Sunday 17 May 2015

Pint of Science

I don't expect you to make a special trip from Braunschweig [Brunswick] or Полта́ва [Poltava] but if you're in the area, you should get yourself down to South Main Street in Wexford on Tuesday 19th May where the 4th meeting of the Wexford Science Cafe is meeting in The Sky and the Ground. A couple of the participants at that monthly meeting for science-chat and booze have been invited to be part of a Pint of Science gig the day before [Mo 18th May 2015] in the Odessa, Dublin. They might be prevailed upon to reprise those talks - with added powerpoint! - in Wexford on Tuesday.  Pint of Science is the brain-child of Seán Mac Fhearraigh, it's not original to him but he has a corralled an idea born in England and brought it back to Ireland; so tribs to him and the extensive team [N>30] keeping the show on the road.

In recent years, scientists have been expected to engage with the public with 'outreach'. We can no longer look out at the landscape from the top of an ivory tower.  Public engagement is the quid pro quo to ensure that Seamus Tax-payer has the opportunity to know what their tax-dollars are going to support.  Science is mostly expensive and if there is no tangible benefit to show for it at the end, at least we are now expected to be able to explain ourselves to normal people. Scientists are stereotypically incapable of being unable to explain themselves to each other, and their peer-reviewed papers are, by convention, written in a lumpy third-person passive-voice style which is the opposite of easy-to-read.  Most of the grant-giving bodies insist that applications for money include an Abstract - an executive summary - that reviewers can eyeball to get a sense of the scope and direction of the project before they get down to the logistical and methodological details.  Nowadays, the poor boffins are also required to write a Lay Summary for an intelligent person who knows little or no science.  Steven "Curse of Knowledge" Pinker has characterised the ideal Lay Reader as his college room-mate who was sharp as a tack but studying in the Arts Block.  In my experience, scientists are mostly lousy at any Lay Summary task at least partly because they think we all understand their long words. 

I look forward to seeing how well we all do understanding each other this coming week.

No comments:

Post a Comment