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Calling all interested in communicating science in Canada – Let’s meet online!

4 Apr

SciCommCanada.jpgFor a really long time, I had wondered why there seem to be few people talking and writing about science in Canada. It felt pretty lonely here as a science communicator.

It finally dawned on me a few months ago that it is not because no one is doing it, but we simply don’t know what each other is doing.

Case in point, the Banff Centre Science Communications program has been running annually since 2005 (I had the opportunity to be part of the program last year). There are about 20 graduates each year, meaning that we have “at least” 160 people enthusiastic about science communication in Canada! Yet it was not until attending the program that I knew about the others. Even more surprising was that a few of my work colleagues are actually alumni of the program. I had no idea.

A session during Science Online 2013, titled Communicating science where there is no science communication, seemed to be the turning point for us in Canada (one of the session moderators Colin posted a follow up on his blog).  We are finally starting to ask why, and to think about what we can do to improve the current situation.

Two weeks ago I set up a Google+ community for Science Communication in Canada. The hope is to provide a space for those interested in communicating science to the general public to network online and collaborate on projects. The community is moderated by me and Lisa Willemse, who is the Director of Communications for the Stem Cell Network. We just had our first Google Hangout and already started some short-term projects. It was really exciting to chat with others involved in science communication in Canada.

Two other communities have also been started.

I would like to invite those interested in communicating science to join these online communities. Really looking forward to meeting you online – see you soon!


Heartbreak “physically” hurts (and what this has to do with science communications)

2 Oct

I mean, yes, there are songs about it, there are movies about it, but most of the time when we say “love hurts” it means more of an emotional type of hurt. But guess what, there is actually research showing that the areas of the brain that deal with pain caused by physical stimuli actually respond to painful thoughts of break-ups, and that physical pains and emotional pains are more similar than we originally thought.

Aside from this being an interesting study, the reason why I want to talk about this is because I actually found the write-up about this research from an online fashion magazine (I know, I am a nerd who reads and breathes science, yet I also like pretty clothes and shoes…ah shoes…). And the research quoted is from PNAS – actually a reliable scientific journal (none of those made-up magazine stuff, even though the research was actually done 1.5 years ago (if you know of any updates, let me know!). And when I compare the 3 write-ups on the same research – one from the fashion magazine, one from a science news website, and then the original article, it is interesting how the fashion magazine seems to use the more relatable terms and the most catchy title (and obviously the most eh, “interesting” photo). This says a lot about writing to your audience, but also demonstrates how research projects can be written in a fun and approachable way for the general public (granted that it might be difficult for some other research projects…).

Anyways, here are the 3 articles I checked out – Enjoy!

Refinery29 Why Love Hurts So Damn Much — Figuratively AND Literally

Science Daily Study Illuminates the “Pain” of Social Rejection

PNAS Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with pain

Note: actually I was just thinking a few days ago that to get people to learn more about science, we should have scientists start writing science columns in magazines that do not seem to be related to science, like fashion, art, photography, fishing, outdoor, antique, etc…

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