On Friday, 24 May 2019, around 150 people gathered in Belval to hear from famous scientist and edutrainer Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim about why science and Youtube are a perfect fit. The talk also kicked off an intense two-day workshop in which 30 participants learned how to communicate science through the medium of video.
Jean-Paul (Jhemp) Bertemes, Head of Science in Society at FNR said:
“We as the FNR are convinced that science communication has an important role to play in today’s society. Many topics in politics and everyday life are complex and research contributes valuable input.
“Therefore, we encourage researchers and science communicators to speak up and let their voices be heard – videos, via channels such as Youtube, is a great tool for reaching a wide audience. That’s why we got together with ‘Wissenschaft im Dialog’ (‘science in dialogue’) to organise a two-day immersive workshop. In this framework, we reached out to Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim (Quarks & Co., schön schlau, maiLab), whose work is proof that you can take this video approach and still go in-depth with science, facts and studies.
“After all, taxpayers money is invested in research and know-how, and society has to benefit from this know-how. It is our responsibility to support scientists in sharing their knowledge with society. Furthermore, researchers also benefit from entering into a dialogue with citizens: it gives them a good feel of which needs, values and expectations society has and to take this into account in their research. Ultimately, the research system is not only there to produce publications, but in order to shape a better future for society.”
Read Jean-Paul Bertemes’ interview with Mai Thi about why science and Youtube are a perfect fit:
Why is YouTube such a good fit for science communication?
“Many scientists think that you can’t score well on dry numbers or facts. However, I think that it’s just the opposite. Niches, such as science, can survive much better on the Internet than, for example, on TV. When people watch my YouTube videos, they have decided to click on it. They really want to watch the video. And that’s why I have a very different starting situation than, for example, on TV.”
Why is it so important to communicate about science, nowadays?
“At the present time, there are so many interfaces between politics, legislation, the everyday life of humans and science. However, there are translators missing for these intersections.
“An example of this is genetic engineering: There are experts working on this and there are policy makers. However, the real questions are: Do the people who make important decisions for our everyday lives, have all the facts? Is there enough exchange between the two groups?
“I think that’s where we need science communicators with the ability to teach, translate and sometimes arbitrate.”
When communicating about science, there is often a tendency to try to communicate as briefly and simply as possible. Is this the right way? Or should science communicators try to go deeper?
“In my opinion, science communication doesn’t always have to be as short and as easy as possible. Sometimes I think that we think people are too stupid. If we make it too simplistic, too dumb, to the point that important information isn’t communicated properly anymore, then it is obvious why people are poorly versed in science. That’s why I think we should just dare to trust people more, to go deeper, because they really want to know.”
What’s your advice to scientists?
“I would advise scientists to communicate and to dare more. However, I know how it is. I’m a chemist myself. I was in the lab for years. It’s a weird feeling. We are not used to standing in front of a group of people and communicating. However, in my opinion, it should be a given for the ‘scientist’ profession to communicate about science. I mean, as scientists, we know that we work with public money most of the time; it’s our responsibility to explain what we do with people’s money.”
Interviewed by Jean-Paul Bertemes for science.lu