Celebrating science communication talent in the South West

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On 21st June, UWE Bristol’s Science Communication Unit welcomed over 100 delegates to X Block on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus to celebrate regional ‘sci comm’ talent and debate how researchers and practitioners can harness this resource to begin addressing today’s most pressing societal, economic and planetary challenges.

Keynote with Carla Almeida_Credit Tom Sparey

After a warm welcome from Professor Olena Doran, the key note speaker, Dr Carla Almeida offered insights into the challenges of communicating science and health related issues in the Favela surrounding the Museum of Life in Rio De Janeiro, her home city in Brazil. She spoke passionately of how the Museum is reaching out to the local community, training students from the local area as science communicators and raising their aspirations. These students help to break down barriers between favelas and Foundation Oswaldo Cruz in which the Museum is located. The Museum also takes part in the annual Carnival which draws in the community. At the heart of what they do is a mission to foster a two-way dialogue with local people so they can begin to address some of the socio-environmental and health related issues facing the community of which they are a part.

Coffee breaks offered networking_Credit Tom Sparey
Coffee breaks offered networking_Credit Tom Sparey

Several parallel sessions throughout the day built on this theme, including With Whom Do You Communicate? A sessionthat introduced two novel projects (Black2Nature and STFC’s The Wonder Initiative) that aim to widen participation in science, technology and nature conservation; and Letting Go of What’s Not Serving Us, which crowdsourced solutions to the difficulties of using academic language when trying to engage with local communities.

Binning the jargon with Malcom Gladwell from Mufti Games_credit Tom Sparey
Binning the jargon with Malcom Gladwell from Mufti Games_credit Tom Sparey

Talking of academic language, in a joint interactive session between James Nobles (NIHR CLAHRC West), Zoe Banks Gross (Knowle West Media Centre) and Malcolm Hamilton (Mufti Games) gave delegates a chance let go (and bin) the jargon that wasn’t serving them, an exercise they play with low socio-economic status residents across Bristol to get them moving and to discuss how effectively physical activity guidelines are communicated.  

Huddling in for a story with Dawn Ellis_credit Tom Sparey

The voices and perspectives on the day were truly diverse, as were the types of sessions and activities on offer. You could have chosen to play Periodic Table Top Trumps or taken part in a decision-making simulation run by Ruth Larbey of the Science Communication Unit, while during lunch there was opportunity to explore UWE grounds with a guided nature walk by Richie Fleuster and discover what’s being done to improve biodiversity across our campuses. The day ended with a keynote from speakers representing Eden Project, I’m A Scientist, We The Curious and The Natural History Consortium, among others. During the drinks reception storyteller Dawn Ellis seamlessly wove in highlights from the day into a tale about ninja’s from the West Country on a mission to save the world.

The conference was so well received that we are already being asked when we will host the next one, and believe this event has successfully reminded people of the role of the Science Communication Unit regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Over the coming weeks we will be sharing articles on our blog about the event, including one on how to design inclusive events.

We’re looking forward to the next one already!

Sophie Laggan, Project Coordinator: Sci Comm South West Conference 2019

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