Monday, April 13, 2015

Science Café Thursday!

Come to Altitude Chophouse and Brewery Thursday April 16th at 5:30 for our Science Café!  

Brian Barber calls the Science Café “bite-size science.”  The culmination of a five-week workshop, the event is a joint effort between UW’s Biodiversity Institute and Wyoming EPSCoR with additional support from the UW Botany Department, Program in Ecology, the Haub School, and the Zoology Department.  

Barber partnered with journalist, Willow Belden, who is working with the students and early-career scientists to communicate with the public.  As Barber says, “It’s an opportunity for scientists to step out of their world and talk to the public.”

Workshop participants started with a basic elevator pitch before progressing to mock media interviews.  Participants are “all across the board” in terms of scientific disciplines – ranging from neuroscience to zoology.  Belden, the host of the Out There podcast and former Wyoming Public Radio reporter, says, “It’s been a good mix.  Even though they’re all scientists, they’re having to work to communicate with each other.”

The tone of the Science Café’s presentations is lighthearted and easy to understand.  Barber prefers the term “interactions.”  As he says, “talks implies that it's a one-way communication.”  More interactive than a lecture, the Café is a chance for scientists to present their world to the public in an accessible format. 

The 5-week class series leading the Science Café was inspired by Belden’s work as a journalist for Wyoming Public Radio.  (Belden is currently host and executive producer for the Out There podcast.) She enjoyed interviewing scientists on the air but found that they were often “speaking different languages,” and that jargon made it difficult to put together dynamic stories about current research.  “I did a little research, and I could only find a handful of universities that offer classes like this - although there may be more informal workshops and seminars.”

Belden hopes to design a longer course with more focus on presentations.  An expanded curriculum could include written work, like a blog entry or editorial, and incorporate guest speakers.  As a journalist, she sees a strong need for researchers to openly discuss science and public policy. 

Both Belden and Barber are confident that these workshops have a broad appeal, and that they are an important part of science education.  As Belden says, “There some scientists that are naturally good at talking, but for everyone else these are skills that can be learned.”

Posted by Jess White.

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