I’m writing this blog post in between unpacking and repacking my suitcase; it’s the first time I’ve been back to Aberdeen since the end of December and the fact it’s now February is more than a little disconcerting. Time appears to have advanced at such a pace because I’ve been on an adventure, you see!
In March 2018 I was one of 150 people across the UK to be awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship. The program funds UK citizens to investigate inspiring practice in other countries, so that they can they return to the UK with innovative ideas and new approaches to their particular field of interest. I applied in the ‘Science, Technology and Innovation’ category with a project that aims to explore creative techniques for communicating and engaging the public with science. My ultimate aim is to take inspiration from those creatives techniques and bring them into the world of science blogging.
My Fellowship began in January, and the first leg included visits to Canada (Toronto), and the USA (New York, New Hampshire and Washington DC). As I said, I’m now back in Aberdeen to sort out my mammoth pile of laundry, which has naturally led to some reflections before I leave the UK tomorrow for the second and final leg of my Fellowship travels (Singapore and Hong Kong).
The last few weeks have been incredible. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with science communicators, scientists and researchers, journalists, artists and people from other creative industries that I’ve been inspired by for years. I’ve had conversations about the various facets of science communication, and what those of us who are active in the field hope to do to push the field forward, and I’ve been pushed to assess and reassess my own practice and what I could and should be doing to make it more inclusive. Perhaps naively, before beginning the Fellowship I expected the conversations I’d have to be pretty straightforward – I expected to learn some new ways to communicate, and to be inspired to generate new methods for communicating my own science. What I did not expect were complex conversations around diversity and inclusion, specifically linked to gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and national origin.
I am in a position of privilege; I am a 27-year-old, cisgender, straight, able-bodied white woman with a PhD. I am also travelling the world on a funded Fellowship program. These conversations about a lack of diversity in the field of science communication have been uncomfortable at times; they have pushed me to question my own biases and forced me to ask myself how I can work to improve the presentation of my science in order to include everyone in the conversations that I am trying to start. As well as being very excited to see sunny Singapore, I am itching to return to the University so that I can begin exploring how I can support other researchers to communicate their science creatively and inclusively.
I’ll be sure to update the School of Medicine, Medical Science and Nutrition blog with a post towards the end of my Asian adventure, but if you’d like to follow my escapades more closely over the coming weeks, please head to my blog – I’ll be updating there more regularly.