Science Communication Unit news archive

News archive

MSc Broadcasting Science Work on UWE YouTube channel - Sept 2014

Our 13/14 Broadcasting science students produced two fascinating films last spring, both based in the South West. In addition to the short films being played in central Bristol over the summer months, you can now find them on the UWE Bristol YouTube channel. One film focuses on Fossil Hunting, whilst the other takes a look at the re-introduction of cranes in the local area. We would like to congratulate all students involved in these examples, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. The module Broadcasting Science is available within our MSc Science Communication programme.

MSc Science Communication Graduate presents BBC series - August 2014

During August 2014 you may have caught a glimpse of our very own MSc graduate, Patrick Aryee, presenting a new BBC series Super Senses. We’re delighted to see Patrick on our screens and hope that he will return to speak to us soon about his experiences in filming and presenting this series.

Find out more about the Super Senses series.

Bristol Bright Night - August 2014

Friday 26 September saw Bristol’s streets come to life as Bristol Bright Night (part of the Europe-wide Researchers' Night Programme) swept through the city for the first time with a programme of free activities, giving the public the chance to discover the wealth of scientific research taking place on their doorstep. SCU's Dr Margarida Sardo, was responsible for leading on the evaluation and impact work package.

Find out more about the Bristol Bright Night project.

SCU to evaluate Wellcome Trust sponsored events at Latitude Festival 2014 - June 2014

Margarida Sardo and Ann Grand from the Science Communication Unit were appointed to conduct an evaluation of Wellcome Trust-sponsored events at the 2014 Latitude Festival. Events in the Wellcome Trust strand explored Latitude 2014’s theme of ‘Secrets and Lies: What is Your Truth’ from the perspective of science, with a particular focus on the way in which secrets have an impact through neuroscience and biomedical science. 

Find out more about the Latitude Festival Evaluation project.

Two publications from SCU in prestigious journal - May 2014

Within the same week, Supara Kamolpattana and Ann Grand from the SCU both  had papers published in the high-impact (impact factor 1.724) journal Public Understanding of Science.

Supara's paper "Thai visitors’ expectations and experiences of explainer interaction within a science museum context" looked at the relationships between visitors and explainers in museums. While explainers are believed to significantly enhance visitors' experiences in museums, most of the research in this area has been in western contexts. Supara's research looked at explainers’ and visitors’ interactions in the Thai National Science Museum. She found explainers tended to focus on a factual approach, but visitors' learning could be enhanced by making use of the traditional Thai 'pseudo-sibling' relationship, which helped overcome Thais' social reserve; something which has implications for training and museum practice in non-Western cultures.

Ann's paper "Mapping the hinterland: data issues in open science" considered the relationship between open science and public engagement with science. Although the practice of open science has the potential to support information flow, collaboration and dialogue, Ann's research showed that there are three particular areas of concern: first, how to make information accessible, as opposed to simply available; second, concerns about the quantity and quality of data coming from open research; and third, concerns about the skills required for effective contextualisation, mapping and interpretation of information.

Both papers were written with the help and support of their PhD supervisors: for Supara, Drs Clare Wilkinson, Neil Willey and Karen Bultitude and for Ann, Professor Alan Winfield and Drs Clare Wilkinson and Karen Bultitude.

Evolving Science Communication: 10 years of science communication at UWE - 4 April 2014

2014 saw UWE Bristol's Science Communication Unit (SCU) celebrating a decade of postgraduate programming at the University.

To mark the event, we held a one-day conference at the Watershed in Bristol on Friday 4 April 2014. Throughout the day, MSc graduates gave presentations about the industry, charities and companies they are now working in, alongside plenary talks from Chief Executive of the British Science Association, Imran Khan, and Professor Frank Burnet, who originally set up the MSc with Dr Emma Weitkamp of the SCU.

The conference proved to be a great success, and was enjoyed by delegates (of whom around a fifth were graduates from our programmes) and presenters alike. The Science Communication Unit @SciCommsUWE Twitter feed captures some of the online discussion, along with a blog and Storify of the day.

See the full press release.

Can robots beat nature? - April 2014

Researchers from the Science Communication Unit developed public engagement opportunities for roboticists at Bristol Robotics Laboratory in UWE.

The Robots vs Animals project saw engineers collaborate with zoologists to showcase how humans have learned from the ingenuity of nature. The project was funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering to develop interactive events that explore nature-inspired robots, and give public audiences the chance to decide which is best: the creature or creation.

Robots vs Animals project leader Laura Fogg Rogers, a Research Fellow in the SCU, said: "We are so excited to be working with Bristol Zoo on this creative project. Animals can beat us humans hands-down with their superhuman senses and abilities - just think of the grip strength of a gorilla or the sensitivity of a rat's whiskers. But in this project we also get to showcase human ingenuity - demonstrating the robots which combine skills that nature has evolved over millennia."

Open Day to present proposals for a pedestrian bridge over Bridge Valley Road - Feb 2014

Community involvement is a vital part of any planning process, especially ahead of Bristol’s Green Capital Year 2015. The Science Communication Unit is pleased to be working with UWE’s Department of Architecture and the Built Environment to organise public engagement for a planned sustainable bridge project.

Research Fellow Laura Fogg Rogers collaborated with Dr Adrienn Tomor, a bridge engineer, to inform the public about classical masonry bridge building. The planned bridge will span Bridge Valley Road to enable safe crossing of pedestrians and cyclists across the Downs in Bristol.

The first open day was held on Saturday 15 March 2014 and updates were placed on the bridge website.

Find out more about the project.

Evolving Science Communication: 10 years of science communication at UWE

In 2014 we were delighted to be celebrating the ten year anniversary of science communication postgraduate programmes at UWE. Further to our first Evolving Science Communication conference held in 2009 in 2014 we will provided an additional conference opportunity, specifically aimed to provide a platform for discussion between experts in both the practitioner and academic communities.

The one-day conference was held on Friday 4 April 2014 at the Watershed in Bristol, UK and included presentations on the latest national and international trends, presentations from our graduates, and opportunities for delegates to present their latest, ideas, projects and research. The programme details events over the day, and was been designed in partnership with our graduates, to reflect the most contemporary thoughts and issues facing the field.

For further information please visit our conference webpage.

Silences in the History and Communication of Science December 2013

Emma Weitkamp (Senior Lecturer) and Ann Grand (Research Fellow) from the SCU presented papers at the Silences of Science Research Network’s workshop at Imperial College, London, on 17 December 2013.

Emma’s paper explored the anonymity in relationships between journalists, PR and funders, using preliminary research on so called ‘superfoods’, which shows a heavy reliance on ‘hidden’ PR sources and selective reporting of funding sources, including instances where journalists failed to mention commercially interested funders.

Ann’s paper looked at the implications of adopting an open science practice, when opening up the research process and outputs can reveal formerly closed and silent parts of the scientific process to both professional colleagues and members of the public.

Audio recordings of many of the presentations (including Emma and Ann’s) are available.

NCCPE Engage 2013

SCU Research Fellows Margarida Sardo and Ann Grand presented a poster at Engage 2013 Engagement: knitting up the ravelled sleeve? The poster aimed to explore the big questions around partnerships in public engagement and consider how public engagement researchers can draw these threads together to support university research. The poster focussed on four areas of partnership working. Margarida and Ann asked UWE researchers with experience of working with different partners to give us their questions, as provocations for conversations with conference participants. They then asked Engage 2013 delegates to contribute questions from their perspectives.

The questions that delegates left were:

Working with charitable and industrial partners

  • When translating research into practice, how do you strike the right balance between what controlled research tells us works and what will actually work in real-world settings?
  • Partnerships don’t have to centre on research; there are many other partnership opportunities
  • How do we ensure equal relationships, e.g. with the small community
  • How as a student charity can we sustain partnerships with the public when we have a high yearly turnover?
  • How can we encourage more action research that gives back to the partner something that is sustainable?

Public engagement researchers could offer support focussed on long-term sustainability and maintaining egalitarian relationships

Working with creative partnerships

  • How can collaboration enhance creativity in public engagement activities?
  • What specific benefits do collaborators draw from such creative encounters?
  • Can public engagement activities feed back into research? Maybe inter-disciplinary collaborations? Go beyond engagement!
  • What kind of creative research networks can engender and catalyse creative partnerships?
  • Artists/creatives can get a new perspective on their practice – it’s a two-way process.

Public engagement researchers could offer support focussed on clarifying cross-disciplinary understandings and perceptions in collaborative partnerships

Working with non-academic organisations

  • How do we persuade local authorities out of the ‘comfort zone’ of their institutional practices?
  • What do we do when our work is seen as a threat or disruption to established practices?
  • How do we make engagement mutually beneficial to the organisation and the public
  • How do we convey what universities do?

Science for Environment Policy bid success for SCU - August 2013

We are extremely pleased to announce that we have won the new contract to deliver Science for Environment Policy on behalf of the European Commission, worth €930,000 (£800,000) over three years.

SCU have delivered the popular scientific news service for environmental policymakers since 2007, when we were first awarded the contract by the Commission’s DG (Directorate-General) Environment. This is the third successive contract that we have been successful in winning - testament to the tremendous work put in by the whole Science for Environment Policy team. The new contract is set to start in December 2013.

Science for Environment Policy publishes a free weekly News Alert, which rounds up the latest policy-relevant research across a range of topics, summarised into accessible news articles by SCU’s science writing and editing team. The News Alert will continue to be published under the new contract, along with the topic-focussed thematic issues, in-depth reports and future briefs.

We very much look forward to seeing which interesting scientific topics we’ll be writing about for the project over the next few years. Recent publications have focussed on subjects as diverse as managing invasive alien species, encouraging environmentally-friendly behaviour and the potential health risks of contaminated soil.

Find out more about Science for Environment Policy and subscribe to the News Alert.

Swindon Schools Science Filmmaking (SSSF) competition launched - July 2013

Swindon Schools Science Filmmaking (SSSF) competition got underway on Tuesday 2 July with an introductory workshop delivered by Dr Emma Weitkamp and Professor Dawn Arnold. The competition involves Year 10 pupils from four schools in the Swindon area. This year participants have been challenged to make a six minute film exploring Genetically Modified Foods; either proposing a trait that they think should be added to a food crop or considering a social or environmental issue raised by Genetically Modified crops.

Swindon Schools Science Filmmaking is a competition developed by the Science Communication Unit in partnership with the Centre for Research in Biosciences.

In the first workshop, participants learned about genetics and how genes can be inserted into plants to created modified plants with new characteristics. This was followed by a workshop on communicating science through film and creative work to develop film ideas that could be submitted for the competition. Feedback from last year’s competition indicates that participants enjoyed exploring the science and making films with many indicating they’d like to participate in this type of activity again.

SCU take Science for Environment Policy on tour - June 2013

SCU were delighted to exhibit at Europe’s largest environmental conference recently, hosting a stand all about Science for Environment Policy – the news service we manage on behalf of the European Commission. The EU's Green Week conference, which attracted 3,000 participants, took place in Brussels (4 - 7 June), with the theme ‘Cleaner air for all’.

Michellle Kilfoyle, Daisy Brickhill, Carla Smith and Emma Weitkamp of the Science for Environment Policy team had an enjoyable and fruitful time discussing the service, and the air quality research it features, with subscribers old and new at this lively, sociable event. Visitors to the stand could also make an Environmental 'Fortune Teller' and participate in our interactive online quiz.

This was the third occasion that SCU have attended Green Week, and followed on from the European Fora on Eco-Innovation, held in Prague last month (23-24 May 2013), and Lisbon last year (26-27 November 2012), where we were also fortunate to be granted exhibition stands for Science for Environment Policy.

SCU PhD student presents at International conference - May 2013

Supara Kamolpattana, a PhD student based in the Science Communication Unit, has recently returned from presenting her work at an important international conference. Supara presented findings from her PhD on the role of explainers in science centres and museums at the Asia Specific Network of Science and Technology Centres (ASPAC) conference in South Korea in May. Supara also took the opportunity to visit the National Science Museum in Thailand, where she is based, to carry out workshops and presentations on the findings of her PhD with over 80 representatives from the museum, other science centres and staff from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

New Science for Environment Policy website - March 2013

SCU recently launched a new website for Science for Environment Policy.

The team worked closely with designers Pixillion to revamp the existing site for a fresh new look and layout that engages users with the service’s publications, such as its free News Alert, briefing papers and comprehensive reports.

SCU manage Science for Environment Policy, a news service for policymakers, on behalf of the European Commission’s DG Environment. It is designed to bridge the gap between science and policy, by presenting accessible summaries and overviews of cutting-edge research for an international audience.

Sign up to the free News Alert.

New appointments in the SCU - Dec 2012

We are delighted to be able to announce the details of two new appointments in the SCU.

Ann Grand will take up the role of part-time Research Fellow in the Unit. Ann will largely be developing new projects within the Unit and following up on her idea to produce a guide to ‘Open Science’. Congratulations Ann and we look forward to your continued contributions to the Unit.

Daisy Brickhill will join us in a couple of months as Science Writer on Science for Environment Policy. She’ll be working full time on SfEP, Daisy is moving from Aberdeen where she is just completing a PhD in Ecology and where she has been instrumental in setting up a student science magazine.

Students on the MSc in Science Communication created typologies of public engagement during a recent teaching block - Oct 2012

This involved creating a system for thinking about the different factors that influence the type of public engagement activity you might choose to undertake. 

The public engagement ecosystem

The public engagement ecosystem

The public engagement ecosystem considered those factors (nutrients) that influence whether public engagement takes place, the types of people (flowers) who might be engaged in public engagement activities and the types of activities (clouds) that might be undertaken, for example stakeholder workshops or “make and take” activities.

The public engagement tree

The public engagement tree.

The public engagement tree explores the different ways that people might engage in science communication activities (from fairly passive roles to active engagement). The initial branching point distinguishes between activities designed primarily for active engagement (right side of photo) and those that were more likely to encourage passive engagement (e.g. TV programmes). The group elaborated the different participants and the ways that they might engage with two example projects: one termed ‘Sci-Craft’ and the other a public debate. Participants were again split into those roles (leaves) that were more active (creators, active engagers) and those that were passive (watchers).

MSc Science Communication 2012/13

The Science Communication Unit welcomes back our continuing science communication students, and extends a very warm welcome to those that are joining us in 2012/13. We wish all the students an enjoyable and successful academic year!

The SCU delivers a Master's course that offers unrivalled professional development opportunities for those already working as science communicators or aiming to move into the field. You can find further information on the MSc course on our training pages. You can also find information on our PG Certificate in Practical Science Communication for those looking for shorter training commitments.

SCU publications

The Science Communication Unit has recently been successful in publishing a number of papers in leading Science Communication journals:

An exploration of the collaborative processes of making theatre inspired by science. Ellen Dowell and Emma Weitkamp, Public Understanding of Science 2012;21 891-901.

Open Science. A New “Trust Technology”? Ann Grand, Clare Wilkinson, Karen Bultitude and Alan Winfield. Science Communication 2012 34: 679

Comment: Bridging the gap between science and policy: the importance of mutual respect, trust and the role of mediators. Journal of Science Communication.Karen Bultitude, Paola Rodari, Emma Weitkamp.

Comment: Science communication between researchers and policy makers. Reflections from a European project. Journal of Science Communication. Paola Rodari, Karen Bultitude, Karen Desborough.

A full list of the Unit’s publications are available on our publications page, and don’t forget to visit the UWE Research Repository where many of our publications are made publically available.

Science Communication Unit represented at April’s PCST 2012

Members of the Science Communication Unit at PSCT 2012

Six members of the Science Communication Unit (Emma Weitkamp, Clare Wilkinson, Helen Featherstone, Ann Grand, Supara Kamolpattana, Franca Davenport) joined delegates to present and discuss their work at the recent International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference 2012 in Florence, Italy.

With 670 participants from five continents and more than 450 presentations across different formats, SCU staff and students presented work in papers, presentations, panel sessions and PhD workshops.

UWE Bristol Science Communication Unit recognised as a Centre of Excellence - Feb 2012

Ground breaking research, innovative practical projects and world class postgraduate programmes have won the UWE Bristol Science Communication Unit (SCU) recognition as a Centre of Excellence. The SCU is famous for projects that engage the general public in science issues. Projects have included Royal Academy of Engineering award winning project 'Walking with robots' and 'Heart robot', that inspired phenomenal global media interest reaching audiences from Australia to Brazil.

Centre of Excellence status was granted by UWE Bristol in acknowledgement of the unique blend of skills held by staff within the Unit, including: expertise in the practical delivery of science communication projects, such as the EU funded ‘Science for Environment Policy’ news alert, creative research and evaluation, including the recent evaluations for the ESRC, and student centred teaching.

Professor Alan Winfield, Director of the Science Communication Unit, said: “We are delighted that the University has chosen to recognise the excellent work of the Unit in advancing the theory, practise and teaching of science communication. The work has gained the Unit a national and international reputation.”

As a Centre of Excellence, the Science Communication Unit will play a larger role in supporting the University’s public engagement activities. It is an important role as public engagement has recently been highlighted as a strategic priority for UWE. Full press release.

Science Communication Masterclass - April 2012

The Science Communication Masterclass scheduled for April 2012 once again attracted a high number of applicants. Places on the course were filled in a matter of weeks and we are once again looking forward to welcoming enthusiastic and motivated science communicators to the event. The next Masterclass will be scheduled for Spring 2013, dates to be announced.

Dr Erik Stengler joins the Science Communication Unit - Jan 2012

The SCU is very pleased to welcome Dr Erik Stengler as Senior Lecturer in Science Communication. Erik has a PhD in astrophysics and has many years of experience in science communication, most recently working as the Head of Education and Public Outreach at the Museum of Science and the Cosmos in Tenerife.

LabRats MSc students go audio - 2011

Listen to the latest offering from students taking the MSc Science Communication at UWE. In this 15 minute radio programme you'll learn about the cultural roots to many widely held non-scientific beliefs as well as finding out how not to use science to impress your date! Listen to the LabRats audio.

Academy Award for the Science Communication Unit 2010

Walking with Robots has won a top accolade for enabling the public to engage with advanced robotics. This project was led by a team made up of Professor Alan Winfield, Dr Karen Bultitude and Dr Claire Rocks (all from the Science Communication Unit), Professor Noel Sharkey (University of Sheffield) and Professor Owen Holland (University of Sussex), and included a wide range of other roboticists, science communicators and robotics outreach experts from throughout the UK.

The team received The Royal Academy of Engineering Rooke Medal at the Academy Awards Dinner at London's Guildhall on Monday 7 June 2010 from Academy President Lord Browne of Madingley.

New Science for Environment Policy website and archive 2008

A new website for Science for Environment Policy has been launched.

The new design makes it even easier for users to to access and navigate the ever growing archive of articles and special Thematic Issues, launched last year. There is also a new page which displays articles from the most recent issue of the news alert.

The environmental news alert, delivered weekly by e-mail, is designed to help busy policy makers keep up to date with the latest scientific research relevant to key environmental policy issues. If you would like to receive the news alert, you can subscribe online.

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