practiced how to write short popular science articles, using the ‘inverted triangle’ approach to present what was most important in a concise and engaging starting paragraph and then going into more details as the article continued. This approach is great for communicating to non-specialist audiences as well as in the lay summary sections of grant proposals.

We also covered writing press releases, long-form science writing and using social media. I have recently started my own website (https://thescikuproject.com) using scientific haiku to explore research findings. I have very little experience of using social media and the course has given me the confidence to start using it to promote my own website and research.

Andrew2Image: Andrew Holmes (left); Chicheley Hall Gardens (centre); a resident of Chicheley Hall (right).

The second half of the course covered the media and science, discussing the differences in function, requirement and audience expectations between media types – radio, tv, print and online reporting. By learning how the media works and the requirements of journalists we were able to understand how to interact with the media and retain more guidance of how our work is reported.

We also practiced being interviewed: a ‘soft’ radio interview; a ‘hard’ radio interview with probing questions about the ethical and societal issues associated with our work; and a TV interview via a remote link. Discussing our work in different contexts and having an awareness of the practical requirements of media production has helped me feel more confident about interacting with the media and promoting my work to the public in general.

I felt the course was excellently run and covered some very interesting and useful topics that as scientists we aren’t often trained to consider. By learning how better to present my research to a variety of audiences and through a number of formats I feel much better prepared to use my communication skills to help improve the impact of my research and promote my science to the world outside of academia.

I thank the Johnston Post-Doctoral Development Fund committee for this opportunity and hope they feel that it was justified – I certainly feel that I gained a lot from it.

 

 

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Royal Society Partnership Grant Daphnia Project – IIB and Liverpool Life Sciences UTC

A Royal Society Partnership Grant project between IIB’s Dr Stewart Plaistow and Liverpool Life Sciences UTC has featured as a case study on the Royal Society website.

“This project will give me transferrable skills, so if I was to do medical biology, I could take the genetics side of this” – Gemma, Liverpool Life Sciences UTC

Proteome Research at Winstanley College

To inaugurate our outreach blog, let’s share again some good recent news. The press release below was originally published on the Institute website on 27 March 2015 (updated with hyperlinks). Note: The Royal Society Partnership Awardhelps schools to run exciting and innovative projects in partnership with a professional scientist or engineer.


Royal Society Funding Award for STEM Partnership

The partnership between Winstanley College and IIB’s Centre for Proteome Research (CPR) has received recognition with a Royal Society Partnership Award.

The grant was awarded to Winstanley College’s STEM Coordinator Dr Jen Platt-Skerry (a former IIB student) and CPR’s Prof Rob Beynon for their project entitled ‘Proteome Research at Winstanley College’.   The grant will allow students access to advanced instrumentation in CPR for their own projects. This is in addition to a recent Royal Society of Chemistry grant for gel equipment at Winstanley College.

The project is highly interdisciplinary, covering Biochemistry in particular, a subject that is not formally taught to students at this level.  It will highlight the advantage of linking Chemistry and Biology and also Physics and Mathematics. Students will be encouraged to understand a little of the physics behind a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer and they will start to understand Maths and ICT behind the search engines that are used to identify previously unknown proteins.

The Centre for Proteome Research (www.liv.ac.uk/cpr) is very enthusiastic about being involved in widening awareness of our research, and in raising aspirations for young scientists to become the next generation of researchers.  Twelve members of CPR have now signed up as STEM ambassadors in order to take part in this worthwhile and important activity.