#SciCommChall in May: What picture would you pick to represent your research?

Sometimes it’s super helpful to have some nice visual representation of what your work is all about. Not only for your own scicomm, but also for stuff like your project’s annual report, your institute’s website, your conference poster, …

So as part of the #SciCommChall in May, challenge yourself:

Create 10* images that represent your work and share them with us!**

And tell us: What part of your work is represent in which picture, and how? Is it the way you feel when you think about your research? The question you are addressing with your science? The methods you are using? The environment you do your work in? The reason you are interested in your research question? A typical day in the office? …? And what makes you associate that image with that aspect of your work?

*Yes, 10! Why? Because if you pick more than just one or two, that takes the pressure off of each of those to be 100% perfect: Showing all aspects of your research, being visually pleasing, artistic, whatever expectations you might have. That’s NOT what we are trying to accomplish here! We just want to try to find images that you can show to illustrate your work.

**Only one additional condition here: Make sure you either take photos / draw images yourself, or make sure you have the right to use and share whatever other images you find that you didn’t create yourself.

Water striders and cereal boxes. Sara’s #nano #scicomm as part of March’s #SciCommChall

Sara presents her March’s Science Communication Challenge on her brand new Instagram account @frauwissenschaft.
She found a funny water strider motto “Water strider – You cannot please everyone. Even if you can walk on water, someone will come and ask if you are too stupid to swim.” and created a meme using one of her research pictures and that motto to stick on a cornflakes package, so that families are prompted to discuss about surface tension and all the cool nano research during breakfast.

Toy trains explaining melting of shelf ice in Antarctica

Mirjam here!

Can we use our topics to come up with ideas for crafts projects that kids can do while we chat with them and their parents about our science? It would be cool if we could let them create something they proudly take home, that would always remind them of the science we talked about and spark conversations about it!

Here is one idea I came up with for April’s #SciCommChall: A postcard that kids can color in. The science that inspired this drawing is cutting-edge research by Elin Darelius and her team at the University of Bergen, Norway. Elin investigates how ocean currents influence melting of ice shelves floating on the water around Antarctica, and I have been involved in some of their research and outreach.

On the back of the postcard (or maybe an additional leaflet, I haven’t completely thought this through) I would print an explanation of what we see on the postcard (and obviously both the text and the drawing itself would have to be agreed upon with the research team, which they are not yet. I am just presenting an idea here!):

“This postcard shows research on how ocean currents melt ice in Antarctica.
When ocean bring warm water next to the ice, the ice melts. But where that happens, how fast, and how much ice melts depends on the properties of the currents. You can imagine the current like a toy train going past the ice, transporting warm water. But the train could go fast or slow. It could go on nice, smooth tracks, or around sharp corners, loosing some of its cargo on the way. It could be very warm or rather cold. It could carry heavy or not so heavy goods. And there are many more options that you could imagine that would influence how good a job the train does at melting the ice!
How do we know which of those options are important, and which settings are correct? To figure this out, Elin and her team go on research cruises to Antarctica and measure directly how fast the currents go, which pathways they take, their temperature and their density — all the properties that we know already we need to get right to drive our toy train like an Antarctic ocean current. Elin and her team also do experiments in large water tanks, where they can set those properties similarly to what they measured in Antarctica and see whether there are other properties they should also take into consideration.
It’s rather complicated, but it’s also very exciting! To find out more about this research, go to https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/darelius/

What do you think? I can tell you that not everybody on the team is happy with how much I am simplifying by using the toy train as an analogy, and I completely understand and respect that. I don’t think I would have been able to talk about my own research in such simplified terms, I can completely relate to how that must feel, and maybe I have gone way too far down the rabbit hole of simplification. But I still think it’s a fun idea, and I welcome your feedback! Do you think I am simplifying too much here?


Hairy legs and walking on water – #LOLmythesis as part of January’s #SciCommChall

We’ve been doing the #SciCommChall offline for a while already, and this is a cool example of a #LOLmythesis that Sara did as part of the January #SciCommChall.

Sara is working on developing scicomm for material sciences (specifically nano sciences) in a virtual reality format. She writes: “When water striders get wet feet, tiny hairs have superpowers and audiences tear up. Who gets immersed more? We’ll soon find out!” and it is shown on a scanning electron microscopy image of a water strider’s hairy leg.

Sara is writing about her PhD- and scicomm journey on Instagram: Find her as @frauwissenschaft (“Ms. Science” in English)!

Fun #scicomm crafts for kids involving whale skeletons? Yes please!

Mirjam writing:

Remember that I gave you a sneak peek into my April #SciCommChall idea a little while back when I was drawing whale skeletons?

Here is where I wanted to go with that:

It’s a prototype of a “Oh, a whale! Now you see its skeleton! And now you don’t!” toy that kids could make with us while talking to Nena about the weird hip bone (did you know that what that detached bone was? I didn’t until she told me!). And then bring it home and think about it every time they see it…

If you like the idea, here is a printable .pdf. If you make your own toy, don’t forget to share a picture with us! (Here is how)


Learning about whales from a milk carton? Nena’s response to the March #SciCommChall !

Nena writes:

At first sight whales don’t look to be very athletic, because mostly they huge and it seems they not really moving fast in the ocean. But they are! Since my research project deals with whales, I came up with the idea to show people what whales enormously perform during their live.

On the one side of the milk carton the riddle starts with a short story about five kids be on holiday on different places to different times. All of them see whales and we print their pictures of the fluke connected to where and when they have been seen. The viewer now is asked to notice which fluke where seen twice and thus to recreate the migration way of them on.

The “riddle” side of the milk carton. Click on the images to enlarge!

On the other side of the milk carton, I present the solution to the riddle and explain why they have to travel these routes.

The “solution” side of the milk carton. Click on the images to enlarge!

Read more about humpback whales below the cut (in german)

Continue reading “Learning about whales from a milk carton? Nena’s response to the March #SciCommChall !”

New #SciCommChall is out! April 2018

Summer is almost here, and with it science fair season! And we are planning ahead for several events this summer. From our experience with last year’s European Researchers’ Night we are expecting our audience to mainly consist of parents and grandparents with pre-school and primary school-aged children. So this months #SciCommChall idea: To funnel people into conversations about our science and keep them with us for some time, we lure in the children with some science-y handcrafts! The kids pick out pre-printed postcards, book marks, pins, maybe even t-shirts with different outlines of motives representing the science projects we are working on. While the kids are busy coloring in their new treasures, the adults will be happy to look at our other exhibits and chat to us. And when the kids proudly wear their newest handcrafts home, the adults can talk to them about the science behind what is displayed on those little works of art. And it’s going to spark conversations about the event every time they look at it in the days and weeks after.

So for the April #SciCommChall:

Draw a representation of your project that could be colored in by kids as part of a cool give-away!

Or if you have an even better idea, do that and please share it with us! I hear some of my colleagues already have other awesome crafty projects for kids in the making… 🙂

Egg cups + Haikus for science communication

Written by Mirjam:

#SciCommChall in March was to come up with a small scicomm “thing” that could be used during Easter Sunday breakfast to spark discussion of some science idea. I really like the Norwegian tradition of crime story cartoons on milk packaging around Easter, and thought that it might be neat to try out that format (or at least use it as inspiration). Here is what I came up with:

First: Haikus for everyone involved in KiSOC! A Haiku is a japanese poem with three lines à 5-7-5 syllables. Here we go:

I then added short explanations of whose research those Haikus were based on, and what the research is about.

Then I made the whole thing into ………. individual egg holders for our Easter celebration! (Not that we would usually have Easter celebrations at work, but I promised one, and the March challenge lends itself perfectly…).

So this is what the finished product looks like (except that there are a lot more egg cups, since there are a lot more people involved in that project): Haikus + little drawings on the outside, and explanations hidden on the inside!

And here is a poster, summing up the March #SciCommChall (click to access .pdf)

Are you interested in participating in our #SciCommChall? Sign up here and I will email you at the beginning of every month with that month’s #SciCommChall. The only rule is that there are no rules. Participate or don’t, use your own research or someone else’s, share with us or don’t, be inspired by the challenge or use that inspiration for something else 🙂

New #SciCommChall is out! March 2018

This month‘s idea is borrowed from the Norwegian tradition of crime cartoons, which are printed on milk cartons around Easter and which are traditionally solved at a family Easter Brunch:

Show us how you would sneak some science communication into a Brunch with your family and friends!