I’m on the Writers’ Rough Drafts Podcast!

Writers’ Rough Drafts is a podcast hosted by Elisa Doucette, Founder and Executive Editor of Craft Your Content; a business that aims to do the unthinkable – make writing a less lonely process. They offer group courses, as well as one-to-one support on writing and editing projects from website copy to novels. The Craft Your Content website is also a wonderful resource in itself. As a frequent visitor to the Craft Your Content website, and an avid listener of the Writers’ Rough Drafts podcast, I jumped at the chance to talk all things writing and creativity when Elisa approached me a few months ago.

Listen to our podcast episode here.

Elisa’s incredibly flattering introduction:

Heidi Gardner is a scientist, researcher, blogger, entrepreneur, and activist. While her “full-time gig” is as a research fellow at the Health Services Research Unit at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, after receiving her bachelor’s degree in pharmacology and her doctorate in participant recruitment, she has a lot more going on besides her fascination and love affair with science and improving participant trial experience.

This year, Heidi embarked on an international odyssey as a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellow—visiting art installations, chatting to professors and female scientists, and reading tomes upon tomes worth of articles and literature in North America, Europe, and Asia—to find interesting and unique ways that people share scientific research and results so it is more accessible to, and engaging for, the general public. A regular blogger herself, she updates her site with posts not only about her work and pursuits, but also her life as a woman in science and as a human on planet Earth. Which is part of her “side hustle,” an Etsy store and ecommerce brand called “Science on a Postcard,” a fun project that helps to see science in a new light.


From the show notes:

What You’ll Learn About Writing:

  • Why you need confidence to break writing rules
  • The importance of finding gatekeepers and peers who are “on your team”
  • How blogs can serve as a great place for a “brain dump”
  • Why we should tap into our creativity and retrain our brain to think more creatively, even if you think you’re a “noncreative” person
  • How you should find specific sources, information, and experiences to share that no one has written about before
  • Why not only being creative but being able to explain parts of that creativity to others often bring you more collaboration and readers
  • How we, as writers, can try to write more humanly and less pretentiously no matter what industry we’re in

Mentioned in This Episode (Links and Resources!):

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Gentle Science Communication: Bill Nye vs David Attenborough

I’ve been promising this blog post on gentle science communication for months now, so apologies that it has taken me so long to get round to writing. I first thought of writing about this topic when I was in Toronto as part of my WCMT Fellowship (that reminds me, applications for WCMT Fellowships 2020 are now open, find out more here!). Anyway, yes, Toronto. I started my Fellowship work in Toronto at the beginning of January, and my initial aim was to find out how to make science communication more engaging.

The field of science communication research is vast, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of published, peer-reviewed studies that provide robust data on what works, what doesn‘t, and why. My Fellowship was different to that field of research because I was coming at it from a different angle; I approached this from an entirely practical perspective. To be blunt, I didn’t want to know why specific science communication techniques worked, what causes specific responses to communication methods. I wanted to know, in very simple steps, how I can improve the way I engage with people online. (Spoiler alert – blogging infrequently, irregularly and in rushed snippets of time is not as I have been over the last few months? That’s absolutely not the answer; do as I say not as I do and all…).

See the source imageOne of the biggest learning points I took away from that first week in Toronto was the importance of gentle science communication.

For me, there are two extremes to science communication; the shouty type where you are communicating a fact in an effort to tell ‘the truth’, and the more touchy feely, diffuse, hard-to-put-your-finger-on type where you are finding out scientific story or learning skill (e.g. critical thinking) but it’s not so immediately obvious.
This time last year I’d say I sat firmly in the middle of those two extremes. I got frustrated by people that were against vaccination and would find myself thinking things like, ‘but how on Earth can this person think like that, they’re intelligent!’, and the prospect of engaging with a flat-Earther or someone that ‘didn’t believe’ in climate change just seemed pointless.

Honestly I’m a bit embarrassed by that.

Now, my views on science communication lean much more toward the touchy feely, diffuse, hard-to-put-your-finger-on type. So why have my views changed so much?

As with anything, there are pros and cons to each of those two extremes, but after the conversations I had during my Fellowship, I’m not sure I’ll ever be involved in shouty science communication (yes, that’s a technical term) again.
Gentle science communication allows us to build an understanding environment, one where people are free to explain their anxieties, fears, and unease about a subject, and where the scientist or science communicator takes those concerns into account, respectfully engaging in dialogue that factors in uncertainties no matter whether they are scientifically accurate or not.

That might make complete and total sense when you read it – ‘of course we should be respectful and not belittle people’ I hear you cry! Unfortunately, that’s not always how things play out. A recent example of this comes from science celebrity Bill Nye. Now, I am not anti-Bill Nye; I’ve paid money to see him and written about that experience on this blog before, but I think it’s important that we are able to take a critical look at people that we admire.

A few weeks ago, Bill Nye appeared on US TV show Last Week Tonight, explaining that:

“By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another four to eight degrees. What I’m saying is: The planet’s on fucking fire.”

For those of us who agree with Bill’s stance on climate change, this video might offer a quick laugh or a frustrated sigh in agreement.

What do you think it offers people that have different views on climate change? Personally, I think it has the potential to offend and insult those people, likely causing them to immediately disengage with any further communication efforts focussing on the science behind climate change.

See the source imageBill Nye is one of the most famous scientists alive today, and in my opinion, this brand of harsh science communication is doing more harm than it is good. The topic of climate change is contentious; there are those that believe it is either not happening, or a natural phenomenon that would be happening whether humans were on the planet or not.

On the other hand, millions of people agree that it is happening, and that is it caused by human-kind. I am in that group; I don’t eat meat, I always carry a re-useable water bottle and I try to limit the amount that I consume in terms of fast fashion and single use plastics. I believed in climate change before, but this clip from David Attenborough made me more conscious of the part that I am playing in the progressive warming of the planet.

So, why do I think David Attenborough’s approach is more effective than Bill Nye’s?

See the source imageFirst and foremost it’s about emotional impact. Both Bill Nye and David Attenborough were presumably hoping that their communication methods would encourage people to make changes their behaviour. The former used anger and frustration, the latter opted for emotion, visuals and gentle words. David Attenborough caused me to change my behaviour because I was able to see myself in the nets and straws that overwhelmed the sea in front of him. Bill Nye on the other hand, made me pity the people that I already disagree with. Swearing and belittling an audience with an opposing view to you is going to alienate them, rather than encourage them to listen to you. This shouty approach is not one-time screw up that can be remedied by another interaction later on, dismissing someone’s views (whether scientifically correct or not) is likely to make them think twice about engaging with a scientist in the future; it’s a screw-up that could have negative long-term consequences.

As scientists, it’s important that we learn from those that are doing science communication respectfully. Please, think twice before you make a joke about someone’s views on science; it’s the fault of generations of scientists before us (and likely a few that are still alive and well today) that members of the public are basing their opinions on factually inaccurate information, and it’s up to us to do better.

This piece published in Scientific American is also worth a look – even the scientists that we look up to can be problematic. It’s important that we acknowledge that and aim to do better.


I’m sure there are professional science communicators that are reading this thinking that I am naïve, and they’d be correct – I was hugely naïve before embarking on my Fellowship. Now I’m a bit less naïve, and I’m working to share my own little journey in a gentle and understanding environment. I’m not perfect; I’m learning, and I hope that sharing my thoughts on topics like this can help people learn from me just as I learned from others.

 

Some Thoughts for New WCMT Fellows

At the start of this month 150 new Churchill Fellows were announced. That means it’s been just over a year since I could talk about my WCMT Fellowship – which seems insane! My Fellowship adventures started at the beginning of January and finished at the end of February, so I’ve had some time to decompress and attempt to make sense of the reams of notes I made over the course of those 8 weeks. I wasn’t able to go to the new Fellows’ seminar to share my excitement and experiences, so I thought I’d share a few points here.

Leaving the UK.

If you’re a previous Fellow like me, please comment below and share your tips for new Fellows; and if you’re a new Fellow, I hope you find this useful! Happy to answer questions if there’s anything I’ve missed too, just leave a comment or contact me on Twitter 🙂
If you’re not a new Fellow/don’t plan on doing long trips any time soon, this is probably not the post for you – it’s going to be pretty long!

Planning
  1. Plan your trip with a gap at the end before you need to get back to real life. For me, I only really started to make proper links between the conversations I was having towards the end of the trip, and having an extra week at home before I went back to work was really good for letting all those ideas stew without other things needing to take priority.
  2. Plan trips carefully, taking into account the potential for jet lag. I was either cocky, stupid or ignorant when I booked my flights, and I definitely paid for it. Flying from Washington DC, to the UK, to Berlin, and then to Singapore within a few days was not my finest moment, and my jet lag in Singapore ruined the first few days completely.
  3. Leave space in your itinerary for unexpected meetings, new connections, and downtime. You did not travel across the world to have to say no to meeting new people, similarly, you did not travel across the world to sit in various branches of Starbucks. Make the most of the time you have – that means meeting people you might not have expected to but also sightseeing and visiting places you otherwise wouldn’t get chance to.
  4. I get lost wherever I go, I have a terrible sense of direction and I knew I’d be reliant on Google Maps to make sure I could find my way around. With that in mind, I chose hotels in Singapore and Hong Kong that came with a ‘Handy‘; a smartphone that is docked in each room that comes with free local data. I got free mobile data through my network (EE) when I was in the USA and Canada, but having a Handy was incredibly useful when I was in Singapore and  Hong Kong because my mobile data would have costed me £6 per day to use.
  5. If you’re visiting places where English is not the first language, I’d recommend having a few select phrases memorised or at least written down. I had hotel addresses saved in various languages which was particularly useful when I needed help trying to navigate public transport, and I don’t eat meat so I had a few versions of ‘vegetarian’ noted down to make sure that I could communicate that in cafes and restaurants.
Packing
  1. Packing cubes are life changing. I packed for the first leg of my trip without packing cubes (completely forgot I had them), and didn’t appreciate them until the second part of my trip. A previous Fellow recommended them and I thought he was over-egging their impact, but they really do make travelling to multiple destinations so much easier.
  2. Buy a travel adapter that covers multiple territories, and take an extension cable. The placement of sockets in hotels has become one of the most boring topics that I can rage about (seriously though, why is there never a socket next to the bed for a phone charger, and next to a mirror for hair dryer/straighters?!).
  3. Make a formula for your hand luggage – take the minimum you need and try to leave lots of space in case you buy things and your suitcase is too heavy (I like books, standard airline weight limits do not). Standards that I always include in hand luggage: a mini toothpaste, toothbrush, hand cream, tissues, mini pack of wipes (for grubby fingers or to take makeup off etc), a book, headphones, a booster charger for my phone, small supply of medication (in case your suitcase gets lost), a spare pair of contact lenses, and my glasses. Everything else is extra bulk that you end up dragging around airports, wishing you hadn’t.
  4. Luggage is important – use something that you trust not to break because this is absolutely not the time to see the contents of your suitcase whizzing its way around the baggage reclaim belt. I used AWAY luggage – the large suitcase and the everywhere bag for my hand luggage. It’s now the only luggage I’ll ever use. It’s sturdy but relatively light, and the AWAY packing cubes fit perfectly.
  5. Pack clothes with the intention of doing laundry – there’s no need to take enough outfits to last you 4 weeks when you take take enough for 1 or 2 and wash them. Whilst I’m on that point too; don’t do laundry in hotels! The price is extortionate, and if you use a local launderette you can often get them back within quicker turnaround time. I used a drop off launderette in New York that charged by the kilo and meant I could have everything apart from the clothes I was wearing, washed for less than $10.
Money
  1. The funding that you received from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is enough to cover your trip, but bear in mind that you might want to do more than just cover your trip. I saved some money of my own to add to the funding I got for the Fellowship, meaning that I was able to spend a bit more on areas of the trip that were important to me (always staying in hotels rather than hostels, going on day trips to places further afield etc).
  2. Make sure you have at least some cash in each currency you’ll need. In places like the US I used my card all the time (remember to 1) tell your bank you are travelling before you leave, and 2) check for potential charges!), but when I got to Singapore and went out of the airport to get a taxi, I was surprised that the taxis only took cash.
People
  1. Find a ‘connecter’ – this is actually a piece of advice I was given by one of the wonderful people I met in Toronto (hoorah for you, Dawn Bazely!). I met her in the first stop of my travels, and a self-described ‘connecter’, she linked me up with lots of other people. Some I couldn’t meet because they were too far away, but I was able to Skype them after Dawn introduced us, others I met the next day. People that know people are your best friends whilst on a WCMT Fellowship!
  2. Meet people you think you disagree with. This is a weird situation to describe because I don’t want to mention names, but look for the people in your area of research that appear to have opposing views to you. Talking with these people will stretch your ideas, challenge you, and strengthen what you get out of the Fellowship. I met with a few people that I thought may hold opposing views to me, but after I’d heard their reasoning it was clear that we weren’t so different, and that taking their concerns into account was important if I ever wanted my Fellowship to achieve anything.
  3. Not all conversations need to be planned. I spoke to people looking around art galleries, science museums and exhibits – I didn’t know any of them before and I don’t know any of them now, but when you’re travelling alone you tend to have lots of conversations with other people that are travelling alone, or groups of people that feel a bit sorry for you wandering about by yourself. Those conversations can be just as valuable as the ones that are intentional.
Note taking
  1. This probably goes without saying, but taking notes after (or during) each of your meetings is crucial. I took two audio recorders with me, but ended up not using them because I was often meeting people in busy places where the sound quality would have been too terrible for me to ever want to listen back to. Instead, I used a pen & paper. I didn’t take notes during all of the meetings because I was conscious of wanting to really take part in the conversation, but after each meeting I spent 15-20 minutes writing notes to make sure I’d captured everything.
  2. As I said, I used a notebook – not a laptop, iPad or anything electronic. That meant I was entirely reliant on not losing the notebook. That was fine, it was small enough to live in my handbag, and it only came out for me to take notes. Still, I took photographs of each page after I’d written them, just in case. I prefer writing notes to typing them because I remember them more easily, but if you decide to go down that route I’d definitely recommend taking photographs just in case your notebooks gets lost.

At the very beginning of my Fellowship journey I was so overwhelmed, I don’t think I really believed it was going to happen until I started meeting people, but the main thing is to dedicate yourself to your project, and enjoy it! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Now to convince my boyfriend to apply for a WCMT Fellowship so that I can piggyback onto any future travel plans..

Returning home.

Living Artwork and Questioning the Ageing Process – a Visit to STATE Studio Berlin

I’m fiiinally making some time to write blog posts about all the wonderful places I’ve been as part of my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship over the last few months, so if you’re interested in science communication/how science can be communicated using art, then be sure to check back over the coming weeks. Last week I talked about a fantastic exhibition that I visited at the Red Dot Design Museum in Singapore, which was more data visualisation than art, so today I thought I’d highlight something that’s more obviously in the art sphere; STATE Studio in Berlin, Germany.

STATE Studio, Berlin

In between Fellowship trips (I did two legs – North America and Asia), I sneaked in a
weekend in Berlin. This wasn’t strictly Fellowship-based travel as it wasn’t in my itinerary, but STATE Studio’s work merging art and science is the reason I went to Berlin, so I’m counting it as part of the Fellowship
experience.

STATE Studio is a public gallery, showroom and event space that was established on the back of STATE Festival; Berlin’s festival for open science, art and society. The team also have an agency made up of a collective of artists, designers, scientists and cultural producers, to create innovative experiences to engage the public with science. The Studio part of STATE opened in October 2018 (after my Fellowship was funded, hence the last minute addition to my itinerary!), and is home to various exhibits that focus on cutting-edge scientific research, innovation, and creativity. In the words of STATE, “It’s a place for creative synergies between science, art, and innovation to discover and explore the breakthrough developments that shape our future.”

For me, the two standout exhibits were, the Living Canvas installation, and ÆON- Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR.

Living Canvas, Fara Peluso with biotech start-up Solaga
Artist Fara Peluso with her Living Canvas exhibit. Image credit: Anne Freitag Photography

The Living Canvas is the first thing you see when you walk into the STATE Studio space – at first glance it looks like a regular painting, but on closer inspection it’s clear that it really is living. Within a chunky glass frame is a growing algae biofilm, and it comes complete with external circuitry that supplies that algae with life-giving saline solution. What I found super interested is that the algae biofilm inside the Living Canvas is actually in constant interaction with the exhibition space itself; the algae is filtering the air around it, removing carbon dioxide and pollutants, and releasing oxygen and water – which you can see as little bubbles on the inside of the glass, giving the impression that the piece is sweating.

The Living Canvas was designed by artist Fara Peluso, in collaboration with Solaga, a Berlin-based biotech start-up which specializes in the development of innovative solutions for air filtrations and regenerative energy production based on algae biofilms. In interviews since the exhibition opened, Fara has explained that she wanted to initiate a discourse on sustainability and new technologies, and so created a work of art that will continue to develop over the course of the exhibition’s lifetime.

As part of the Living Canvas exhibit, Fara Peluso also runs an algae cultivation workshop at STATE. The Algature workshop combines DIY Biology and speculative design, giving attendees an opportunity to develop their own algae cultivation tool that they can then take home to purify the air in their own spaces.

ÆON- Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR, Emilia Tikka with the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)

After admiring the Living Canvas exhibit I headed upstairs to a bigger space which included the ÆON- Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR exhibit (I originally found out about STATE Studio from a piece that Nature did on this exhibit). This was one that I found really interesting because it’s a photography exhibit, and therefore something that could be translated into the format of a blog post with relative ease.

Photographs by Zuzanna Kaluzna form part of Emilia Tikka’s ÆON. Image credit: Anne Freitag Photography

STATE has a residency program, where artists spend an extended period of time within a scientific research environment. A residency is designed to provide an intimate link between artists and research institutions, in the hope that the artists can produce innovative work that defies convention and provokes curiosity, whilst also enabling scientists to reflect on the potential impact that their work may have on wider society. This exhibition was a result of Finnish artist and designer Emilia Tikka‘s residency at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC). There, she worked on uncovering the molecular hallmarks of ageing, and exploring the potential of CRISPR gene editing technology to reverse the biological clock. According to STATE, “ÆON- Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR – addresses philosophical and societal dimensions of the desire for eternal life.”

The main body of the exhibit is made up of photographs, styled and conceptualised by Emilia Tikka, and shot by Zuzanna Kaluzna. The photographs tell the fictional story of a potential future; a couple are given the choice to defy the ageing process – the man agrees to, and inhales the CRISPR therapy, the woman does not. The resulting images are confronting as you see the consequences of their decisions; the man ceases to age, and the woman continues to do so. The fictional inhaler that Tikka designed is also part of the exhibit.

Emilia Tikka’s speculative design for a CRISPR–Cas9 inhaler. Image credit: Anne Freitag Photography

Clearly, Emilia’s work is speculative; you absolutely cannot take CRISPR gene editing technology via an inhaler, and then never see another wrinkle again, but the potential for CRISPR to be able to do something like this isn’t actually that far fetched. The world’s media recently exploded when a scientist from China revealed that he’d used CRISPR to edit the genomes of human embryos so that they would be immune to HIV infection.

CRISPR is a perfect example of the speed that science is moving at, and just how far the ethical and societal impacts of that are lagging behind. In my opinion, this exhibit at STATE Studio is a great way to stimulate conversation around these complex scientific topics.

A Day in Data – SPREAD’s Life Stripe Exhibition

If you were to look at your day in 24 blocks of one hour, what do you think the biggest block of time would be spent doing?

Right now I’m in the thick of some of the worst jet lag I’ve ever had, so I’d hazard a guess at 50% of the time being asleep (usually in the middle of the day), a further 20% of the time spent in bed wishing I was asleep, and the rest doing, y’know, life (read: in search of food).

This idea of visualising a day in terms of blocks of activity has been used by a design collective called SPREAD. SPREAD, established in 2004, is made up of two Japanese designers, Haruna Yamada and Hirokazu Kobayashi. Their ‘Life Stripe’ project aims to “find patterns in our everyday existence by using bands of color“.

Haruna Yamada and Hirokazu Kobayashi

I saw the Life Stripe exhibit at the Red Dot Design Museum in Singapore; a relatively small museum that includes a beautiful design shop and cafe on the ground floor, with the exhibits on the floor above. I hadn’t planned to go to Red Dot at all, I’d spent the day at Singapore’s ArtScience museum (more on that in a later blog post), and had some time to kill in the Marina Bay area. After wandering around the bay and having what turned out to be the best salad I’ve ever eaten (from now on I’m putting watermelon and pistachios in every salad, ever), I caught sight of the Red Dot sign. I figured I’d go in and have a wander around, thinking that if it wasn’t great then at least I’d be out of the heat and in the comfort of decent air-conditioning for at least an hour. Turns out, it was one of my favourite places in Singapore; the Life Stripe exhibit being a main reason.

When you head up the stairs to get to the upper floor of Red Dot, the first thing you see is this:

SPREAD’s Life Stripe Key

A rectangular block striped with colours, that you then figure out correspond to the key below. Along with a few other museum visitors, I couldn’t walk away from this first image before deciphering what the coloured box was telling us – spoiler alert; this 24 hours is filled with a lot of work/study, some sleep, intermittent housework/chores, two mealtimes, and a spot of shopping.

In SPREAD’s words: “Life Stripe lets you see your daily, weekly or monthly routines in an exciting way, and helps you discover something about yourself. A Life Stripe work is a “pattern of life” made by replacing one’s everyday actions such as sleeping, dining, relaxing, and working, with 21 colors selected based on research, and recording them along a 24-hour axis.”

The striking thing about Life Stripe came later; a wall filled with 88 of these rectangles, each showing a different colour pattern. On closer inspection these blocks reflected the activity of different people, with different jobs and lifestyles.

Photograph of the Life Stripe exhibit, taken by Heidi on Sunday 10th February at the Red Dot Design Museum, Singapore

SPREAD collected over 150,000 life records of both well-known and ordinary people of various careers, circumstances, genders, age, as well as animals, and made Life Stripe works based on them. They continue to collect data to this day, and the work on show is just a small collection.

In the squares above you might be able to make out that a Graphic Designer has a pretty rigid routine, spending most of their time working, some emails and then sleep, whereas (perhaps unsurprisingly) a Pet Sitter has a more varied day with short time slots spent doing different things. As well as the job titles, the brief description underneath each of the coloured rectangles also gives age, gender and location.

They’re not all human either – this one for a cat got a lot of laughs as people uncoded the sleep-meal-hang out routine; though there was some discussion about whether this could have been a teenager or not..

 

I got thinking about this exhibit and how useful it would be to communicate what the day to day life of a specific career might look like to someone who isn’t familiar with it. I’d bet that if different types of Scientists made their own coloured blocks no two would be the same!

 

Some Pre-Adventure Thoughts

I’m currently sitting in Aberdeen airport waiting to board my 9th flight of 2019. This time I’m heading to Heathrow and then on to Singapore, where I’ll stay for a week before leaving for Hong Kong.

This travel thing has become almost second nature; I’ve got packing down to a fine art (if you don’t own packing cubes, then I suggest you buy some before your next trip), my travel outfit is now a signature combination of comfort, warmth and don’t-talk-to-me chic, and for the first time in my life my suitcase is 5kg under the baggage allowance.

I’m feeling good about this leg of my Fellowship adventures. I’m glad it’s only a two and a half week trip because the few days I’ve had at home disappeared way too quickly, and honestly, I spent a lot of time on the sofa doing accidental naps between the hours of 4pm and 9pm. The time I spent at home was a bit weird in terms of my thoughts too – I’ve had a lot of ~feelings~, including but not limited to: exhaustion, anticipation, surprise, dread, anxiety, pride, nostalgia, and excitement. At one point I was genuinely thinking about not going back to work in March – for no reason other than I didn’t think I’d be very good at it because I’ve been working on a different project for the last 6 weeks. HOW RIDICULOUS. Anyway, I’m pleased to report that my brain has calmed the F down, and I’m now excited for the 13 hour flight I have ahead of me (long haul flights are one of my favourite things), and I’m also excited to be getting back to real life on March 1st.

I do plan on making a few changes to things when I get back from my next adventure, but they’re little things that I want to allow myself time for. Things that got lost in the pre-Christmas rush, the pre-thesis hand-in rush, and the oh-my-God-it’s-2018 rush before that. 2018 was good, but I want my 2019 to be less frantic and more evenly paced.

I plan on implementing that even pacing into my Singapore/Hong Kong trip. There are a tonne of places I want to visit, people I want to speak to, and facets of my project that I want to explore further – but there is also a dog petting cafe 20 minutes from my hotel, and in the name of self-care, I will be visiting at least once.

If you have any recommendations for science, art, things to see, things to eat, or just places where I can interact with dogs without looking like a weirdo, please leave a comment below and let me know 🙂

Good Things: January 2019

My last post was a bit of a downer, so today’s blog post is intentionally designed to combat that. It’s all about good things, and I think I’m going to make this a monthly thing. If you enjoy it, let me know – give it a like, leave a comment, or perhaps think about ending your months by focussing on the good things.

As I’ve been exploring creative science communication techniques over the last few months I’ve been consuming a lot of online ‘content’ – YouTube videos, blog posts, Instagram and Twitter posts etc etc. A big focus of the Fellowship that I’m currently on involves exploring how science bloggers and micro-bloggers can learn from people doing creative things in other fields, and it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that science bloggers focus on science. That sounds dumb, but hear me out. People that blog about science tend to focus purely on science; often they’re not opening up and talking about their other hobbies and things they want to achieve in their personal lives for example. Clearly that’s a sweeping generalisation, but I think it holds at least some truth. In contrast, other fields of bloggers – usually ‘lifestyle’, ‘beauty’ or ‘fashion’ bloggers tend to open up a bit more, and that in turn makes it easier for people to engage with the content they produce. Ultimately these bloggers become sort of virtual friends to their viewers, and I think that’s a really nice way to improve engagement. I think we should be doing more of that it the sciences. Lots of these ‘other’ (clunky word, but basically I mean non-science bloggers) end each month with content that involves reflections on the best products they’ve used, books they’ve read or experiences they’ve had, so I’m bringing that to my blog for 2019.

So, enough waffle! I’m going to split things into 5 broad categories for now, mainly as a reminder that every single good thing about a month should not be related to food.

Good things about January 2019:

Excellent humans
Heidi with Dawn Bazely

This is the biggest category because I’ve been travelling and having so many incredible conversations with so many incredible people. I’ve chosen to highlight the 3 people that have made me think, inspired me to do better, and made me laugh, in that order:

  • Dawn Bazely – a powerhouse of a woman. I met Dawn in Toronto to talk all things science communication and engagement, not only did she spend time recounting her experiences with me, she boosted my confidence, made me laugh and invited me into her home. We need more people like this in the world.
  • Kyle Marian Viterbo – another incredible woman. Kyle is working hard to change the landscape of science communication; to make it inclusive, diverse and valued. After speaking to her I was simultaneously angry at the state of things now, and hopeful that there are people like her (and now me!) making a conscious effort to improve things.
  • Krishana Sankar – I’ve been following Krish on social media for aaaaages and we finally got to meet when I was in Toronto earlier this month. It felt like catching up with an old friend; lots of shared experiences and laughter, and I’m so glad that she’s part of the science communication community I’ve met online.
Cool places
Street art at Blagden Alley
  • Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, Washington DC – wonderful book shop that opens late and has a restaurant that serves incredible desserts. If I ever go missing, look here first.
  • Blagden Alley, Washington DC – two blocks of incredible street art with loads of good brunch places nearby.
  • ARTECHOUSE, Washington DC – a brilliant immersive art/science/technology experience.
  • STATE Studio, Berlin – teeny art/science studio that explores big science questions using art.
Book(s) of the month
Online media
One specific moment
  • Seeing my friend Lacy in New York after 5 years of communicating via very sporadic Skype sessions. We had a huuuuge catch up which was well overdue, when I was ill she brought me noodles and medicine, and she didn’t get too embarrassed when I shouted ‘I looooove youuuuuu’ down the hallway as she was leaving.
Work thing
  • Being invited to present work from my PhD at a conference later this year – this sounds like something really small, but being invited to talk anywhere still feels massive for me.

Writing all of that down makes it clear just how hectic and wonderful January was. Not every month will be so jam-packed (at least I hope not!), but I think it’s important to take some time to reflect and celebrate the good things, however big or small.

What have you loved about January? Leave a comment below and let me know 🙂