Can outreach make you a better scientist? ESOF 2012 debate

SciConnect hosted a workshop at the European Open Science Forum in Dublin in July 2012, where we debated the contentious question of whether performing outreach helps or hinders scientists in their day to day work. Visit our blog (details below) to add your thoughts.

  1. Speaking at our session was on Thursday 12th July were: Jon Copley (@expeditionlog), a marine biologist who talked about the benefits and challenges of performing outreach as a scientist; Lena Raditsch, Head of Communications at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, who talked about outreach from an institutional perspective; and Helen Goulding, a former geologist and head of Quercus Training, which provides professional skills training for scientists and other researchers.

    Finally, there was also me (@ClaireAinsworth), a science journalist and MD of SciConnect. My job was to talk about some of the skills needed for successful outreach and run some interactive exercises. This included our Unlikely Jargon competition, which we ran on Twitter, more on that later...

    Arriving in Dublin, we were glad to see some interest on Twitter before the start of our session!
  2. Another Crucible alumni is @expeditionlog who I'll be seeing later in his session at #ESOF2012
  3. Next up at @ESOF2012, a topic I have great interest in - outreach and science communication, with @SciConnect. Come and join us! #ESOF2012
  4. Looking forward to finding out how outreach makes a better scientist #esof2012
  5. Can outreach make you a better scientist? @ClaireAinsworth & @expeditionlog about to give the answer... #ESOF2012
  6. We started off by defining what we mean by "outreach": scientists talking about their own work, rather than popularising a field in general..
  7. Outreach is not the same as popularisation @ClaireAinsworth You don't need to be Sagan or Attenborough #ESOF2012
  8. "Outreach is not the same as popularisation, it is scis talking about their own research" Claire Ainsworth #esof2012 <--not sure abt this
  9. Good question: the reason we defined outreach this way is because a lot of busy researchers feel overwhelmed by the idea of outreach, thinking that for it to be worthwhile, they have to do the same amount of work/ have the same impact as the Carl Sagans and Brian Coxes of this world.  We wanted to explore the idea that focusing specifically on one's own research can actually improve a scientist's ability to do that research.
  10. #esof2012 attending the can outreach make you a better scientist
    #esof2012 attending the can outreach make you a better scientist
  11. #esof2012 outreach is different from popularisation : focus on your own research
  12. Having defined our terms, we asked the audience about possible benefits and drawbacks...
  13. #esof2012 benefits of outreach : fun, future opportunites, cultural enrichement, get rid off stereotypes
  14. Can outreach make you a better scientist? EMBL's Lena Raditsch now on the panel in Liffey 1... #ESOF2012
  15. Why is no one coming out with the cynical "we do outreach coz the funding body makes us" #outreach #esof2012
  16. Lots of benefits to outreach - public attitudes improved, good questions, collaborations, fun #ESOF2012 @ClaireAinsworth
  17. #esof2012 barriers to outreach : frame your story, lack of recognition, lack of training and support, peer disapproval
  18. Jon Copley then gave an account of his experiences in communicating deep sea biology:
  19. There are philosophical (motivat'n) & pragmatic ways in which outreach makes you a better scientist. @expeditionlog at #ESOF2012
  20. Outreach is creating ways for wider audience to "watch over our shoulders" as we're doing our research - @expeditionlog #ESOF2012
  21. Websites can be great for interacting with public and letting them feedback to you #outreach #esof2012
  22. Retirees can be important for outreach, they can teach grandkids and have time to find out about sci #outreach #esof2012
  23. MT @Scibernia: @expeditionlog: Retirees can be important for outreach, they can teach grandkids & have time to find out about sci #esof2012
  24. . @expeditionlog have got finding, access to equipment & new collaborations from doing outreach as well as evidence of "impact" #ESOF2012
  25. Outreach impact is an impact too, should be considered as an output of any research #outreach #esof2012
  26. Opening up website to comments & interaction has been all +ve. In no sense an "idiot magnet". Huge morale boost @expeditionlog #ESOF2012
  27. Scientific outreach exploits all that untapped collective wisdom and experience out there #esof2012 #crowdsourcing
  28. Q abt what is best social network to use for outreach - our answer is to look at where your audience is and go there! #outreach #esof2012
  29. You don't need to choose one social media platform - we try to be everywhere to catch the widest audience. @expeditionlog #ESOF2012
  30. Next speaker going to give tips on doing outreach, this can only benefit you who have to listen to me! #esof2012 #outreach
  31. Back to me (@ClaireAinsworth) to give some top tips. If you missed the session, I cover some of them in a blog post here:
  32. For pop sci assume a 17yo's knowledge, for national media assume a 14yo's level of sci education #outreach #esof2012
  33. Your audience are smart, they just don't know as much as you about your research -tips for outreach from @ClaireAinsworth #ESOF2012
  34. EMBL are funded by twenty countries, outreach allows citizens know where moeny goes and why we need more research #outreach #esof2012
  35. Lena Raditsch then took the stand to talk about how institutions such as EMBL view outreach:
  36. Good institutional view of why you should do #outreach from Lena Raditsch of EMBL #esof2012
  37. Science outreach session #ESOF2012 explain your work to someone in 1 min, then ask them to repeat back to you.See how well you communicated!
  38. Lab visits (by public) are a great mechanism for outreach - Lena Raditsch from EMBL #ESOF2012
  39. Good for phd students to know: EMBL do sci comm trainning programmes to help young researchers #outreach #esof2012
  40. Interesting feeds from diff #esof2012 sessions: 1 sess: Why should scis do outreach? Other sess: Open Innovation requires societal dialogue
  41. We had lots of interesting questions in the discussion after each talk, and looks like we've enthused some folk too :)
  42. I'm all fired up to do outreach and share some science! (Oh, I've been doing that on twitter all day :) ) #loveoutreach #esof2012
  43. @Ggrenot @themarytodd IMHO it's also that doing outreach can (sadly) be taken to mean that you aren't serious about research #esof2012
  44. Finally, it was over to Helen Goulding from Quercus Training to talk about how performing outreach involves developing skills that can also prove useful in a research career:
  45. Outreach allows scientists to give back to the society #esof2012
  46. We ended the session by launching a competition: we asked our audience to think of Unlikely Jargon: everyday words that also have a potentially confusing scientific meaning. To have the chance of winning a prize, they posted their words and definitions on Twitter:
  47. We'll post the results of the competition in our next Storify. Watch this space :) In the meantime, what do you think about the value of science outreach? Please add your comments and let us know what you think.