Next Friday, September 27th, I will be giving a popular science talk at the Natural History Museum in London.
The occasion is Hall of FameLab, a gathering of skilled science communicators from all over Europe ready to amaze the public with a 3 minutes, power-point free scientific story.
The event is organized by the British Council (BC) a UK task force that “creates opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide”.
Hall of FameLab is inspired to the FameLab Competition, which was created by the Cheltenham Science Festival back in 2005. The British Council came on board in 2007, and had helped the Festival to spread FameLab around the globe and created FameLab International.
FameLab wants to convey complex scientific stories to the general audience, inspiring future generations and rise their curiosity towards a discipline that still surprisingly counts too few active members. According to EU figures, the Union aims to rise investments in R&D to the 3% of the GDP and needs more STEM taught at schools and 1 million more researchers by 2020. In this sense, FameLab can give a hand.
Moreover, the absence of science from the cultural dialog is damaging for EU purpose, as people tend to see science as a technical, unreachable, industry-entangled matter, for which there’s no point in trying to engage.
Make a guess: ask your neighbors about the financial crisis exit-strategies, and then about MMR vaccination or the Higgs boson. Which of these topics will make them rise their shoulders?
But on September 27th, science will claim the space it deserves: the NHM is throwing the annual Science Uncovered – an outreaching initiative supported by the European Researchers’ Night and financed by the European Commission, that aims to close the gaps between researchers and people, correctly inform citizens about science potentials, risks and benefits in an edutainment way.
The mission is one, and it’s easy: give awesome and juicy science, with a touch of geek-ness.
I attended the international FameLab competition myself, back in June 2012 at Cheltenham Science Festival. In that occasion, I used my 3 minutes to explain how the good microorganisms that lives inside our intestines can exchange weapons with bad bacteria that make us sick, in a “black market” that may threaten our health long after the infection is gone.
At the Natural History Museum, the British Council has take up the opportunity to organize a similar contest, though much less formal: Hall of FameLab. Host of the show will be the formidable Quentin Cooper, voice of Material World, pop scientific program for BBC4radio, podcasted here.
The evening I will have the pleasure to meet again the FamaLab Champion 2012 Didac Carmona (Spain), FameLab champion 2012 who explained why cells death in our body is a “good news”; and Monika Koperska, who convinced me that we should store valuable informations on a very technological advanced material: paper.
For the first time, I will meet:
Fergus McAuliffe (Ireland), this year FameLab champion, who fascinated me with Wood Frog research; Dimitar Zhelev (Bulgaria) who works on geophysics and promises to discuss the “memory of the soil”; Myrtani Pieri (Cyprus), my first FameLab inspiration and 2011 winner, who will talk about how deep (molecular speaking) is the love for a mother to her child; Antonis Kanouras (Greece) CEO of a robotic start-up and knowledgeable in binary code as he is in Greek, Sima Adhya (UK) a space mission scientist and Helga Hofmann-Sieber (Germany) virologists, who will update us on new HIV research.