Why Is Science Communication Important?

Hi! It’s Lily again – and today I am going to be talking all about Science Communication or Sci Comm for short.

What is Science Communication? Who are Science Communicators? And crucially why is Science Communication important?

Keep reading to find out more …

What is Science Communication?

Science Communication is the practice of communicating science-related topics to non-experts. This often encompasses the communication of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) topics which we have discussed before.

The communication of science can take many forms, from written articles in newspapers, magazines and blogs to standing in front of a non-expert audience to give a lecture or leading an interactive science workshop for children. 

Sometimes science communication is known by other terms such as:

Public Engagement – this usually aims to engage the general public in two-way scientific conversations, about shared issues and problems, to hopefully benefit society as a whole.

Outreach – these activities are usually seen as public lectures, activities and workshops to encourage the public understanding of science and scientific research and are also often used to encourage school children to take up STEM study in higher education.

Science communication is so varied and vast in what it encapsulates …

Reference: https://www.big.uk.com/scicomm

What is the history of Science Communication in the UK?

In the UK Science Communication came to prominence in the 1980s. The scientific community was concerned that Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government had adopted a policy for scientific research that prioritised projects with quick-rewards over those of a more fundamental, ‘pure science’ nature.

It was felt this short-term approach was due to a failure of politicians and the wider public to understand STEM. More ‘public understanding of science’ was needed. So in 1985 the Royal Society published a report on ‘The Public Understanding of Science’, referred to as the Bodmer Report.

This report was pivotal, firstly it stated that scientists should consider it their duty to communicate to others about their work and its importance. Bodmer led to the creation of the Committee on Public Understanding of Science (COPUS), which organised funding schemes for Science Communication activities. Handing out prizes for new initiatives including ‘popular science’ books—of which there followed quite a boom, led by Stephen Hawking’s 1988 Brief History of Time.

In 1989, John Durant (the first UK Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Imperial College), Geoffrey Evans and Geoffrey Thomas published the first major survey of public understanding of science in the UK. They found high levels of interest, but that only 14% of British citizens could be called ‘scientifically literate’ according to tests of knowledge of scientific terms and processes.

Secondly Bodmer called for more science in the media, enthusiastically taken up by the BBC, which already had several TV and radio programs. Other broadcasters also increased their science offerings. Newspapers responded by appointing science journalists, correspondents and editors, and some introduced special science sections into their regular pages.

So who are Science Communicators?

There are many ways that you can be a Science Communicator:

  • Write as a science journalist at a national newspaper or magazine.
  • Work in a university press office to help promote the breakthrough stories from scientific research carried out by the academics.
  • Deliver science shows or organise events at science festivals, schools or science centres.
  • Design and make interactive exhibits for science centres.
  • Volunteer as a STEM Ambassador sharing your knowledge in schools and in the community.

I have been lucky enough to do lots of Science Communication from tours and workshops at science centres to volunteering at schools, to running coding clubs in youth centres and being a part of an incredible science festival! I love it, I find it so rewarding and could not recommend it enough!

I am particular passionate about inspiring more young women to pursue careers in STEM and getting young people excited and interested in STEM is a brilliant way to start!

So why is Science Communication important?

Some Science Communication can have a really powerful effect – take the success story that is Blue Planet II!

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet revolutionised the mindset of an entire nation. Millions of people in the UK were inspired and encouraged to change their habits. It managed to create real change in the way a nation thinks about single use plastics. It was reported that 88% of people who watched Blue Planet II changed their lifestyle in some way. Attitudes towards single-use bags, disposable plastic straws, and packaging will never be the same. According to research (by Waitrose), more than 60% of people use reusable water bottles more now than they did in 2017.

The Houses of Parliament announced a ban on single-use plastics and 60% of us also now more regularly use a refillable cup for takeaway coffeeWith 66% of 18 to 24-year-olds saying they were more likely to choose a reusable cup when out. In supermarkets customers are also increasingly buying unpacked fruit and vegetables. Sales of loose pears, for example, are growing at 30 times the rate of bagged pears. 

There is so much more to do but Science Communication can have real sweeping positive consequences across governmental policy and across society as a whole. Bringing important scientific issues to the forefront of people’s minds and leading to larger changes in habits and the way we live.

I believe excellent Science Communication like this, is important now more than ever in an age where we have an incredible amount of information at our fingertips all of the time. Unfortunately not all of it is factually accurate. The spread of misleading (and in some cases completely false) information is extremely prevalent.

The oversimplifying of scientific information is a very popular practice, otherwise known as “infotainment”, it focuses on describing new scientific discoveries in an entertaining fashion. This means important science is often sensationalised to get more views or findings are skewed or generalised to the extreme to make a good headline. The same goes for misleading graphs, stats and infographics and unfortunately, it is these that lend themselves beautifully to being widely circulated in the media. For example a study in Science found that fake news was 70% more likely to be retweeted than true news.

So we must continue to fight the barrage of misinformation and confusion with excellent, factually accurate and engaging Science Communication.

You can find out more about Science Communication and how to become a STEM Ambassador here.

Lily

2SistersInSTEM

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7 STEM Careers You Might Not Have Heard Of

Hi, Lily here! Today I am going to be talking about STEM careers you might not have heard of before.

It can be really difficult to know what career you might be interested in or what kind of job you think you would like to do. Once I had decided on studying Physics at university I thought that would make it easier to decide what career I might want to pursue, but in a way I think it made it even more tricky! As I worked through my degree and took the opportunities to gain experience in different areas I realised there were so many more careers out there than I ever thought possible!

As I discovered when I was researching possible career paths, there are so many resources all over the internet to help you find out about careers and about how you can pursue them! One of the most useful and clear is bbc bitesize careers. You can search for a job and find out from someone who does it how they started their career. You can also search for a subject you like and then see related careers you might be interested in – very useful if you’re an indecisive person like me!

Another really useful website for researching jobs is prospects where you can find extensive lists of jobs you could pursue depending on your favourite subject at school or what you are studying at University! To find out what apprenticeship might suit you best based on your interests, the apprenticeships.gov.uk website is a really good resource too!

So let’s crack on, these are 7 really interesting STEM careers that you might not have even know existed!

  1. Prosthetist

Prosthetists and orthotists care for people who need an artificial limb or a device to support or control part of their body.

Working as a prothestist might include:

  • designing and fitting surgical appliances (orthotics) like braces, callipers and splints
  • assessing a patient’s needs before they have an artificial limb or appliance fitted
  • taking measurements and using computer modelling to produce a design of the prosthetics or orthotics
  • carrying out follow-up checks with patients to see how they are coping with their device
  • making sure the appliance or limb is functioning properly, and is comfortable
  • carrying out adjustments or repairs

This is Becky, she’s a prosthetist and you can find out more about job and her story here

2. Patent Attorney

Patent attorneys advise clients on how to apply for patents on new inventions, designs or processes. To do this you need an understanding of scientific and technological principles and processes in order to understand the invention yourself and be able to explain it to others.

Working as patent attorney may include:

  • meeting inventors or manufacturers 
  • searching existing patents to check the invention or design is original
  • writing a detailed legal description of the invention or design – known as a patent draft
  • applying for patents to the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office
  • advising clients whose patent rights may have been broken
  • representing clients if a case comes to court
  • advising on other issues like design rights and copyright

This is George, he is a Trainee Patent Attorney. To find out more about what the job is like and his story check out the video below

3. Games Designer

As a games designer, you use creative and technical skills to design video games. You bring ideas, build prototypes, create interactive narration and develop the game’s mechanics.

Working as a games designer may include:

  • using your creativity to design games for a range of devices and platforms that engage and capture the imagination of the user
  • consider, plan and detail every element of a new game including the setting, rules, story flow, props, vehicles, character interface and modes of play
  • creating a concept document and using this to convince the development team that the game is worth proceeding with
  • conducting market research to understand what your target audience wants
  • leading on the user experience (UX) design of the game, ensuring players have the best experience

This is Rhianne, she’s a games designer and you can find out more about her story here

4. Solar Farm Manager

A solar farm manager, manages a number of solar farm sites across the UK, these are fields of solar panels storing and converting energy from the sun.

Working as a solar farm manager might include:

  • Dividing your time between office-based work and visiting sites to check they are running correctly
  • In the office you could be checking power and energy readings to make sure the solar panels are working correctly
  • When visiting sites you might be inspecting the cables and electrical equipment. Including measuring the output of electrical current from solar panels, and using thermal cameras to check the temperature of the cables is within a safe range

This is Manish, he is a solar farm manager and you can find out more about his story here

5. Cyber Security Analyst

Cyber security analysts help to protect an organisation by employing a range of technologies and processes to prevent, detect and manage cyber threats. This can include protection of computers, data, networks and programmes.

Working in cyber security might include:

  • researching/evaluating emerging cyber security threats and ways to manage them
  • planning for disaster recovery in the event of any security breaches
  • monitoring for attacks, intrusions and unusual, unauthorised or illegal activity
  • designing new security systems or upgrade existing ones
  • engaging in ‘ethical hacking’, for example, simulating security breaches
  • identify potential weaknesses and implement measures, such as firewalls and encryption

Funmi works in cyber security you can find out more about her job and her journey below

6. Ecologist

As an ecologist, you’ll be concerned with ecosystems – the abundance and distribution of organisms (people, plants, animals), and the relationships between organisms and their environment. You usually specialise in a particular area, such as freshwater, marine, terrestrial, fauna or flora, and carry out a range of tasks relating to that area.

Working as an ecologist might include:

  • conducting field surveys to collect biological information about the numbers and distribution of organisms
  • carrying out taxonomy – the classification of organisms
  • using a range of sampling and surveying techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), aerial photography, records and maps
  • carrying out environmental impact assessments
  • analysing and interpret data, using specialist software programs
  • working on habitat management and creation
  • keeping up to date with new environmental policies and legislation

Gabrielle is an ecologist, you can find out more about her job and her story here

Gabrielle at work, smiling to camera.

7. Science Journalist

As a science journalist you’ll research, write and edit scientific news, articles and features, for business, trade and professional publications, specialist scientific and technical journals, and the general media. Science writers need to understand complex scientific information, theories and practices and be able to write in clear, concise and accurate language that can be understood by the general public.

Working as a science journalist might include :

  • producing articles for publication in print and online
  • conducting interviews with scientists, doctors and academics and establishing a network of industry experts
  • attending academic and press conferences
  • visiting research establishments
  • reading and researching specialist media and literature, e.g. scientific papers, company reports, newspapers, magazines and journals, press releases and internet resources including social media
  • attending meetings or taking part in conference calls with clients, scientists or other writers
  • reviewing and amending work in response to editor feedback

Rosie is a science journalist you can find out more about her job and her story here

A young woman stands smiling at the camera in front of her busy desk, with her arms folded

There are so many exciting STEM careers out there! It really is incredible the variety that are available and the number of different pathways you can take to end up working in STEM!

Lily

2 Sisters in STEM

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