An Alliance Earth Science Communication Workshop at Bangor University
At the end of January 2019 Alliance Earth Director, Jeffrey Barbee was invited to give a workshop by the Environmental Science Faculty at the University of Bangor in Wales. This was the start of a month-long knowledge exchange that was created by Dr Simon Willcock and Jeffrey Barbee in order to assist scientists to interact more productively with the public as well as to develop a roadmap for future collaborations. Bangor University was founded through small public contributions from local farmers and rock quarrying businesses in the late 1800s, so keeping the public informed about the exciting work being done at the University has always been important. At Alliance Earth, we believe it is crucial that scientists have the skills to speak clearly about their work to the public, whether it is through interacting with science journalists, tweeting, blogging, or writing for the popular press.
The workshop was set up to include not only younger students but lecturers and post-graduates too. The impact was tracked using a questionnaire, with a follow-up survey a few months from now. Almost all the respondents indicated at the end of the workshop that they had learned a lot, and would be happy to answer the follow-up questionnaire later in the year.
During the three hours, attendees learned how and whom to call in the press about a story and the many ways to find your own public voice that works best for your skills and character. One of the more important elements of the workshop was to encourage the participants to write down what they most enjoy about the work or scientific study they do because understanding what excites us is usually the key to inspiring others.
After the workshop, Dr Willcock and Jeffrey Barbee embarked on a trip to continue this knowledge exchange, following some of the work that Bangor and her partner Universities are doing in both India and Cambodia in order to explore how informed journalism can drive public excitement and interest in environmental science. There will be a series of short interviews from the field, as well as a short film, images and stories that we will post links to on this page as they develop.
At a time when many science grants require scientists to include public outreach as a part of their total research grant, developing a dedicated outreach solution that works in the public interest is an exciting way to create public discourse. We feel that it can get people excited about the search to find solutions to global problems like climate change, deforestation, sustainable farming and much more.