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Nachgefragt – with Réka Borbás and Nora Maria Raschle

16. August 2018

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Réka Borbás and Nora Maria Raschle are neuroscientists and founders of the blog “Born A Scientist”. Photo: N.M.Raschle Array

Réka Borbás and Nora Maria Raschle are neuroscientists and founders of the blog “Born A Scientist”. Photo: N.M. Raschle

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

In our thirty-thirth episode we are speaking with Nora Maria Raschle and Réka Borbás, founders of the science communication blog bornascientist.com for children, families and aspiring researchers.

A good communicator needs…?

Nora: The ability to explain a complicated topic understandably, in as few words as possible and still correctly.

Réka: To know their audience and choose the fitting medium to communicate.

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

Nora: We are scientists by day and communicators by night. Which is quite literally true since we curate and produce content for our science communication project bornascientist.com in our spare time. We are developmental neuroscientists and work with children and families. Therefore, there are personal and professional reasons that motivate us to provide science communication and community outreach. Professional: In order to understand development, we need the help of children and families who participate in our studies. We also need the support of funding agencies and the community that support our research and provide us the space to do so.

In return, they deserve

1) To understand why their participation/funding/support matters.
2) To understand what our research is about. 
3) To understand what the findings of our research are that they support.

Personally, I think we all benefit from a more science-informed community and policies that are guided by scientific knowledge.

Réka: All that - and finally we truly enjoy breaking down scientific content into fun and understandable chunks of information.

Describe your daily work in three words.

Nora: Investigating brain development

Réka: Never gets boring

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

Nora and Reka: There has been so much positive feedback since starting our blog. Some positive examples include new networking opportunities, support from the science community, teaching options and for example this amazing short video produced together with Sabine Gysi, her team at BOLD Blog and kurzgesagt.org.

What was your biggest communication disaster?

Nora: Having spent a lot of time writing an easy understandable press release, only to find out later that your words get twisted until they convey all the wrong message or are used within a completely different framework, seemingly supportive of an unrelated message.

Réka: There is always people being critical or giving negative feedback, however, this is a good learning experience for us.

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

Nora: Those moments of imposter feelings/self-doubt and obsessive-compulsive perfectionism.

Réka: My wandering mind and imposter feelings.

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

Nora: With a whole supper table! To keep it short: Marie Curie, Marian Diamond, Salvador Dali and Albert Einstein.

Réka: Stephen Hawking – besides being one of the most gifted and insightful scientist of our age, he also seemed to be a great storyteller.

What is your favourite research discipline?

Nora and Réka: Brain research!

Which research topic would you least like to communicate?

Nora and Réka: Hard to choose. There is no science not valuable enough being communicated. Even, and maybe particularly, those that proved wrong. However, we focus on our personal areas of expertise or the scientific process and challenges in more general terms.

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

Nora: Given my background in cognitive and affective brain development that would be anything associated with mental health and developmental disorders in children and adolescents. While I have more ideas than hours in a day, my time as a researcher is limited. I think that there are excellent artists, journalists or movie producers out there with much experience conveying messages through different media. I like the idea of bringing such experts together and would absolutely love to produce a collaboration for a cartoon, children’s book or movie one day. Also, I would love to be involved in organizing holiday science camps for children.

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

Nora: I can’t think of anything more exciting than being a developmental neuroscientist. But I also have a passion to create, draw, invent and inspire others. I’ve been known for hobbies ranging from crazy cake baking to rock climbing to cosplaying with my kids. I like to think that if it were not science, my passions and interests could benefit many other fields of work, whether in communication, teaching, policy making or baking.

Science communication in 2030 will be…

Nora: …. here very soon. Ideally, our society will increase translational efforts in order to create bridges between science and various areas of life, including education, politics, clinic, etc. In order to do so science communication and science communicators will be key.

Réka: … even more entangled with social media and public media to tell good stories. Maybe through platforms explicitly for science communication with some seal of approval, where the public could go for reliable information.

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

Nora: There were so many. But I would highlight medical achievements like penicillin and vaccination.

Réka: Same here. Though I am not too fond of appointing “greatest” things, I find medical advancements in the past 150 years astonishing.

How did you imagine the future as children?

Nora and Réka: Peaceful, free of sorrows, in harmony with nature and exciting.

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

Nora: Music, sports and particularly my family keep me levelled.

Réka: Taking a long walk and talking to good friends accompanied by a glass of wine. Music is also a big help at stressful times.

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

Nora: Anything I can. Currently, my focus and expertise lie on anything brain and science related, life-work balance, being a female academic, science communication and illustrations. You can pretty much convince me for any exciting new endeavour. Maybe this is midlife crisis (?), but I like to prove to myself that I can do pretty much anything if I set my heart and mind to it.

Réka: I am a helper, so anything for my colleagues in regards to building them up and supporting them in difficult times.

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

Nora and Réka: Sabine Gysi, chief editor of BOLD blog. Based on your experience, what are successful ways to bridge the fields of sci-ence and commuinication? How do you teach scientists to communicate successfully? What are challenges for journalists/for scientists that you have encountered?

Nora Maria Raschle and Réka Borbás 

Nora Maria Raschle (PhD) and Réka Borbás (PhD candidate) are developmental neuroscientists working at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and University Hospital in Basel. Their work focuses on the study of typical and atypical brain development in children and adolescents.

In 2017 they launched “Born A Scientist”, a science communication platform that is equally fun as well as informative. Through the use of cartoons, graphics, videos, interviews and blog posts they aim to disseminate scientific findings of their field in lay language terms, talk about the scientific process and what it means to be a scientist. With a variety of creative formats they want to break down the walls raised by complicated communication. Because in their opinion: science is meant for all!

In order to read all the posts of this series please follow this link.

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