Scrolling through Twitter last week (as I tend to do a few times a day…), I saw a last minute call for people to sign up to the Royal Society of Biology’s inaugural Outreach & Engagement Symposium, hosted up at the University of Birmingham. Although it’s been a while since I indulged in my public engagement roots properly, I still have a major soft spot for anything and everything outreachy so, after a quick bit of lab protocol maths to work out if I was free on the 14th, I signed up to attend the day (along with a colleague who is also keen on getting into science communication). As members of the Microbiology Society, the registration fee was a very reasonable £10 – pennies compared to the £900 I paid to attend Nanopore’s London Calling meeting earlier in the year!
We were really spoiled for choice when it came to choosing which sessions to attend; there were four different sessions throughout the day, with three options per session. I attended “Science communication and art”, “Digital outreach and engagement”, “Designing a demonstration” and “Storytelling and science comedy”, and can honestly say that each session inspired me in a different way. My colleague and I are now planning to look into organising a departmental sciencey art evening thanks to the “science communication and art” session. I have a great idea for an easy nanopore-related science festival stall activity thanks to the “designing a demonstration” session (which I was actually looking forward to the least of all, because it seemed so similar to things I’ve done loads of times before). A fairly funny comedy idea popped into my head during the “storytelling and science comedy” session, although I’m not sure I’ll ever have the courage to perform it on a stage. And, last but not least, the “digital outreach and engagement” session pretty much reminded me of everything I love so much about science communication (and was very useful, since I’m now in charge of my lab’s website and in co-charge of our Twitter feed).
Aside from all the inspiration, the day was also a rare opportunity to go Tweet-mad on my own feed without annoying anyone; in fact, my Tweets during the conference got a lot of love! Bizarrely, I also bumped into my Uncle-in-Law, who’s a professor in horticulture – a reminder that scientists at all stages in their career can benefit from getting involved in outreach.
Basically, I’m so glad I saw that Tweet at the last minute. It’s easy to forget how important outreach and science communication are when you’ve got your head stuck in your research all the time, so it feels important that I attend events like this to remind me where my heart really lies. I hope the RSoB organises another day again soon, hopefully in a similarly picturesque venue!