The Study Dude!—Become AU’s Top Science Influencer

You’re one of those gifted left-brain thinkers who wants to make a splash in the science world?  Well, look no further.

You could become the next David Suzuki.  Believe it!  But first, consider what The Open University claims is your responsibility as a scientist:

“As research scientists you have the opportunity to inspire others to become scientists, or to become interested in scientific issues. Of course, not everyone will want to become a scientist. This does not mean that these individuals are not interested in science, however” (47%).

Do you agree it’s your role as a scientist to recruit future scientists?  If so, here are five ways to become AU’s top influencer for science education:

Influence science tip #1: Create a science blog.

“Demonstrate that you can communicate in an engaging way with the public by developing a weblog (also known as a blog) on your PhD research, recording the progress of your research and training for at least one month” (91%).

You don’t have to pursue a PhD in science to blog about science.  You don’t even have to be a scientist.  You just need an interest.  I once did off-the-wall experiments in my home.  I used curved glass pot lids of various sizes, light sources, a double glass balcony door, my rental video camera, and my bicycle.  If you can capture interesting phenomena, document them with interesting stories.

Tools you’ll need: Free Wix Website with blog, YouTube account, cell phone camera, and your beautiful imagination.

Influence science tip #2: Participate in science events. 

“Demonstrate that you can communicate in an engaging way with the public by participating in an outreach activity, or public engagement event, e.g. in a local school, through a public lecture, participation in a consultation exercise or active participation in National Science Week” (91%).

You probably want to be in at least your second year of a science program to do a public outreach.  You could call up or email schools to talk to children about some of the fun science you’ve learned—maybe perform an experiment with bubbles, gas, or lights: anything a kid would find delightful.  Or you could select five local scientists and host your own public engagement event. Rent a space and sell tickets—or host it for free.  Just make sure you get a professional speech writer to touch up each lecture.  Outreach should be fun, not overly formal.

Tools you’ll need: Access to a free or low-cost meeting space.  Use of sites such as Eventbrite to sell tickets to your free or fee-based event.  Poster design (a Word document with images would do).  Basic marketing through social media and an optional free Wix Website.

Oh, and you’ll need your winning smile. Yes, you can charm agencies to post your event to their members.

Influence science tip #3: Interview on news media.

Go on news media to discuss whatever is topical in your research.  Simply call up the local television and radio stations.  Ask for the PR person responsible for booking media interviews on your topic.  Write press releases to news outlets. But don’t just wing it with the media interviews.  Give them several ideas you’d like to talk about. Then script a one- to two-minute reply for each idea.  (Ask how much time you have for the actual interview).  If there’s dead air, lead into your next idea. Put your script on cue cards and practice several times a day right up to the interview date.

Tools you need: A little powder on the face to lower the shine, a mono-color shirt (not red), no striped clothing, a big smile, and your gutsy spirit.

Influence science tip #4: Publish in peer reviewed journals.

“The most important medium for knowledge production and exchange between scientists is the peer-reviewed academic journal” (71%).  You’ll probably need to be a graduate level student  to publish in a peer reviewed journal, and you often need to do original research or compile prior studies in an original way. For most of us AU students, a PhD in science is a ways away, but if you’ve got the ambition, I bet you achieve it.

Tools you need: mostly A’s and A-minuses, good relations with your faculty, a goal to get a PhD, nonstop effort, and your indomitable spirit.

Influence science tip #5: Become the next David Suzuki.

“Overtime, if you are successful in these activities, you will publish articles and become more widely known, gaining a reputation for a particular area of expertise. This, in turn, can lead to others trusting in your skills, e.g. as a scientist and a communicator, thereby increasing your chances to influence these areas” (73%).

On the first day of a grad studies class, I considered dropping.  That is, until the professor said he wanted to become the next David Suzuki.  The next day, the professor asked why I didn’t drop. I then secured a contract with him and the National Film Board.  But I didn’t go ahead with writing the script.  So, the professor stopped the project.

It’s a realistic goal for you to become the next David Suzuki. The more credentialed you get, the better, and you’ve got something else just as special.  You might be funny, charming, or analytical, or you might have a gift with magic shows. You might be nurturing, friendly, or gentle, or you might have a quirky way of telling stories. Whatever it is, you’ve got positive traits that make you compelling to watch.  Zero in on your gifts until a star is born.

Tools you’ll need: contact information for an NFB producer, a proposal, preferably photos or your own footage (visuals that advance your story), and a deep-dive into the NFB documentary submission guidelines.

Seek out NFB workshops in your city. Consider smaller NFB project funding or larger-scale funding from multiple sources. Oh, and of course, you’ll need your love of science.

Claim your spot on stage.  Gain your fan base.  Become AU’s top science promoter.  Once you gain steam, everyone will want a piece of you.

Open Learn: Free Learning from The Open University. (2016). Postgraduate study skills in science, technology or mathematics. The Open University. E-book excerpt.
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