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Nachgefragt – bei Sam Illingworth

17. April 2019

  • Erstellt von Thuy Anh Nguyen
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  • v Nachgefragt
Foto: Sam Illingworth Array

Foto: Sam Illingworth

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 41st episode we are speaking with Sam Illingworth, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University and publisher of the blog The Poetry of Science.

A good communicator needs…?

To be able to listen. If you are only intent on trying to get your audience to listen to you then then you are not really communicating with them, you are simply speaking at them.

What motivated you to work in the field of science communication?

My passion for theatre. When I was doing my PhD, I was also the President of the Theatre Society at my University (The University of Leicester), and through this I was able to write plays and develop learning activities that en-abled a broader discussion around scientific topics for different audiences.

Describe your daily work in three words.

Poetry, games, emails.

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

Probably giving the keynote at the N2 Science Communication Conference at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. It was an incredible setting (underneath a T-Rex skeleton), and the audience were wonderfully generous in my discussion of science and poetry.

What was your biggest communication disaster?

When I tried to get a group of 300 school children to act out a physical representation of the greenhouse effect. It was a miracle that nobody broke any bones…

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

My delusions of grandeur. I have to constantly remind myself that it doesn’t matter if I don’t respond to an email the second that I get it; the world will still carry on.

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

Probably the American poet Charles Bukowski. He was a pretty radical writer, and by all accounts would have ensured that it was a lively affair.

What is your favourite research discipline?

Science communication, of course! But I have to confess to having a soft spot for Space Science, as my first degree was in Physics with Space Science and Technology.

Which research topic would you least like to communicate?

Anything that had the word Brexit in the title. If I never heard that word again it will be too soon [insert customary apology for wasting everybody else in Europe’s time, as we all really do have better things to be getting on with].

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

I would love to ask scientists from various fields to write a poem about their research topic and then collate these into a book. I could then analyse them to better understand what specialists really think about their area of exper-tise and how it is communicated.

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

A professional poet. I’m still working on this (interested readers can find out more via my blog) but it may be some time…

Science communication in 2030 will be…

A group of academics, practitioners, and public engagement specialists working together in harmony to ensure that all public are not only aware of what science is being conducted but also how they can help to contribute towards its development as well.

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

For purely selfish reasons it would probably be the development of the optical lens in the thirteenth century. I am severely short sighted and am incredibly grateful that two pieces of glass enable me to enjoy the Earth in all of its glory.

How did you imagine the future as a child?

I thought I would be a doctor or an astronaut. I suppose that the first one is technically true, but I still have work to do if I want to make it into space…

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

I go for a run. Also, because I have to travel a lot with work I find that this is the best way to acclimatise to a new location for the first time.

I like to help colleagues with …/ I like answering questions about…?

Interdisciplinarity, and in particular how scientists can combine their hobbies and other interests to better communicate their research.

Who would you like to send this questionnaire to and what question would you like to ask them?

I would like to send this questionnaire to Dr Jon Tennant, to whom I would like to ask ‘How do you define Open Science?’

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Dr Sam Illingworth is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University, where his research involves using poetry to facilitate dialogue between scientists and non-scientists. You can find out more about Sam’s work by visiting his website: www.samillingworth.com.


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