BIG e-news: Spring 2015 edition – Issue 32














Josh Award Winner 2015 Announced!

You heard it here first... Professor Andy Miah is the worthy winner of this year's Josh Award.

Andy is Chair in Science Communication & Future Media in the School of Environment & Life Sciences at University of Salford. Andy is renowned for his research into bioethics and emerging technologies and was recently a Google Glass explorer. Now developing virtual reality art installations and drone documentaries, Andy has published in such places as TIME, Wired, and regularly appears in the media, offering commentaries on new discoveries. His research has taken him to over 50 countries and spans such areas as genetics, nanotechnology, neuroscience, mobile health, wearable technologies, and digital innovations. He is particularly interested around the possibility of bringing creative digital media skills to the field of science communication and published one of the first articles to address the potential of digital media to create new kinds of public engagement with science possibilities. He is also part of the European City of Science steering group, set up to create a programme for Greater Manchester, as it hosts the European Science Forum in 2016.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be this year’s Josh award winner, not least because the BIG event happens in my home city of Norwich... I got into communicating science as a PhD student, trained myself on building websites and doing all I could to make academic discoveries reach more people and this work continues. I am passionate about open knowledge initiatives and believe firmly that there is no expertise that can’t be cultivated by anyone. I am really excited about the trend towards citizen science and in my own production of science communication programmes, I want to enable more people to find a way into nurturing their own scientific expertise. Programmes like the maker movement, FameLab, and hackathons do so much to make science and technology meaningful to people again, in a world where it can become even more difficult to grasp. Having worked in Manchester now for just 8 months, I’ve been amazed by the spirit of collaboration in the city and region, and the ambition of the people around here.”

“Over the last year, I’ve been working a lot with drones, experimenting with their creative possibilities, working with scientists to explore their potential as data capture tools. It’s an area that is completely exploding now and I’m not sure the world is ready for it. I’ve always been attracted to that kind of problem. Whether it’s genetic modification, stem cell technology, or wearable devices, what interests me is the ethical dilemmas they create and what they say about our future. Science communication through ethical debate has been a hallmark of my work and I’d love to foreground this during my year as Josh Award winner.”  


The Cloud Machine

Sarah Bearchell

Sometimes curiosity has amazing consequences…. As 2014 Josh Award winner and as part of the Manchester Science Festival, I visited Springwood School in Swinton, Greater Manchester.  The primary school has about 170 pupils who have a wide range of Special Educational Needs. The workshops were very simple: we made some clouds using dry ice and warm water as a way to explore states of matter.

The children were instantly excited when they saw the white water vapour tumbling out of our experiment.  They were utterly amazed when they were able to feel how cold and wet it was as it ran through their fingers. They heard the bubbling of the carbon dioxide as it sublimed from a solid into a gas and felt the vibrations as the bubbles popped when they reached the surface of the water. We also added blackcurrant squash to the mixture so that our clouds smelled and tasted of blackcurrants.  It was a full sensory experience!

As we worked, we used scientific language to talk about solids, liquids and gases. The more vocally-able children really enjoyed this new terminology and joined in with a loud shout of the word ‘sublimation!’  Some of the most able children asked questions about reaction rates and we were able to do experiments to investigate.

The equipment I use is designed to get the children as close as possible to the experiment, whilst keeping them safe. Dry ice is very cold; at about -78°C, that’s roughly the same temperature as the South Pole in winter. If you touch it you can get frost burns which are really painful. The experiment boxes have lids so that little fingers cannot get in but there are small holes so the cloud can escape. They are also safe to carry around so I can take the experiment to mobility impaired children.  It’s really important to me that every child can access the activities.

The Josh Award funded me to develop a new piece of equipment which I call ‘The Cloud Machine’ and with it, every child could control the making of a dry ice cloud. Most children were able to pull the cord which releases the dry ice into the warm water but some severely disabled children controlled their cloud formation by indicating to their carer when to pull the cord. Their delight was universal, as was their sense of empowerment.

I had a fantastic time exploring with the children at Springwood School but the response of one particular child raises a huge smile every time I think of him…

I was working with a group of children who were about 6 or 7 years old.  All of them were mobile, although one little boy was walking with a frame.  We made our first cloud amongst great excitement and when I made the second cloud I invited the children to come and explore it on the floor.  They all came forward with enormous enthusiasm, including the little boy who left his frame to crawl over to the cloud.

When I lifted the box to show how the bubbles were moving, the boy held on to me and pulled himself up into a standing position. He was absolutely fascinated by what was happening. When I turned to show the other children what was happening, the little boy stepped forward to follow the box.

He was walking unsupported and his teachers were utterly amazed. 

His scientific curiosity had driven him to walk and I am really proud that I had the privilege to be there when he did.

Check out Sarah's website for more information and pictures.


Wireless communication

James Piercy

This year I had the opportunity to take my science communication to a new media. After a series of successful talks about the traumatic brain injury I suffered in 2011, I worked with a freelance producer to develop a related piece suitable for broadcast. We put together an idea based on 3 interwoven strands: my personal story and thoughts about what happened, the perceptions and actions of some of those involved in my case and a wider perspective from researchers working in the field of brain injury and rehabilitation. The idea was pitched to the BBC and a half hour programme was commissioned. Well 28 minutes and 45 seconds including introduction, and as I was to find, those extra seconds really count!

To put the piece together we sourced people to interview. I met and spoke with the police officer who saved my life, a crew from the air ambulance who flew me to hospital, my neurological consultant, a researcher in brain imaging and plasticity, a neuro-psychologist and a rehabilitation consultant. 

A wonder of audio is that these three ‘voices’ can be made to sound slightly different. The listener knowing and recognising a change of perspective without having to be told. 

Interviewing was a new experience for me, starting with people I had already met made it easier and some good advice from Toby Murcott my producer helped me develop a strategy. “Don’t write a list of questions, just think about what you want to talk about”

Each interview was really a discussion, with me asking often long questions and describing situations in the understanding that my part would probably be cut out. With only a short time to fill it was clear from the start that we would record much more material than we could use- in fact we had over 6 hours of audio to pick from. 

Toby worked to draw out a narrative, broadly chronological which picked out the main themes we had agreed were important to feature, he cut sections from the interviews and I wrote links to join them into a coherent piece. The rough edit was stitched together in a studio in Brighton. With the help of a very talented sound engineer, wonderfully called Mike, we began to reduce around 35 minutes of interviews and links to the required length. Once you have seen this work done you will never trust the recorded speech of anyone ever again! Seamless edits join different parts of an interview, changing the order, missing words and getting the best sense from the material which has been gathered. Interestingly if you want to cut someone’s speech together it is best to make the edit In the middle of a word- a psychological trick, you are less likely to notice a cut as you have already guessed how the word ends and probably not actually listened to it carefully.

With the addition of some atmospheric music and the reluctant removal of some powerful words, which time couldn’t allow, the piece was finished. Except -it had to be cut further to create a slightly shorter version for broadcast on the World Service. Probably the hardest part of this whole process was that a lot of very interesting and informative material had to be lost. Probably an hour or so of ‘um’ and ‘er’ a bit of ‘let’s do that again’ but also a huge amount of insight ended up in the cutting room recycle bin.

Listening to the interviews and then hearing the finished programme I thought that we had made a powerful, informative and importantly, scientifically accurate piece. But unlike most of my work in science communication there was no feedback. No audience to clap or laugh or cry or boo. As a presenter I have always relied on the audience to help direct delivery, watching them, listening to them and changing the tone and pace of my speech in response. Having a good idea at the end of the session just how it had gone, good or not so good has been important. This time there was some delight in having finished but mostly uncertainty and nerves about how it would be received when broadcast. Not knowing even how many people would hear it but certainly more than I could have spoken to directly in a very long time. 

At the time of writing the programme is due for broadcast on 27th May and I hope for a good response. It should still be available thanks to the wonderful BBC iplayer (ever noticed that the volume bar goes up to 11?) Search for ‘My Head’, take a listen and see what you think.


University STEM Outreach Day: A review

Lucy Moorcraft

You are Spock and you’re trying to get information out of the mind of McCoy! Well that was the analogy we kicked off contemplating when about 35 outreach officers and co-ordinators from 24 different UK universities and research institutions gathered together for the Working in University Outreach: Skills for STEM Engagement workshop held in Edinburgh this April. The aim of this workshop: to share good practice and meet like-minded people, especially as people in these roles often feel they are fighting a lonely battle in their department or faculty!

Within hours, there was an overwhelming feeling of finding your soul-mates, all gathered in one room! “I have that problem too – they never evaluate”, “Has anyone else got any ideas for getting PhD students to come and help?” We pounced on the chance to have a good moan about the obstacles we encounter trying to achieve our wonderful and grand ideas, but more importantly we loved sharing with others our sage advice from years of toil, gritted teeth and banging heads against brick walls. Although some advice was less suitable than others (“kick them in the shins” being one), we all came away with a list of things to try next, and some motivation to do them too!

So how do we get our information from McCoy a.k.a our researchers? Why is it difficult to get them to do Outreach? Unfortunately, academics have pressures in their everyday world such as publishing papers, grant applications, teaching commitments and pressure from their colleagues to do research. These all rank higher in their priority list than telling the public what they are researching (or would be researching if they had the time to actually do it!).

How can we make it happen? Treat your researchers as your target market and try anything! Train them, give them ideas and resources, help them develop the skills they need for career progression, provide networking opportunities, or just plain reward them with a cool badge or certificate. You never know what might work! For more ideas and suggestions, you are very welcome to read the Proceedings for this workshop which are available in the membership area on the BIG website.

Some interesting questions were also raised through the event. How do we advise researchers conducting blue-sky research with their Impact statements? What is the purpose of university Outreach – recruitment of students, widening participation, raising aspirations and inspiration? How do we get university senior management buy-in in order for the researchers to feel obligation, and receive recognition for engaging with the big wide world? Interesting topics to be tackled more thoroughly another day perhaps.

The final thing to take away from this workshop is that actually as a country, the UK is doing pretty well in Public Engagement. This does not mean we should rest on our laurels, though, and we hope to put on more workshops to help our nationwide community of University Outreach staff keep the Public Engagement momentum going - so keep your eyes peeled for similar future events!



Ghana Planetarium Science Centre

Jacob & Jane Ashong

The Planetarium in Accra has proved very successful, and currently we are struggling to have more interactive hands-on science activities and exhibits. We have found that most children (students of all ages) and even University students, have not been exposed to very basic science demonstrations. 

Most schools that wish to visit us have problems with transport costs, and schools far from Accra don’t visit. Generally only private schools whose parents pay fees manage to come and government schools don’t, although they are the ones most deprived of practical demonstrations and activities.

We now wish to set up mobile planetariums in the regions and develop small science centres around them (there are ten regions). We would set up a central training centre in Accra for development into other West African countries later.

Throughout the world the need for more support and participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) has been recognised. In most parts of West Africa this need is even greater. 

In Ghana, the Planetarium Science Centre is making a contribution, but we now need to move into the regions to make a greater impact by recruiting and training ambassadors. These ambassadors will travel out into their communities to share STEM contents through presentations, activities and practical projects.

Therefore we need volunteers from across the developed world, who can help raise funds through crowd-funding, and can come for a few weeks, to share, train and pass on skills.


Knowledge is power? Audiences at a health science festival prefer lectures

Laura Fogg-Rogers 

We all know the debates about deficit versus dialogue, but what do audiences prefer? This was the central research question in our recent study looking at a health science festival in New Zealand.

Science festivals offer an interesting environment to explore preferences for format design, as they usually feature a huge variety of different event styles. The science festival in question was held in Auckland, New Zealand, and focussed on health science research around the brain and psychology. Held as part of international Brain Awareness Week, ‘Brain Day’ attracts over 3000 people to this free one-day annual event- not an insignificant number in a country of just 4.5 million people!

The festival formats under question were lectures, discussions, a community expo, laboratory experiments and a general good day out. Festival entrants were handed a questionnaire to fill in, and could return it anonymously to a drop-box at the exits, with a prize draw incentive. The experiment was repeated over three years, and in total we reached a sample of 661 people. 

So which format did they prefer? Overwhelmingly, this sample significantly preferred lectures; with 76% ranking them the main attraction, 89% attending them, and 84% stating lectures were the most useful. This was irrespective of age, gender, education, or the year the festival was run. In open response questions participants described their reasons – stating that ‘knowledge is power’. Participants were attending the festival to learn something new, and lectures presented a good way to hear about research and expert opinion.

But wait – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!  We conclude that all formats have a part to play in the science communication landscape. Over two-thirds of the sample visited more than one format, and indeed, laboratory experiments were the second choice for family visitors. Yet however you look at it, the much derided format of lectures is still clearly popular with audiences.


Have you heard of Scientix?

Julie Brown, Practical Action

I am sure we would all agree that BIG is a really inspiring network for those of us involved in science education and communication in the UK.   In the last year I have discovered a great European network that I am sure some of you will want to tap into. Scientix is a Project run by the EC to support the sharing of materials and good practice in science teaching throughout Europe.  My first experience with them was exhibiting at their annual conference in Brussels last year.  We had to put in an application to attend, then once we were accepted not only was our stand free  but our travel, expense and accommodation in a 5* hotel was all funded!  The event was attended by 600 teachers from around Europe and in addition to exhibiting we presented our own EC funded project in a more formal way to these teachers (very scary moment!).  The presentation focused on new resources we have produced as part of this project… Beat the Flood and Make the Link.  

Fast word five months and I got an email saying that our Beat the Flood STEM challenge had won a competition for the best STEM resource for pupils.  As a result it will be translated into all 24 European languages, available on the Scientix website…yippee!! As if that wasn’t enough of a prize we also got invited to attend a two day seminar involving workshops and networking, again all expenses paid. I met some amazing people there and now have an idea for a proposal for a new project.

What I know now that I didn’t know a year ago is that there is a wealth of European funded projects out there, all producing great science materials, with opportunities for teachers and educators to apply for fully funded places to attend conferences/seminars etc.  So, if you are interested please do have a look yourselves and spread the word, you never know what it might lead to.


What's a freelancer worth?

Rachel Mason, STEM Engagement Project Manager (sometimes freelance, sometimes not)

Always a burning question in BIG. Always comes up at any freelancer/sole trader/self-employee meeting at the BIG Event, Little Event, BIG Skills day or in the pub: What. Should. We. Be. Charging?

This excellent and very simple system to work through it all was given to me by my-best-friend’s-sister-the-management-consultant. I trust her to give us a good starting point.

First have a look at how many days in the year that you could be working, (assuming you’d like to work five days and not eight): 

Days in a year – 365. Take away weekend days (104), bank holidays (8), some holiday for you (25), an estimate for being ill (say, 5). That leaves 223 days to get paid. Potentially.

Freelancers only reasonably expect to invoice for half these days as the rest of the time is spent bidding for work, invoicing, reporting, doing your tax return, purchasing equipment, managing your business property. A self-employed person will be shouldering the things a company employer provides for its staff, like paternity/maternity pay, childcare vouchers, bereavement leave, someone to change the lightbulbs, clean the toilets, fix the heating, lay the carpet, professional development, staff pension, use and maintenance of company vehicles, occupational health service, office eqpt, IT support… So your actual invoice-able days work comes to 111.5, going by the figs above. If you’re lucky.

Right. And this bit is as much for those of you thinking of purchasing the services of a freelancer as being one. Give these things some thought when you’re considering what wage you’d expect to be paying someone to do the work as a full-time member of staff. 

What's the job worth, as an annual wage? Based on these figs, £20,000 p.a. equates to £179 per day exc VAT. £30,000 is £269. £50,000 is £448.

Wait, there’s more. This is only for consultant's TIME. Is specialist equipment required for the work? Evaluators have survey collecting and data-crunching software, show presenters have fire tornados, chladni plates, penguin costumes, vans; film-makers buy cameras and, well, stuff to make films; and vans. Exhibit builders have lathes and milling machines and Stanley knives. And vans. Many BIG members do a combination of these things and so purchase and store all this gubbbins.

Bear in mind, commissioners-of-work, that you're asking freelancers to do a short, time-limited burst of work from a standing start. AND THEN bear in mind that if the freelancer doesn't do the work you commissioned, you won't pay them at all (an employed staff member, you probably will).

If you’d like to see this presented more of a list and less of a piece of prose, go to the freelancers’ section of BIG’s website. Once you’re there and you think it’s lacking content, why not add some of your own observations and tips by sending it along to BIG?

The advice was given to me free, by the way. Presumably given to me on one of my friend’s other ‘half of these days’. She is yet to recoup her costs from me but it’ll come round and that is why I have placed the link to her website here


Getting young people involved in science

Paul Treble

For the last five years the small village of Gretton some 9 miles from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire have organised a science day aimed at families and interesting people in science. The stands are mainly produced by local people and cover all sciences from bee keeping and biology via physics and chemistry to astronomy. This year there were also stands from local employers such as GE Aviation and Ultra Electronics. Each year to numbers of people coming to the event increases and this year we were busy right from the start at 11.30am through to 4.00pm on May 16th..

Over the last two years I have contributed by taking Institute of Physics ‘Physics in the Field’ experiments and ready built LEGO Robots. My bright idea this year was to use local students to do the demonstrating for me. Unfortunately arrangements with the local school STEM Club came to nought so at the last minute I recruited 5 young people from the local church. My 13 and 14 year old demonstrators did a terrific job and I am sure that their participation really broke down barriers when encouraging members of the public to have ago at Kebab Balloons, Gripping Rice and the other delights on offer.  

The start of the robots was undoubtedly the Rubik Cube Solver though a model 3 speed gear box with clutch and accelerator cam a close second.


Science Live and kicking

Dane Comerford

Was this year’s British Science Week the best ever yet? Probably for some, but with it only recently finishing, who really knows yet? What does ‘best’ mean anyhow? Is it the quantity of people visiting lectures or the number of ‘eureka moments’ in a hands-on space per unit time, or is it the sense that a community comes together to learn about emerging technologies meanwhile meeting new neighbours and exploring social as well as scientific worlds?

These and many other questions were posed at a recent conference in Cambridge under the Science Learning+ programme, Science Live, which runs until the end of 2015. Admittedly, the dates of the conference weren’t great for some and despite coinciding with a meeting of nationwide Science Festivals, the scope of the conference was broader than looking at British Science Week or indeed festivals alone. There’s practically always a festival running (BSA, 2015) for the million-strong regular attendees (IPSOS MORI, 2014), but live public science events extend beyond brief periods of intensity, and many activities that fall outside a festival or science week aren’t usually counted.

Live public science events are vibrant and increasingly are being acknowledged as distinct formats within the spectrum of science communication activity. The Science Live project is responding to the need of external supporters of events, including funders and administrators, who are looking to build key facts into a coherent narrative for the public engagement ecosystem. The project seeks to connect and explain the role events play in a flourishing professional live public science sector. 

Part of the conference was to help the project team lay out and test our own research agenda. Following some plenary sessions describing Science Learning+, an overview of the sector as we see it and some aspirations for the project, it became clear we should modify our tactics. We reassessed the schedule for the rest of the conference and began re-planning it over the afternoon coffee break to maximise the use of our expert audience. One of the benefits of a live event, it seems, is that it doesn’t need to be scripted and can respond immediately to the people in the room.

Conference day two involved a creative discussion about format types with theatre producers and managers to set the tone of the dialogue. Given that we had our ethics statements, a guiding initial landscape study, a set of questions we wanted to ask, and (almost final) drafts of surveys and interviews, Laura, John and Dane began implementing the revised plan for gathering research data there and then. Providing three options (one being an informal unrecorded discussion), we split into groups for interviews that are now being transcribed and analysed for the project. Conversations were gravitating towards skills sharing within and between practitioner and researchers in the field of live science events, particularly around evaluation, format types and setting, but there’s plenty more to do. 

The Science Live team will be present at:

  • International Public Science Events Conference, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (Sunday 31 May – Tuesday 2 June) 
  • Science Communication Conference, Manchester, UK (Thursday 18 – Friday 19 June)
  • BIG EventNorwich, UK (Wed 22 - Fri 24 July 2015)


National Women in Engineering Day

Amina Khalid, NWED Coordinator

This year's National Women in Engineering Day takes place on 23rd June and provides the perfect opportunity for schools and organisations across the country to promote gender equality in engineering by hosting their own engineering-related event or activity. 

NWED was set up last year by the oldest women’s engineering organisation in the world, Women’s Engineering Society (WES), to celebrate their 95th anniversary, as a charity supporting women in engineering.  Last year over 250 schools and 100 organisations were involved, and we hope to follow on from the success of last year with your help and establish NWED as a bigger and better day this year!

It’s simple, but extremely rewarding to get involved in NWED and promote more interest in engineering careers.  Not only will you be standing in solidarity with thousands across the country, but you will change British history by contributing to the increase in female engineers!  All you need to do is host an engineering-related event or activity on or around the 23rd June and publicise it, using social media (using the #nwed hashtag) and mainstream media.  The event could be a hands-on engineering activity, or a talk from a local female engineer at your school.  The possibilities are endless, but the main thing to remember is that you want the public to be aware that engineering is a diverse and exciting profession suitable for everyone. 

Don’t forget to let us know your plans for NWED 2015 and register your event by filling in the Event Notification Form. 

For more information on how to get involved for NWED 2015, visit the National Women in Engineering Day website and request a free resource pack. 


Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair

Camilla Barker

Play your part at The Big Bang Fair 2016 and inspire the next generation!

The largest celebration of science and engineering for young people in the UK, The Big Bang Fair is an opportunity to inspire over 50,000 young people across 4 days and promote your programmes, workshops and activities to over 800 schools, over 12,000 teachers, parents, industry and Government officials.

The Big Bang UK Fair 2016 will take place at the NEC Birmingham from 16th – 19th March 2016 and the Fair continues to engage influential supporters and the media alike. The Prime Minister David Cameron, followed up his 2013 visit with a trip to the Fair again in 2015, “The Big Bang Fair encourages young people to understand what science and maths and technology can mean in life as well as in the classroom” 

There are many ways to get involved with The Big Bang UK Fair and regional Fairs from, interactive stands, workshops, theatre shows, busking, competition showcases and ceremonies as well as private meetings for launch activities or debates. We have options and packages to suit all forms of science and engineering communication, including grants for sole traders, if you are interested please contact activities@thebigbangfair.co.uk  for more information or visit the website 

“Both visitors and exhibitors make a lasting impression on each other” Emma Bartley, The Times

“So grateful for the help and support you all gave, we are just starting to work through the results but we know it was a great success for us!" – Formula Gravity

Thanks for such a fantastic event! We all had an amazing time and got some great feedback!” – Beauty by the Geeks


BIG PEOPLE: Helen Obee Reardon

Job: I’m the STEM Coordinator for First Campus, the South East Wales Reaching Wider Partnership . We raise aspirations with communities that are traditionally underrepresented at university: my STEM remit is mainly secondary schools that have a high proportion of pupils from Communities First (deprived) areas, over 40 in our region. We have teams based at Cardiff Metropolitan University Llandaff, USW Treforest and Caerleon as well as activities delivered by the Widening Access Team in Cardiff University so I’m able to access to the best STEM provision each university has to offer.

A typical day at work consists of: After three years in post I can confidently state that there’s no such thing as a normal day, just the way I like it. I could be running events/sessions in schools, on one of the campuses in the Partnership, or with partners such as the National Museum Wales. I’ll be managing a portfolio of projects all at different stages with different content, audiences, aims and timeframes. I could also be meeting with various partners and stakeholders to develop projects, organise events or look for future opportunities. Oh, and drinking tea.

What got you into this career? Serendipity. I applied for a job with what was the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales). I didn’t get it; instead I was offered a scholarship by Science Shops Wales to study MSc Communicating Science. I’ll always be grateful to Steve Harris for this incredible opportunity; sadly he died a few years ago.

What is the best thing about your job? I love delivering events, it gives me such a high, as well as finding stuff out and telling other people about it. I also like overturning stereotypes, whether they’re of science or engineering, the type of people who study and work in STEM or of what going to university is like, particularly the cost. 

... and the worst? Communication – aaargh! Providers not returning emails/calls/paperwork; colleagues outside First Campus asking really stupid questions so they obviously don’t understand what we do (we’ve only been doing it for 12 years), how we work or haven’t read what I’d sent them the day before; forms written by someone who will never have to fill them in and can’t manage to work out a checkbox in Word. Probably the worst is schools dropping out at the last minute when you’ve got no time to fill those spaces.

What is your favourite meal? On honeymoon in West Wales we found a little pub on the coast that served fresh, locally caught lobster grilled with homemade chips. Outside lobster season it would have to be sushi and sashimi but I also love poached eggs on toast with eggs courtesy of my chickens.

What is your favourite smell? My beehives, when you take the crown board off and look down into a completely different world (only ever sniffed through a beekeeping veil). Close joint seconds are petrichor, raspberries from my allotment, the River Taff at Llandaff Weir, bonfires, WD40 and the diesel fumes from Intercity 125s.

What talents do you possess? I’m good at working across boundaries and gatekeeping, putting unusual combinations of people together to deliver a project or have a chat. My boss tells me I’m a talented project manager, my colleagues tell me I’m a talented communicator and my husband tells me my long hair blocks plug holes wherever I go, which really is only a talent in a plumbing emergency.

What talents would you like to possess? I can’t draw for toffee, my artistic development stopped in infants school and any craft I attempt ends up covered in splodges of glue and looking crap. 

Which actor do you think should play you in the film of your life? Anyone who deserves a chance.

Which living person do you most admire and why? That’s a tough one, I’m not the admiring type. Melvin Bragg for In Our Time, they often keep me company in the office; James Martin for Saturday Kitchen; Sheila Dillon for her work on the Food Programme; Bettany Hughes and Helen Castor for making their subjects so accessible and because I came so close to studying history instead of science; anyone who can do a decent piece to camera as I don’t have the confidence.

Most beautiful place on earth? My in-laws place in South Devon; a couple of acres of land in a village near the coast where I can lay hedges, have bonfires, grow vegetables and light the wood burning stove to my heart’s content (all depending on the season). 

What is your Motto for life? Who’s the audience? Crack that and your 90% of the way to a great bit of scicomm or understanding why someone is trying to sell you a particular line/story/product/vote/point of view.


With best wishes from the BIG Executive 2014-15:

James Piercy, Chair
Bridget Holligan, Vice Chair
Lucy Moorcraft, Treasurer
Ben Craven, Secretary
Greg Foot, Ordinary Member
Ruth Perkins, Ordinary Member
Rachel Mason, Event Organiser
and Sarah Vining, Administrator


© BIG STEM Communicators Network
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software