How I became a science communicator

I’m a science communicator- people often ask me what this mean, and really it’s in the title. I communicate science. I help others communicate science. I write about science, develop communication strategies, write science shows, create educational material, and present on radio shows.

Most of the time I help scientists communicate what they do via web pages, articles for magazines and newspapers, and newsletters. I write about science in a way that’s accessible to more people than just scientists or those that have studied science. I make science accessible and relevant to everyday life.

As an university undergraduate I studied two bachelor’s degrees simultaneously – I majored in ecology in my science degree, and psychology in my arts degree. I didn’t know where this was going to take me, and at the time studying the environment and how people work did not seem that compatible.

I was approaching the end of my degree when I stumbled upon an ad in the newspaper. “Join the Science Circus!”, it said, and I read on to find out about a university offering scholarships in science communication. Suddenly what I had studied made some sense – I needed to know about people in order to communicate science effectively, and that is what I ended up doing.

I won a scholarship to study science communication at the Australian National University, and moved to Canberra. Within the course I was part of a science circus, travelling around Australia to regional and remote areas performing science shows in schools and putting on a mobile exhibition, all to get kids excited about science and make it relevant to their everyday lives. It was an amazing year with a great bunch of people. I was learning and practicing a field that I really enjoyed. That was in 2003, and I have worked as a science communicator ever since, in Australia, England and Israel.

jo with a bowl of slime and lots of school kids watching

Performing a science show to school kids in Tasmania, 2003

Straight after university I developed and ran science events at the Australian Science Festival, gaining sponsorship for workshops, performances, lectures and debates, reaching over 100,000 people in Canberra and across Australia via live radio broadcasts.

I then moved to the UK to work at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, developing hands on activities for kids and organising special events for the school holidays. Some of the exhibitions I contributed to include the science of chocolate, the science of robots, and dinosaurs and mars.

Giant T-Rex in a Newcastle football jersey and Jo

The Geordie T-Rex at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle, 2006

I returned to Australia to work for CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency, in the sustainable ecosystems division, where I worked with agricultural scientists, ecologists, economists and sociologists to communicate their research on sustainability. I also worked for the divisional management helping the division run smoothly.

Working with scientists in the cane fields of North QLD, Australia, 2008

 

In 2010 I moved to Israel and worked with Israeli scientists to write grant applications for European Commission funding. I was a project manager, communicating with scientists across Europe and coordinating everyone’s input into the grant application. I managed projects as varied as communicating nanotechnology, pharmacogenomics, radicalisation, offshore wind power development, cancer tumour therapy, and hepatitis screening technologies.

I now work as a freelance science communicator with research institutes, writing web pages, articles, and newsletter to communicate science to a wider audience. I feel privileged to be constantly learning about new science projects and ideas and to help others learn about what scientists are doing to make our lives and our environment better.

Jo Savill is a writer, science communicator and entrepreneur. Stay up to date with Jo’s writing by signing up to my newsletter

 

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