Doing the science communication thing

The Guardian's rather wavy HQ and home of the Masterclass
On Saturday I had a great time up at Grauniad Towers, curating a Science Communication Masterclass. (Sorry, I hate that 'curating' word in this context, but it's what the G people call it.)

Marcus Chown, Angela Saini, Jenny Rohn and I covered science for magazines and newspapers, TV and radio, books and blogs with a really responsive and interesting audience of 50+ people.

It was a full day event, so it would be over the top even to give a summary, but a few snippety takeaways:
  • From Marcus: an article (for newspapers particularly) should be like a fractal. You should be able to take, for example, the first part of it and it should still give you look a bit like the whole. 
  • From Angela: getting into broadcast media is a bit like getting into Fort Knox. Have a showreel. Oh, and don't put a lot of effort into smartening up the sound quality of a recording: the BBC can do it much better and quicker than you can.
  • From Jenny: if you use pictures of your lab, make sure there are no caged animals or containers labelled 'dangerous genetically modified organism' in the background. Funny, but a serious point behind it. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but those words can be highly misleading if not carefully taken.
  • From me: check out the mouse if slides keep moving on themselves, and record podcasts under a duvet.
Just a quick explanation of my two lessons. During my talk, the slides kept backing up of their own accord. I first thought that I was accidentally pressing a button on the 'clicker' but it kept happening even when I put it down. What I discovered afterwards was that the presenter's desk had a slide-in shelf with the keyboard and mouse on it. The mouse was trapped between the shelf and the desktop, so every time I brushed against the shelf it pressed a button on the mouse. Spooky!

The duvet bit caused much amusement, but I genuinely was given this advice by a professional broadcaster/recordist. If you want a studio ambiance in your home, going under a duvet produces a suitable 'flat' soundscape. It does really work, though you feel a bit of a twit.

And no, I don't use a torch, I read my script from an iPad*.

*Other glow in the dark tablets are available.