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This blog is currently on hiatus owing to work commitments. Whilst I still keep an eye on the goings on at RiAus, and contribute to the work of the good folks at eLife, little will be added to this blog for the foreseeable future. Simon Says remains open for business, albeit at a reduced capacity. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope the archive of content found here will prove to be of interest.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Public Engagement in Science skills challenge!

ONE of the key challenges in science communication is the relay of precise, specific information to a (largely) non-expert audience. A further challenge is to find and use opportunities in which to flex such skills. Often a spark of interest from an inquisitive punter can be quickly dampened by the need to explain background information as a prelude to the correct factual answer; in fact, it might be better to twist the initial question to the more impactful ‘why is this interesting?’, bringing in layers of detail as and when they are required rather than from the start. Nonetheless, one should never shy from explaining the tough stuff, because sooner or later you will need to, and you better be equipped for when your fleeting opportunity arises. Certain topics, by rote of glamour and prior exposure, are more digestible to the public than others, and are consequently easier to talk about.

These thoughts come from a conversation had today between a number of students, scientists and public engagement aficionados on Twitter, and from it I suggested to one of our undergraduate students that he ought to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, and just write. It is only then that you truly appreciate what certain audiences know, and what makes good communication.

As the idea developed, it became something worthy of a bigger challenge, to which I now invite you to participate. This is open to all who have an interest in science writing and communication, but particularly those who have never tried before.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s precisely why you should join in!