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I???m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here

The ultimate public engagement experience?
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I???m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here is a public engagement initiative aimed to students from Year 5 to Year 13. It runs twice a year, completely on line. Every science teacher in the UK and their class can join for free.

PhD student Giuditta Perversi recently took part and gives us her thoughts on the process:

The students start by choosing a zone they are interested in. Each zone has a different theme and hosts five different scientists. There are two weeks of asking questions, leaving comments and live-chatting with the scientists.

The students vote for their favourite scientist and they get evicted one by one during the last week. The perk is that every zone is funded by a research body and the winning scientist will get ??500 to spend on further public engagement activities!

Giuditta PerversiSo how did I end up in this madness? From a previous science outreach madness, of course!

The Harwell Laboratories opened their doors completely for the public on July 11th, dragging 16000 people in within eight hours. I went down to represent the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions at the Diamond Light Source, with huge support from Laura Holland, their Public Engagement Manager.

It was Laura who contacted me to point out that one of the zones for November was ???Extreme Pressure???, so why not join? After all, there was no way for it to be crazier than a 16000 people event!

Squeezing your whole research topic into a student-friendly one-liner and filling up an approachable profile already looked like an effort. It was nothing compared to the actual event!

Between the 9th and the 20th of November I spent hours answering questions on my profile, from ???Is there a multiverse???? to ???What???s the highest pressure you worked with???, passing through ???Have you ever been bullied at school???? The live chats were so fast-paced that 30 minutes felt like three centuries of ???I need to answer that with only a limited amount of characters???.

I had the joy of surviving almost all the evictions, even though I had to settle for second place at the end.

I???m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here is one of the best public engagement initiatives ever developed. I really hope that not only more schools join for the rounds, but also more scientists will apply to take part!

At the end of the two weeks, the question ???what do you work with???? started to get an answer totally detached from the academic wording, and while the attention of an established researcher at a poster session can be satisfying, there is nothing quite the ???OMG that???s so cool!??? reaction of a kid to put a smile on your face.

Giuditta at the Diamond Light Source

Giuditta at the Diamond Light Source

Tuesday, December 1, 2015