Science Communication: Why and How

Science Communication: Why and How
With Dr. Bettie Higgs and Niamh Kavanagh.
Distillery House, UCC, Cork, February 22nd 2017

After a brief description of WITS membership options and activities by WITS Cork co-organiser Margaret Jordan, and an introduction to the topic of science communication by Jane O’Hara (of the 2017 WITS Exec), Bettie Higgs was the first presenter of the evening. She talked about the importance of effective science communication, and presented some examples of how information can be miscommunicated. She invited attendees to think of something they understood really well, which was a very thought-provoking exercise. She probed us about how we know that we understand a particular topic, and to think back to how this understanding developed when we are communicating about topics that we understand in depth but that others do not. Bettie also cited an example of attending an inspirational talk after which she felt that she had increased her own understanding of the subject, due to the effective communication style of the presenter.
Niamh Kavanagh followed up with an a very engaging insight into her own process of becoming a FameLab (science communication competition) winner. She summarised this into nine tips, all of which helped her to become an effective and successful science communicator. For example, she spoke about the importance of being honest and human with your public, as well as practicing your presentations a lot, and getting honest feedback about them. Niamh’s main three points of advice were to keep the message clear, relatable and memorable.
Magaly Mora, WITS Cork co-organiser, closed the event with a thank you to the wonderful speakers. We hope that many of the attendees learned a lot more about the reasons and practicalities of communicating science to different audiences.
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About the speakers:
Dr. Bettie Higgs is a geologist who recently retired as Senior Lecturer at University College Cork and Co-Director and Academic Coordinator of Support for Teaching and Learning. She continues to be active in science communication.
Niamh Kavanagh is a Photonics Ph.D. candidate in the Tyndall National Institute, and a 2016 Early Career Physics Communicator Award recipient. She is a SFI Smart Futures volunteer and is involved in many science outreach activities.