In my past few posts I’ve mentioned that I’m currently in Toronto as part of my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship, but I realised I haven’t actually explained in detail what the fellowship is and why I’m here.
The title of my project is: ‘Putting pants on the truth; improving practice of UK sci-bloggers‘, and the main aims of the project are to :
- Get to grips with why scientists are blogging (funding/political climate, international vs other reach etc)
- Learn how leading communicators engage publics, measure impact, and create guides of best practice for scientists to develop and measure the success of their own strategies
- Explore creative methods (interactive arts, illustration, film etc) that scientists are using to escape echo-chambers and engage publics, generate case-studies on how these mediums can be incorporated with text-format blogging, and how blogging can go alongside these methods to maximise engagement
For clarity – by blogging I don’t just mean standard blogging like on WordPress, Medium or similar platforms, I am also interesting in so-called ‘microblogging’ platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.
When I say creative methods they are also up for discussion and I’m open to using a flexible definition or description; for me science is an inherently creative discipline (more on this in a blog post coming later this week), but the way that we report or express science as researchers is usually a process that involves pretty limited creativity – writing conference abstracts, grant proposals and journal articles usually demands a similar style of writing (though degrees of persuasiveness differ). In my experience it’s rare to include an animation, drawing or sculpture in the creation of any of those outputs.
In my opinion, science communication, and quality engagement with members of the public, relies on creativity. Members of the public (of which scientists are one group), do not want to learn about science as if they are sat at a desk in school, I’d go so far as to say that students at school don’t even want to learn about science the way that mainstream schooling is currently teaching it, but when we’re trying to communicate cutting edge scientific research this is an option for people – they have a choice whether to engage with us. We are asking people to listen/watch/read about the work that we’re doing as researchers, but people are busy – they could be spending time with their families and friends, they could be working – they have the choice to do literally anything in the world other than find out about science. It’s important that we create a hook for people; a reason for them to engage. I think that hook is creativity.