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Nachgefragt – bei Anika Nicolaas Ponder

04. August 2020

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Porträtfoto von Anika Nicolaas Ponder Array

Foto: Anika Nicolaas Ponder


In the series „Nachgefragt“ ("Asking Questions"), we introduce, in no particular order, people working in science communication. With 17 questions - and 17 answers, sometimes serious, sometimes humorous.

In our fifty-sixth episode we are speaking with Anika Nicolaas Ponder, Sustainability and Innovation team leader at the Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility (IKEM), about creative scicomm, good storytelling and why she probably won't open a bakery soon.

A good communicator needs…?

To have empathy with the target audience, and have some sense for entertainment!

What motivated you to work in the field of science communication?
To achieve our climate targets, we need everyone on board. For that, I strongly believe us climate folk have to communicate our message in a new format – and with a new narrative. Reporting on climate change shouldn’t just highlight the risks and challenges involved with rising temperatures, but showcase the social, economic and environmental opportunities of the energy transition, too. I think that this positive narrative can help get people aware and onboard, and trigger and accelerate the change we need to see in politics and society. It’s an exciting field to work in, with plenty of new ideas and projects ahead!

Describe your daily work in three words.

Coffee, emails, video-calls.

What is the best experience you have had as a communicator?

The most satisfying communication project I’ve had the pleasure to do is the Infographic Energy Transition Coloring Book, produced by IKEM and Ellery Studio as our own pet project, no client involved. Telling the story of the climate change and the energy transition in infographics you can color in, the book was a great hit. Our team even got to meet with Angela Merkel and talk to her about it! That’s a pretty good experience, right there.

Beispielseiten aus dem Buch "The Infographic Energy Transition Coloring Book".
The "Infographic Energy Transition Coloring Book" tells the story of climate change and the energy transition in Germany. Foto: IKEM, Ellery Studio

What was your biggest communication disaster?

Actually, apart from the odd mail without attachment, or presentation where the animated slides just didn’t work, I can’t really complain! Fingers crossed it stays that way.

Which of your traits bothers you the most in your daily work?

I think my skillset and personality fit pretty well to the work I do!

Which (historical) person would you like to have dinner with?

Queen Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh of Egypt. 

What is your favourite research discipline?

The role and empowerment of people in the energy transition. Also, offshore wind.

Which research topic would you least like to communicate?

One I am not familiar with would not be ideal. I’d probably not do justice to the complexities of astrophysics for instance. There’s only so much you can google. 

If time and money were no object: Which science communication project would you like to do?

Oh, I’d roll out a giant energy transition communication campaign EU-wide, connecting people with renewable energy projects they can participate in or finance. I’d add a proper marketing campaign to make the many benefits of the energy transition over the status quo abundantly clear. Plus, I’d work to get the harms of fossil fuels communicated more clearly. You know, like when governments decided to discourage smoking to protect public health by making cigarette companies put pictures of sick lungs on the package? And by putting a halt to glamorous advertisements showing beautiful people smoking? That approach should apply to fossil fuel products, like electricity from coal or combustion engine cars, too.  

If you didn’t work in science communication, what field would you like to be in?

If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I’d like to be useful in some other way, working with human rights perhaps. It could also be fun to do something more hands-on, like have a bakery. But my total lack of baking skills make that a very unlikely scenario.

Science communication in 2030 will be…

Hopefully there will be even more cool ideas and approaches to science communication by then! Already today we’re seeing a trend towards a diversification of communication forms and channels, with bite sized info clips circulating on Tik Tok, Fridays for Future using memes in their climate messages, and lots of cool videos being available for free on youtube. I imagine that in 2030, when today’s young and more climate conscious generation is adult and has more decision-making power, there will be even more diversified science communication in the climate field, in the media and beyond. 

What do you consider the greatest achievement in the history of science?

Oh jeez that’s a tough one. Penicillin comes to mind, or vaccines, that had a major impact on human life.

How did you imagine the future as a child?

With hoverboards. The movie Back to the Future really set me up for disappointment.

How do you keep your head clear when you are stressed?

I go for a run while listening to upbeat music. Lots of guilty pleasures from the 80’s and 90’s in that playlist. 

I like to help colleagues with … ?



Anika Nicolaas Ponder

Anika’s Sustainability & Innovation team leader at IKEM is an international team of eight multi-disciplinary researchers and innovators. They work on innovative climate communication formats and knowledge transfer to get everyone onboard with the energy transition. Their projects center on engagement and communication (for example the “Infographic Energy Transition Coloring Book”), energy expert networks (like the “IKEM Academy: Energy and Climate”), offshore wind and meshed grids (Baltic Sea Ventures, Baltic InteGrid project), gender equality (EQT: The gender equality toolkit for working women and friends). 

The Infographic Energy Transition Coloring Book covers teaches you about solar panels, the Paris Agreement, and more. Foto: IKEM, Ellery Studio
The "Infographic Energy Transition Coloring Book" teaches you about solar panels, the Paris Agreement, and more. Foto: IKEM, Ellery Studio

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