On 22nd and 23rd April, the UK Polar Network held a workshop at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Funded under the Education and Outreach aims of the British Antarctic Territory (Foreign Commonwealth Office), the workshop was entitled “Science and Society: do they have to be Poles apart?”
The entire focus was to look at ways early career researchers could engage with the public more successfully, and to give our attendees the skills and confidence to make their science more accessible to the wider audience.
Our first day keymnote was delivered by Dr Sian Henley, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh. Throughout her astonishingly successful early career in science, Sian has always “gone the extra mile”, and taken part in countless science festivals, school visits and public engagement events. She spoke enthusiastically of the benefits of public engagement, and really set the scene for the two days ahead. Matt Donnelly, of the British Oceanographic Data Centre, followed up with an introduction on communication within science – how can we make our data and programming more accessible within even our own fields? The resounding question left in every ones minds was “Will your data be accessible and useable to repeat the studies in 5 years time? 20 years? 100 years?”. Matts talk was kindly sponsored by the Software Sustainability Institute.
The afternoon session led us into two interactive workshops – one by Dr Jon Copley of the NOC on “Does outreach make you a better researcher?” He firmly argued the point of yes, and gave some excellent examples of dealing with the media. This was followed by Kim Marshall-Brown, of the NOC communications department who discussed the role of science in the printed media, how little science features in the average daily newspaper, and how to liaise with your press team to help them help you.
Day two began with an excellent keynote from David Derbyshire (the keynote session was kindly supported by the NOC communications team). A freelance environmental journalist, David has written for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail amongst others. His vast experience with the national media led to a great discussion, and was particularly eye opening when considering the readership of national papers when compared to the ones that are more popular in the field of science. David was followed by a presentation from Ella Darlington and Laura Hobbs (Loughborough University and Scottish Association for Marine Science respectively) who presented on their own experiences of social media, blogging from the field, school outreach, and making podcasts.
Vijay Shah, of several Arctic expeditions, gave an excellent “crash course” in Polar film and photography – something that nearly all of the attendees had very little experience in! Key tips, such as the best time of day to take a photo, and getting the perfect person:landscape:sky ratio were discussed, along with how to make your films the sort that people just can’t pause! Our two interactive afternoon sessions featured Liz Pasteur from the International Polar Foundation with their amazing interactive maps and hands on experiments! Participants had the chance to reconstruct Antarctica (something most found surprisingly/embarrassingly difficult!), and conduct the experiments on albedo, the contribution of sea ice and glacial melt on sea level rise, and thermal expansion of water. The final session was a great overview of science communication from Helen Czerski (University College London) – covering important but often not considered topics such as communicating error, and simplifying without dumbing down.
The workshop was a great success, and we’ve had some really positive comments from participants. There was a total of 40 attendees, made up of a variety of early career levels from undergraduate to early post doc, and from a range of institutes including Bristol University, University of Southampton, Reading University, and Queen Mary London, amongst others.
A big thanks to all of our supporters, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the British Antarctic Territory, Loughborough University and the Software Sustainability Institute. Thank you to all of the facilities, reception, estates and catering staff at the NOC, Southampton, who put in a tremendous amount of effort to help the workshop run smoothly. Finally, a huge thanks to all of our speakers who gave their time and effort to contribute to the workshop. With special thanks to Kim Marshall-Brown at the NOC, who not only provided a session of her own, but assisted us with both time and finances extensively to help with finding and booking other aspects of the programme.
Thanks to all those that attended, and we look forward to seeing you at future UKPN events!