Thoughts from the British Sci. Assoc. Science Communication Conference – sharing knowledge with new science communicators

I’m writing this on my way back from the British Science Association Science Communication Conference, having had a fun two days meeting other science communicators. There was a good range of topics discussed, from reaching under-served audiences to science comedy to the gap between science communication theory and practice, and several conversations I wish could have lasted longer.

While there were lots of comments on each topic I particularly wanted to flag up one that resonated with me as a relative newcomer (this was the first time I’d attended this conference). It was said (sorry, can’t recall who by and this is me paraphrasing anyway) that we didn’t need to know everything ourselves provided someone in the community knew it, and we knew where to find that knowledge. I know at least one of the other  members was feeling a bit bewildered at the conference so perhaps this is something we need to work on.

I’d quite like there to be two things which I don’t think exist so far, although I may of course be mistaken in which case I’d just like pointing to them. Firstly I’d like a list of resources useful to someone starting out in science communication, from advice to how to get involved with different types of events to tips for while you are actually running the event. I’m sure these resources exist all over the web, but it would be quite nice to create a one-stop shop for someone new, as well as possibly pointing out more “advanced” resources for people who are wanting to develop their sci comm activities, especially in relation to the latest sci comm theory.

Secondly I know that it can be quite hard to admit when you don’t know something and need someone to help, particularly when you don’t really know many other people doing that kind of science communication (I’ve been very lucky to meet lots of helpful people very quickly, but not everyone will be that lucky). While there are email lists like psci-com, I was wondering if people starting out would like a less public method of reaching out for help, with their questions going only to a few people with experience of helping people to start in that area. Would people be interested in some sort of list of “mentors” who can effectively help people introduce themselves to the community and find resources and advice for a particular area?

Obviously these are just initial thoughts, I’d love to hear from science communicators both new and old if they think these things would be useful and if they would be interested in helping me set them up. I’m also happy to be told that there are much more sensible ways of going about this too if you disagree. Also please point out any potential issues that we’d have to be wary of – for instance I don’t want to set things up so that there are effectively gatekeepers to the community, nor to make it so that everyone is doing things in exactly the same way, with no room for different views and methods.

Thanks once again to everyone involved for putting on a great conference, and I hope to see lots of you again soon.

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7 Responses to Thoughts from the British Sci. Assoc. Science Communication Conference – sharing knowledge with new science communicators

  1. nicolajrolfe says:

    Thanks for this, Michael. SciComm13 was my first SciComm conference, and I remember feeling very similarly coming away from that. While I’ve gathered a lot over that past year, and certainly felt more aware of the issues this conference, I’m still learning too (I hope we all are!). I’ve come away with yet more things I need to research. One of the things that was mentioned is the ‘collective memory’? Apart from that, I would suggest that you look at the NCCPE’s website. They have loads of resources and run a smaller email network that might suit your needs. There was a great ‘resources’ page on British Science Association’s website that they linked to in one of the SciComm14 event emails. I think it’s super useful to follow as many sci comm people as possible on twitter, and people are usually quite willing to share advice if it fits in less than 140 characters!

    • Michael Conterio says:

      Hi Nicola, thanks for those suggestions. Both the Collective Memory and the NCCPE are actually linked on the BSA resources page, as I’ve found out. Looks like I’ve got lots of reading to do!

      Also, I’ve been building up more and more sci comm people on twitter, especially after the conference! I think I’m finally beginning to “get” twitter, while before I was unsure as to what it was for. I’ve taken a look at your blog too, and added that to my list of blogs to follow.

  2. Amelia says:

    As a recent undergraduate currently exploring opportunities in science communications in Canada, I completely agree with these thoughts! I found that identifying someone to talk to in the field was initially quite difficult, so it would be great to have a list of mentors online.

    • Michael Conterio says:

      Hi Amelia. Glad you liked the post. I’ve begun following a bunch of people of twitter as Nicola suggested, and I guess I should make a list of them so that other people can easily find them.

      Also I’ve added your blog to my RSS reader too.

      • Amelia says:

        Thanks for following my blog! If you notice things that I should work on, or things that you think I do really well, please let me know. I’m still new at blogging. Twitter is a really good networking tool. A list of the people you’ve identified would be a great resource. I could share the ones I follow too (primarily people in the US and Canada at this point).

  3. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for a great blog post and we’re delighted that you enjoyed the Conference.

    We’ve got some resources on our website that aim to help people starting out in SciComms here: http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/science-society/public-engagement-resources. If anyone has anything that they think we should link to, do let us know!

    Best wishes,
    Toby Shannon
    British Science Association

    • Michael Conterio says:

      Toby, thanks for that link. I’m not sure how I managed to miss the BSA resources page when I’ve used the website before, but now I feel somewhat sheepish! I guess also when googling for things I was looking for the wrong thing. I tried “Science Communication How To” which got me the BSA Sci Comm Conference page but not the resources page, and also a few courses. Googling “Science Communication Guide” mostly got me textbooks.

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