Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nerdnite and stuff.

I've now got the talk titles and summaries in for the next Auckland Nerdnite. There's a talk on why birds aren't any bigger than they are. One on conspiracy theories and why we should take them seriously - not the actual theories but the existence of the theories (and theorists). And one on lasers. Should hopefully, with the lessons I've learnt over the past couple of sessions, be good (seriously, who doesn't like lasers).

 It's also Open Access Week, promoting open access in scholarship. When research is published in open access journals, for those that don't know, it is freely accessible to the public. This is view by many (including me) as a sensible thing. Not only because in many cases it's the public that pays for a lot of the research in the end, but because it makes it easier for researchers to get to and build upon others work.

When Siouxsie Wiles was talking about it recently, she was asked what her role was. it got her thinking about her role in communicating science to the public. After all, having research available to those of the public who are interested is part of the battle. That doesn't necessarily make it comprehensible, thus the suggestion of adding an easily understandable summary of the main findings of papers. Something which I think also has potential. The dense language that scientists use in many papers can be (and is) used badly by many, but it can also be a method of condensing work down to make it more easily communicable to others in the same field. A step back from that in a summary would probably be a good thing both for inter-disciplinary communication and communication with the world at large.

I popped up with my standard question, which I'm almost sick of me asking. That being how do you engage with the adult population who don't really care? And I'm beginning to think there isn't really an answer. The best we can do I suspect, is tell people about the science and why it's absurdly cool. Hopefully some of those people will end up talking to those who aren't engaged and getting them enthused. Or at least curious. Which is partly what I hope nerdnite will do. It's preaching to the choir with the hope that the choir will do the work.

There's a distinct lack of initiatives that reach out to those who don't particularly care about what science is doing. And I can't go and talk to them all, so I talk to those who want to listen and hope they talk to others. It all I've got. And besides, as David Winter says, he “doesn’t quite understand how anyone can do science without wanting to tell the world about it ”. 


  1. Don't know if you can access it but the BBC has a new show out called Dara O Brian's Science Club, which as a non-scientist I'm really enjoying. It follows on from a radio show called 'The Infinite Monkey Cage'. Basically, both shows are combining comedy and science, which is doing a lot to raise the profile of science in the UK, along with the fact that the BBC has some really interesting programming about different topics.

  2. That has got to be worth listening to, ta muchly. I rather like Mr O'Brian's comedy.

    Also, the Infinite Monkey cage is back for another season as of today. Talking about space exploration with Patrick Stewart. Rock.