April’s #scicommchall — designing your project’s giveaways for science communication

For April’s scicommchall, let’s think about giveaways. Many big research projects and institutions regularly spend a lot of money on things like pens, mugs, canvas bags, or even pool noodles (I kid you not, my former employer did that!), all typically branded with the institution’s or project’s logo. While many of those are certainly useful and others funny, wouldn’t it be even better if they had a science communication aspect to them, since they are already budgeted for, anyway? And even if you don’t have a budget for giveaways at the moment, wouldn’t it be fun to have a game plan in place for when you do?

So tell us:

What giveaway would you ideally like to have for your own project?

For some thoughts on how to use giveaways in science communication, check out Mirjam‘s recent blog posts on what the literature tells us about giveaways, on designing a scicomm giveaway, and on checklists & logistics to consider.

Motion cards for wave watching

Mirjam writing about giveaways that also work as scicomm props for April’s scicommchall:

One of my scicomm foci is wave watching: looking at the water and trying to figure out why the waves look exactly the way they do. What caused them? The wind, ships, animals? What’s the influence of the shape of the coastline or the depth distribution? That kind of stuff.

In order to discuss these kinds of questions, it’s useful to visualize wave crests (or troughs) in pictures, so everybody is talking about the same things, which is surprisingly difficult when you look at a moving water surface.

I like to annotate pictures and create gifs for my blog (like the one below) to then be able to explain things, but I am thinking that a motion card (you know? The kind of card that shows two or more pictures depending on the angle you look at them at) might be a fun way to show a similar thing. It would be small enough to carry with me to give to people at e.g. conferences, or cheap to send to people per (snail-) mail. People might like to put it up at their pin boards at work, or have it on their desks, or even send it to other people because it’s fun. And I think it could be intriguing enough that people would follow a link to read more about what’s displayed on the card and about wave watching in general. So it would be a way to get people curious about everyday physics.

What do you think? Would it work on you?

Spinning tops as giveaways as well as scicomm tools!

Katrin tells us about a really neat scicomm giveaway for April’s #scicommchall:

“My job is the science communication of a collaborative research center called SPIN+X. Physicists, engineers and chemists are working together within SPIN+X doing research on spin phenomena.

Spin is a property of particles like electrons, neutrons or protons. Because of their spin, those particles behave like little spinning tops. So, at science events we give away little spinning tops, with which we can show and explain phenomena like precession (the staggering of a spinning tops axis) and their application in spin research, for example for developing new kinds of electronics.

Besides their usefulness for science communication, the spinning tops are nice to play with whenever your bored because not everything can be as exciting as spin research

A concept cartoon about teachers’ reasons not to implement Inquiry-Based Learning

Alice is sharing her contribution to March’s #scicommchall on her Instagram @scied_alice (which you should totally check out!). She writes:

“I‘m finally submitting my concept cartoon for this months #scicommchall – and it‘s about teachers‘ reasons NOT to implement Inquiry-Based Learning and addressing diversity. All of those reasons are hindering factors and are totally legitimate. They‘re not excuses but subjective perceptions of the situation in which teachers assess their opportunities for action. It‘s my job to find those factors influencing the teachers‘ beliefs and their self-efficacy and to convince policy makers and educators of the importance of addressing those factors.”

A concept cartoon to kickstart discussions about why water striders can walk on water

In March, we are developing concept cartoons. They are perfect to get people discussing, since they give several common answers to a question and people have to explain why some of them are valid while others are not.

In Sara’s case, the question is “why are water striders able to walk on water?” and answers include “because they are so light”, “because they distribute their weight”, “because of their long legs”, “because of surface tension”, “because they re so fast”. What do you think? Why can water striders walk on water? And how would you use concept cartoons for your own topic?

#SciCommChall in March: Join us in creating concept cartoons!

For this month’s #scicommchall, let’s do concept cartoons!

The idea is that in a concept cartoon, the sketch of a situation is given, along with a couple of people who each give a statement explaining the situation. For example on the topic of whether a sundial can be used in both hemispheres, the characters state things like “yes, you just have to position it the other way round”, “yes, if you swap the numbers”, “no, because the sun moves in the opposite direction”, “it will work, but with a 12 hour offset”.

This can then be used to support discussions: Since many possible misconceptions are made explicit on the sketch itself, it is easy for people to identify with one of the answers and explain why they think that it is the correct one. It is also useful to use answers to argue against or to use them as a starting point for experiments or literature research, or to talk about your topic with an audience you suspect might harbour some of those misconceptions.

So let’s go: Show us an interesting question related to your science in a concept cartoon!

Nena’s work is a little blue and glittering rainbow fish

For February’s #scicommchall, Nena writes:

“My work is like the little blue and glittering rainbow fish,
colourful like the biodiversity I experience daily again and again,
lively like the nature I am working in,
glimmering like the eyes of children they discover the live around them,
friendly like the people I am allowed to speak every day!”

Love it! What would your work be if it was an animal?

Sinikka is working on dissolved organic matter and looks at it “from all sides” for #scicommchall

Sinikka took on December’s #scicommchall to look at her subject from all sides. She writes:

New position, new topic: I am now studying carbon-containing molecules
in the ocean (“dissolved organic matter” or “DOM”). The December Scicomm
challenge comes handy to get to know my new topic from all sides.

For an observer at the beach, DOM might change the color of the water,
as it contains many molecules that absorb light.

For bacteria, it is a tasty meal.

Slightly larger (and much larger!) animals in the ocean excrete DOM.

For me as a scientist, it is an astonishing mixture of hundreds of
thousands of different molecules (and we’re still wondering why there is
so much DOM, when bacteria could just eat it all).

For the atmosphere, it is a great way to store carbon from fossil fuel
burning, so the carbon isn’t present as the greenhouse gas CO2 in the air.

For the climate, it is an important carbon reservoir, which potentially
was responsible for warm (little carbon stored in the ocean) and cold
(much carbon stored in the ocean) periods in the history of our planet.

If your work was an animal, which one would it be and why?

February’s #scicommchall is brought to you by Nena:

If your work was an animal, which one would it be and why?

Excited like a mating cock? Clever like a red fox? Like ants – looking chaotic but more organized we can imagine?

During remembering a talk of a professor last year, the #SciCommChall for February was born. He was asking his pupils “If maths was an animal, which one would it be and why”. One girl was answering “Maths is like a spider, just hit down”. Another little child compared math with a lion “full of respect”. Interesting was the answer of a boy who said “Math for me it’s like a hippo, first you are scared and later you are fascinated”.

So, take up the challenge in work and live and tell us which animal is reflecting your work!