Four teams of six year 9 students, each representing a different Milton Keynes school competed on the day to build two successful rockets 2 litre plastic bottles and simple craft materials.
I was working on the competition as one of the organisers, working with a team that included: Richard Holliman, Ben Dryer, Vic Pearson, and Diane Ford from the Open University, Mark Russell and Val Hawthorne from Denbigh Teaching School, and Jessica Carr who was working as an intern.
I've been involved with Cafe Scientifique for over ten years now and supported volunteer organisers to set up cafes all over the world. Closer to home, we've used the cafe scientifique model to develop a series of research cafes in schools in Milton Keynes as part of our Engaging Research project. ...continue reading →
The conference celebrated 10 years of science communication programmes based at the SCU and it was lovely to see that around a fifth of delegates on the day were our graduates.
The programme was packed with interesting plenary talks, vibrant presentations and quick paced PechaKucha chats. The Science Communication Unit @SciCommsUWE Twitter feed captures some of the online discussion, and we've also created a Storify of the day.
On Friday 4th April 2014 I’ll be involved in hosting the second conference in our Evolving Science Communication series. You can find details of the first, held five years ago, in this report.
This conference celebrates 10 years of science communication programmes based at the Science Communication Unit (SCU), University of the West of England, Bristol. We’ve been delighted to work with our graduates to design a conference programme that we hope appeals to them, as well as to others currently working in and/or researching the ‘field’. ...continue reading →
Teamwork is key to successful planning
When we're producing courses at the Open University we tend to work in teams; many of them are multi-discplinary and almost all of them combine academics with other forms of professional expertise (e.g. editors and media professionals). For example, the last course I chaired (with the catchy code, SH804) involved more than 70 people during the production phase (including academics, media professionals, editors, librarians and web developers).
Over the years I've been lucky enough to work with some excellent colleagues in various course teams. You might expect me to say that. But it's not always straightforward working as a social scientist in a Faculty of Science. One of the many colleagues I've really valued working with is Professor Simon Kelley. We worked together as part of a larger course team on Science in Context.
Serendipity meets planning for diversity and inclusion
Spin forwards several years: I'd been working on the Engaging Opportunities project for about nine months when we began to think seriously about organising the first of the three annual lectures that we'd promised RCUK we would deliver.
I’m an astrophysicist and my research is mainly concerned with what may be called the “time domain universe”, or simply: stars whose brightness varies with time.
Stars can have a variable brightness for one of several reasons: they might be intrinsically variable due to pulsations of the star’s atmosphere; they might be in orbit with another object that periodically passes in front of it; or they might suffer some form of catastrophic change that causes flaring or outburst behaviour, for instance.
One way to carry out research in time domain astrophysics is simply to monitor the brightness of all the stars in the sky and see what you find. This is, in effect, what is done by the WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project, of which I and others at the Open University are part.
A day in the life of a field geologist
Earth Scientists like me study the Earth: how it formed, how it changed over geological time, and how all the different ‘bits’ such as the atmosphere, oceans, soil and rocks interact with each other.
In detail, I’m a geologist – I specifically try to understand the rocks beneath our feet. And in even more detail, I’m a field geologist. Nothing excites me more than the prospect of getting to spend weeks in a tent up a remote mountain somewhere (although preferably not in the rain), collecting rock samples for analysis back in the lab.
My particular interests lie in what the public engagement landscape has to say about, or how it contributes to, this ambitious transition. Fairly quickly, we can identify a disjunction between public policy priorities and the public engagement taking place from universities and the science communication infrastructure (by which I mean science centres, science festivals and informal science engagement practice). This gap is really interesting when you think about it, and in the discussion at the end of the talk we explored it a little further.
A couple of months ago I was asked to give evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee as part of their enquiry into Women and STEM. What they wanted to know was why there was still a problem for women in achieving senior levels in STEM academic careers. Having recently led the OU’s successful submission for an Athena SWAN Bronze Award and having researched and written about gender and STEM for many years, I was asked to represent the OU and discuss what universities can do to help alleviate this situation.