I was honoured to be asked on the judging panel for Famelab 2020 competition. I share a deep passion for effective science communication and its impact on society and I have always loved participating in this event.
This year, we were taken on a virtual, kaleidoscopic journey of carefully crafted, scientific stories.
The range of topics spanned the natural world including talks on nurturing the sociable nature of horses, the science behind birdsongs, wasps and why we shouldn’t hate them and how we can learn from the environmental DNA that is all around us.
Human biology was also thematic, including great insights in why we die, how humans are the most evolved endurance runners, how humans share their bodies with microbes, a new appreciation for the family tree and the differences between the X and Y chromosomes.
The environment rightly featured in a great talk on plastics, their impact and potential solutions.
We were taken on an incredible voyage by skilled science communicators, who spoke with such passion, enthuse and energy on their chosen topic.
What makes it even more impressive is the seemingly impossible task of shortening this to a bite-size, high energy three-minute presentation with no slides!
The value of effective science communication
Effective science communication is a critical necessity in this era of global health pandemics and I daresay fake news. How Covid-19 affects men and women differently and what this research will yield is a key point.
A poignant and relevant point provided to us from one of the contestants in Famelab is the fact that it was only in 1993 that the US Congress passed the National Institutes of Health Revitalisation Act, which states that women and people of diverse ethnicity have to be included in government-funded clinical research.
The irony is that one of the most important advances of modern biologics rests on the introduction of the HELA cell, which originated from a woman of ethnic diversity, Henrietta Lacks, who suffered from an aggressive form cancer and tragically died from in 1951.
We cannot change the past, but we can collectively learn from it via science communication and this has important societal impacts.
We have new challenges as the world population approaches 8 billion. How do we handle plastics? What about the residual microplastics, that exist in ecosystems and now within us?
How do we protect biodiversity and slow down further damage? These important topics were raised during Famelab 2020.
However, another aspect that Covid 19 has thought us, which was beautifully reflected in Famelab, is that the respite to nature provided by the world slowing down is apparent.
For instance, native birds, such as the Great Coal Tit are changing their habits of communication and what locations they sing from, now that they can be heard over the din of the usual city noise pollution.
People who can share their scientific passions in an easily understandable manner need to be cherished and encouraged.
It takes steely nerves to participate in Famelab, which is now globally recognised as a leader in Science Communication platforms. It is in extra recognition to the British Council, that they decided to go ahead with a virtual final in Ireland.
I’m not going to give anymore away – tune in and listen to this great event and you will be seriously impressed by what you learn in the next two hours.
It will take you on a whistle stop tour of some of the most fascinating scientific topics that effect each of our daily lives. If you have any queries about the Science industry in Ireland or about any of the topics mentioned in this article please get in touch.
FameLab is an initiative of the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK. The British Council has a licence to deliver the competition in over 30 countries internationally. In 2019-20, FameLab Ireland is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and is supported by Cpl Resources Plc and Henkel Ireland Limited.
It is managed by British Council Ireland in collaboration with Newstalk 106-108fm, Science Gallery Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Galway, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Limerick and multiple science research centres.
If you’d like to learn more or have any questions about the science industry in Ireland or hiring solutions with the science sector please do get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org