Growing up, science was always seen as a nerdy subject. If you liked science, the kind of science that didn’t revolve around setting fire to things in chemistry, then you were a bit weird. Then something changed. Science became cool.
At a recent conference I was asked why I was tweeting so much, and I felt a blog post coming on! Tweeting during scientific meetings can have several benefits both for your current research and future career. It’s easier now than ever to get online at these events. Most conference venues have wireless internet, and it’s completely acceptable to have a laptop, tablet or smartphone out in front of you during a session. I’ve compiled a (non-exhaustive) list of the main reasons I tweet at academic conferences and you should too!
The Science Journalism Programme was set up by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) in 2010. Through the programme, scientists and statisticians volunteer to deliver workshops to journalism students and professionals across the UK. Workshops cover concepts such as scientific methods, peer review and statistical uncertainty in order to equip journalists with the skills to correctly interpret and report on science stories. So far the programme has trained over 600 journalists and students from a wide array of institutions including the Guardian, the BBC, the Times and numerous universities.
At the end of August, a number of other John Innes Centre PhD students and I attended a training session run by the RSS in order to become a volunteer on the programme. Since attending the training day I have delivered workshops to professional journalists at the Manchester Evening News, and to journalism master’s students at City University London.
What is the RSS?
The RSS was founded in 1834, and is now one of the world’s most renowned statistical societies with over 6000 members. The society has a number of aims, and one of these is to promote the use of statistics, data and evidence for the public good. It was under this remit that the Science Journalism Programme was established.
How do scientists get their research into the media? How do journalists find the best science stories and report them accurately? What do you do when a companies or politicians make outlandish claims without evidence?
These were some of the questions asked in the Standing up for Science media workshop I attended this month. Run by Sense About Science, these workshops are a chance for early career scientists to come together and discuss science in the public eye.
Every year The Biochemistry Society’s magazine, The Biochemist, holds a competition. This competition invites early career researchers to try their hand at editing an edition of The Biochemist. Interested teams submit a proposal on a theme that they would be interested to see an edition based around. This year’s winning proposal came from the John Innes Centre, and a team comprised of Tom Vincent, Leonie Luginbuehl and Guru Radhakrishnan. Their winning theme was ‘Communication in Plants and Microbes’. I sat down with Tom (as well as a brief email exchange with Guru) to find out what the competition involved and how the team felt about their experiences.
As a public funded research institute, it is important the John Innes Centre engages with the public. After all, people ought to be able to find out what their taxes are being spent on! A research institute will always generate curiosity (what is going on in all those greenhouses!?) and it is all too easy to create an “Ivory tower” effect if there isn’t a mechanism to find out more of what goes on inside. To that end, the John Innes Centre works hard to engage with the public. A smaller event, yet one of the most popular amongst those who attend, is known as the “Friends of John Innes Centre Speed Dating”, which I helped out at this July.
At the start of July, myself and a couple of other JIC students entered a competition on twitter – the ÜberResearch Prize. ÜberResearch is a “solutions and services company focused on the specific needs of science funders”. After winning a competition run by the British Library, AHRC and BBSRC they found themselves in possession of a £2000 prize, which they decided to forward on to a PhD student. And so the #uberresearchprize was born.