Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Birmingham Cafe Scientifique - Science in the Media

On the first Tuesday of every month, the Gin Parlour at the Jekyll and Hyde in Birmingham is home to the Birmingham branch of Cafe Scientifique. This is a global group that describes its activities as follows:
"Cafe Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings take place in cafes, bars, restaurants and even theatres, but always outside a traditional academic context."
cafe scientifique logo with orange borderThe Birmingham branch has been organised for 5 years by Kenny Webster - the learning manager @thinktankmuseum. The October cafe was Kenny's last before he heads down to the Science Museum in London to start a new adventure and the topic was science in the media. The speaker was Dr David Gregory-Kumar (@DrDavidGK) who is the BBC Midlands science, environment and rural affairs correspondent. 

The format of the Birmingham cafes is that the speaker talks for about 20 minutes and then takes a couple of questions before a gin-refuelling break followed by about an hour of discussion. It is very informal and can prompt some very interesting and lively conversations. 

David spoke about how he got into science journalism and some of his exciting trips. As he works for regional news, his stories always have to have a link to the local area, although this can be more exciting than it sounds! For example, a local company Brandauer manufacture pen nibs, but they also make precision parts for CERN in Geneva. 

It was interesting to hear the challenges associated with David's work. Getting every story into a maximum 2 minute slot sounded very challenging, especially as the audience's level of technical knowledge of scientific topics is usually pretty low when compared to sport or health. Surprise challenges such as accents and talkative academics who speak in lists also need to be overcome. His aim is to present a radio programme that is so engaging that people will stay sitting in the car to hear the end of it, even when they have arrived at the office. 

It was a fun and interesting night, and I learnt about some more routes into work in science communication. I hope the cafes continue after Kenny has left!