Ep21: Reaching Out

Play-dough that conducts electricity. Image credit: Johanna Kieniewicz

Sharing great scientific ideas is a wonderful feeling. The idea doesn't have to be brand new (although measuring gravitational waves is really cool...) and it can simply be sharing a love for learning how our universe works. For this episode I wanted to explore some of the ways scientists can engage with different groups within the community.

I firmly believe that science is part of our culture... it’s actually something that’s all around us, and something we can all enjoy in a very positive way
— Dr Johanna Kieniewicz
The Institute of Physics' Lab in a Lorry. Image credit: Stuart Higgins

The Institute of Physics' Lab in a Lorry. Image credit: Stuart Higgins

In the first example I spent two, very action-packed, days volunteering with Lab in a Lorry, a scheme run by the Institute of Physics that brings the lab to schools in the form of a giant articulated truck, packed full of hands-on science experiments. There was genuine excitement from the pupils as they realised they were not only allowed, but were supposed to be picking things up, trying out different bits of the experiment and seeing what happened.

Balloon kebabs at The Cally Festival. Image credit: Johanna Kieniewicz

Balloon kebabs at The Cally Festival. Image credit: Johanna Kieniewicz

The second was at The Cally Festival, an annual street fair on Caledonian Road in London. Amongst intriguing stalls, incredibly powerful music systems, and delicious smelling food were both the Institute of Physics and The Francis Crick Institute. Both are moving into new premises around Kings Cross, and were keen to meet the locals.

Finally an old favourite of mine: Science Showoff. Started by Steve Cross, Science Showoff is essential an open mic night for people to talk about science. It's fun, frenetic, and a great chance to meet some of the people involved in the thriving science communication (sci comm) scene in the UK. To find out more you can also listen to my full interview with Steve from Season 1 of the show.

Steve Cross on stage at The Star of Kings. Image credit: Tom Whyntie

Steve Cross on stage at The Star of Kings. Image credit: Tom Whyntie

For me the value of pubic engagement is clear; it's not enough for scientists to just assume that everyone should appreciate the intrinsic value of science. We need to actively go out and engage people. And this isn't just a recruitment drive (because quite frankly there aren't enough academic jobs anyway) but rather a chance to demonstrate the value of science, and at the same time share the love of learning something new.