Posts Tagged ‘workshop’

Accessing science and art

In May 2014 on May 5, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Sarah: A few days ago I had the privilege of talking to a mixed audience of artists and scientists. The event was a workshop co-organised by the RiAUS and Access2Arts; my job was to speak on the challenges of communicating science and — in particular — transitioning from working in the research world to the much more varied space of freelance writing.

What I came to think about in preparing my slides (shown above) was that all scientists are indeed science communicators – the thing that changes from one career pathway to the next is the audience.

If, for example, as a scientist you work in an Immunology laboratory and conduct immunology research and talk at immunology conferences, then you have the luxury of knowing that your audience is reasonably up to scratch on the basic background of your field, and probably has a level of interest in what you are working on. Your skills as a communicator lie in presenting the why? and how? of the research you performed, and placing the results within the context of the specialist field. You might also offer up what you plan to do next. No over-interpretation, no grandstanding, no claims to have solved the world’s problems, please! And certainly no placement of the people involved at the centre of proceedings.

Presenting science to a broader audience is communication with a focus not on the content or procedures, but instead on the people, the stories and why it even matters in a world full of other news. Furthermore, in this space you cannot necessarily assume any level of science knowledge or understanding of what the scientific process involves. Choice of subject matter is critical, language must be different and you need to find your audiences (not quite as simple as arriving to a pre-arranged crowd at a conference facility!).

The best part about the workshop was meeting the audience members and hearing their perspectives on the similarities between art and science — one thing we all agreed on was that both need to be a part of everybody’s education.


Day 319. Let’s workshop it

In June 2013 on June 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm


So you want to be a writer. Is there a course for that?


Sometimes I feel like I’ve been doing ‘courses’ towards becoming a writer for the past 23 years. Everything I’ve done – professional, amateur, paid, unpaid, deliberate, accidental – has somehow contributed to my current motivations.

Adding to all that, today I attended my first workshop at an association of writers, the SA Writers Centre.

Talking to the topic “How to give up your day job”, Patrick Allington held the floor and encouraged the audience to join in.

Patrick touched on several aspects of writing that struck a chord with me.

On managing several different types of work (along with the demands of a young family), he said:

“I think of myself as a juggler; I throw balls away as I finish things, and I pick up new ones”.

Patrick also talked about the necessity to juggle different types of literary employment – balls of different sizes and weights, if you will. Tasks such as reading, writing, editing and critiquing all require different skills. As a result, most writers need to be meticulous about the way they allocate time and energy to each job.

‘The deadline’ was raised as another important issue. Whereas most jobs involve a worker sticking to mutiple deadlines for a single boss, freelance writing requires that multiple deadlines to multiple bosses are managed. This is tough. Each boss does not care about the other bosses. Each boss must be kept happy. Work must be handed in to deadline, otherwise future assignments from that source will dry up.

Making decisions about when to take on unpaid writing assignments was also a hot topic. It’s of particular relevance to science writers, as evidenced by a recent chain of discussion on the Australian Science Communicators email list about if and when it’s reasonable to ask writers to generate content ‘for the experience’.

Patrick proposed that even experienced and well-regarded writers do still take on unpaid work from time to time. He suggested the key is:

“If you’re considering taking on unpaid work, you need to work out whether and how you’re going to make it work for you”.

There is no doubt that taking on unpaid work will improve your experience and create content for your CV. The problem is – as I discussed with Liam Mannix recently – an individual’s capacity to take on unpaid work is directly related to the income they earn through others means and/or the ability of other family members to support them.

I do a reasonable amount of unpaid work, but I’m lucky to have a husband who earns well enough to allow me to do so. This is not the case for everyone.

[image thanks to PalFest on flickr]

Day 271. Hot tips

In May 2013 on May 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm


If you’re after a few hot tips on using social media, read on.

The Australian Society for Medical Research has published an ‘extra’ to their regular newsletter content based on a November 2012 workshop at which I presented.

As written by convenor Dr Robyn Meecher, the take home messages were:

  • Blogging about science can be rewarding but also time consuming – you must decide what you want to achieve with your blog, how much time you can devote to it, and be sure it is enhancing, not overwhelming your professional life;
  • Twitter is not just for following news and trends but is also a useful networking tool;
  • Think before you tweet – your comments stay in the twitter-sphere;
  • Check your University’s or relevant Institution’s social media policy before launching into it;
  • Consider creating a boundary between your personal and your professional online presence;
  • Social media is becoming integral to scientific communication, jump in and see what it can do for you.

See here for the full workshop summary.

[image thanks to John Goode on flickr]

Day 105. Workshop

In November 2012 on November 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Today I attended a workshop for students in the Australian Society for Stem Cell Research, part of the 2012 Australian Health and Medical Research Congress in Adelaide.

On a panel with Paul Knoepfler and Noby Leong, I presented a brief overview of social media and how it can play a role in the working life of a scientist.

If you’re interested, see my slides here, or a Storify collation of tweets from the session here.

There are many great sessions coming up in the next couple of days at the congress, I’ll do my best to keep you updated.

[image from MacLeod Cartoons]