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New Co-Directors for the Science Communication Unit - March 2017

In March 2017 Dr Emma Weitkamp and Dr Clare Wilkinson were officially appointed as Co-Directors of the Science Communication Unit. Clare will now take primary responsibility for activities in the Unit in relation to the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, whilst Emma will take primary responsibility for activities in relation to the Faculty of Environment and Technology at UWE Bristol.

Having recently collaborated on the book Creative Research Communication: Theory and Practice, Emma and Clare look forward to working together in leading the Science Communication Unit. Clare and Emma would like to thank Professor Alan Winfield, former Science Communication Unit Director, for his work in leading the Unit until 2016. 

New staff and students in 2017!

2017 started with one new staff member and two new PhD students joining the Science Communication Unit at UWE Bristol.

Kate Turton joins the team as a Research Fellow, developing ideas for collaborative projects with academic and research staff in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences. She holds a first degree in Biochemistry and a PhD in Structural Molecular Biology and has spent 13 years working in higher education policy and research funding.

David Judge has started his PhD after completing his MSc Science Communication at UWE in 2014. Since then he has worked at At-Bristol Science Centre and he is also a member of Rising Ape, who produce immersive live science events, theatre and games for adult audiences. His PhD will follow the development of the Eden Project's forthcoming Invisible Worlds exhibition, investigating how Eden's visitors learn about complex scientific and environmental topics.

Ivaylo Slavov has also started his PhD which seeks to shed light on the social impact of the relatively new Children’s Science Centre Muzeiko in Sofia, Bulgaria, opening in October 2015. Ivo is a passionate science communicator with over 20 years experience in weather forecasting for media and aviation. He is also one of the founders of the Sofia Science Festival, established in 2011, and has been a judge for FameLab in Bulgaria.

Welcome to the team Kate, David and Ivaylo.

Science Communication Unit at PCST 2016

Science Communication Unit staff at PCST 2016

The Science Communication Unit was well represented at the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Conference held on the 26-28 April 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Clare Wilkinson, Emma Weitkamp and Achintya Rao spent a busy few days hearing about the latest research and practice in science communication, and were also joined by Ann Grand (now based at the University of Western Australia) to share their ideas and experiences.

The team were involved in a number of panels, discussing topics including PhD research in science communication, the role of research press offices, online training in science communication and what happens next to science communication graduates. They also presented research on public participation in engagement, attitudes towards outreach in the particle-physics community and visitors’ experiences at an arts festival. Finally, Clare and Emma presented a poster on their new book; Creative Research Communication. The conference allowed an opportunity to meet many enthusiastic science communicators and researchers from around the world, and the SCU wish PCST all the best for the next conference in 2018 which will be hosted by the University of Otago in New Zealand.

'Creative Research Communication: Theory and Practice' by SCU staff Clare Wilkinson and Emma Weitkamp published March 2016

A new book authored by SCU staff Clare Wilkinson and Emma Weitkamp was published in March 2016. Aimed at researchers interested in engaging the public with their work and postgraduate students, this book provides a theoretically grounded introduction to new and emerging approaches to public engagement and research communication.

Clare Wilkinson said, 'We are delighted to see this book published by Manchester University Press. Crafted by our many years experience in teaching and working with researchers and students, from lots of different backgrounds and perspectives, we hope it will assist those who are looking for practical advice, alongside an understanding of best practice.'

'The chapter structure, top tips and links to examples from a variety of different countries and subject areas will allow readers to dip in, or read each chapter in turn to develop a contemporary picture of research communication and engagement in its many different guises.'

Emma Weitkamp said: ‘Over the years, we’ve noticed a lack of books that cover non-traditional routes for research communication, such as arts approaches, digital engagement and crowd-source research. This book sets out specifically to address this gap.'

‘We also included case studies covering a range of different techniques and research disciplines. These practical discussions with experts in the field offer an insight into what is possible if you think creatively about your communication approach.’

The book covers practical approaches to research engagement, from face-to-face communication in novel settings, such as festivals, through to artistic approaches, before considering new and emerging digital tools and approaches, as well as ethical considerations in relation to public engagement and the impact of research.

'In the process of developing this book we came across so many interesting, novel and dynamic examples of research communication, it was a pleasure to develop and we hope readers enjoy exploring such examples in the context of their own work' said Clare.

Winners announced of new international science writing competition - July 2015

The Science Communication Unit at UWE and BBC Focus magazine announced the winners of the 2015 Science Writing Competition on July 30 2015. The science writing competition was aimed at non-professional science writers. Entrants were invited to write and submit a 700-word article about “The science that will transform our future”.

In its inaugural year, the competition received entries from aspiring writers around the world. The winner in the '20 and Under' category was 14 year old Emily Clements. Emily's essay, 'Charging Ahead with the Future', looked at the research into aluminium-ion based batteries that could replace today's ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries and transform the way we store energy.

The judges said, “Emily's story is a delight to read. It addresses an issue we are all obsessed with – keeping our mobile phones charged, and presents us with, what looks like, a feasible fix for a frustration we all face. Given Emily's age, her writing is outstanding.”

The prize in the 'Over 21' category was awarded to Emily Coyte (aged 24), for her essay, 'The Spectrum in Your Pocket'. Emily's work focused on the development of tiny spectrometers we could carry in our pockets, that could be used to detect what's inside everything, from a glass of wine to a pill we're about to take.

The judges said: “Emily's choice of topic is original and she wrote about it with credibility and authority; she made a convincing case that this is technology we should sit up and pay attention to. She does this while explaining the science beautifully. Emily is clearly a talented writer.”

The four-strong panel of judges consisted of, Andy Ridgway and Dr Emma Weitkamp, from the University's Science Communication Unit, former Editor of BBC Focus magazine, Graham Southorn, and David Shukman, the BBC's Science Editor.

Andy Ridgway says, “Our aim in setting up this competition was to showcase the wealth of new science writing talent out there, and the response has been phenomenal. We've had entries from Sri Lanka, Egypt, the US, Canada, Australia, Pakistan and across the UK. We're already planning next year's event, so if you love writing about science, watch this space.”

For a full list of the winners, runners up, as well as work that was highly commended, please visit the competition webpage.

Science in Public 2015 conference and PCST Summer School - July 2015

The 2015 Science in Public conference welcomed around 80 researchers and practitioners in science communication and public engagement, from PhD students to professors, for two days of intense discussion and debate in four workshops and 35 individual presentations.

Participants came from around the world, including speakers from Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, UK and the USA.

Before the conference, we were privileged to host the annual international Doctoral Summer School of the Public Communication of Science and Technology Network, organised by academics at UWE, Dublin City University, University of Delft and University College London. Many of the summer school participants also presented papers at the conference.

The keynote speaker, Professor Maja Horst of the University of Copenhagen, looked at issues of culture and identity in science communication and Paul Manners, from the UK National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, closed the conference with personal reflections on what it means to be a science communicator.

After the conference, we will be putting together a commentary for the Journal of Science Communication (JCom); we have asked a group of presenters from the conference to examine the concept of ‘impact’ from a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. We hope the commentary will be published in late 2015.

Science Live - January 2015

Science Live is a new transatlantic pilot study to research what makes a public science event tick.

The Festival of Nature, British Science Week and Bristol Food Connections are just some of the popular science events that engage approximately half of the UK population each year. Now in a bid to catalogue and research the impact of live science events in the UK and US, a new transatlantic pilot study, Science Live has been announced.

The study brings together researchers from Cornell University and UWE Bristol, working with science festival managers at MIT and the University of Cambridge to explore the differences between the huge varieties of live science events and to develop research questions about how they affect their audiences.

Find out more about the Science Live project.

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