Pint of Science Writeup
Glasgow is often called the “City of Science”, with lots of science communication events going on, such as the Glasgow Science Festival, Café Scientifique and Bright Club. One other event increasing in popularity is Pint of Science, an annual three day festival in May that takes place in pubs around the city, where members of the public can come along and listen to speakers explain about their science in a relaxed atmosphere. Pint of Science is run by teams of volunteers that organise events centred around themes such as: Beautiful Mind (neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry), Atoms to Galaxies (physics, chemistry, maths, astronomy) and Planet Earth (geosciences, plant sciences, zoology).
Pint of Science began in 2012 when two scientists at Imperial College London organised an event called “Meet the Researchers”, where they invited people affected by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and motor neurone disease into their labs to explain what kind of research they do. Given the success of this event, they thought “why not bring science out to the people instead?” Pint of Science was born, and quickly caught on. Now, Pint of Science is held in around 300 cities around the world, including Glasgow.
In this post, PGR bloggers Robyn and Bianca share their experiences with organising, presenting and attending Pint of Science events in Glasgow:
Robyn: This year, I was part of the Planet Earth organising team for Pint of Science, helping to put together themed nights about our Earth and the natural world. Our team was made up of seven PGR students, a few from my own department (IBAHCM), but also some people I didn’t yet know from the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences.
For our event, we decided on themes for each night. The first, “Life’s a Beach” featured talks about marine biology, and in particular the effects of sunscreen and microfibers on sea life. The second, “What a Waste - or is it?” had talks about waste, pollution and how we can make our waste into a useful resource. Finally, we had an evening centred around “Fighting Doomsday” about conserving both wildlife and habitats. On the last night, I gave a talk about my own PhD research into biological clocks, and how humans and the wildlife that share urban environments are affected by light pollution. As usual, I was nervous before and during the public speaking! However, I very much enjoyed presenting to an audience made up of members of the general public (with a few scientists thrown in).
For me, science communications is not just about explaining to non-scientists about what you do. It is also about learning to break your research down into easy to understand concepts, which ultimately helps you to understand your own research better! After my talk, I had a lot of good questions from audience members, some of which I hadn’t considered before! All three nights we ran were a success, so I thoroughly recommend taking part in Pint of Science 2019 - or any kind of science communications activity in Glasgow!
Bianca: After two years of organising Pint of Science, I decided to take a step back, focus on finishing my PhD and just enjoy the festival by going to a some of the events and learning about some topics that are way outside my research area.
I ended up learning about stained glass windows and “wearable materials” that can be used in prosthetics during an Atoms to Galaxies event, and about polar bears, peatlands restoration work and biological clocks in the wild at one of the Planet Earth events.
I loved both events, and they reminded me why I love science communication in general and why I try to get involved in as many outreach projects as I can. As PGR students we are focused on our research projects and stress about all our deadlines all the time. Taking a step back and talking about our research in a fun way to a wider audience than usual can be a great way to build our confidence and earn some public speaking experience. For me, hearing about other people’s research gave me a few ideas about how to better present mine, all while giving me a well deserved break from the stress of writing my thesis.
If you’d like to meet some new people and learn about some cool research over a pint in the pub, I’d really encourage you to attend some Pint of Science events. The main festival is in May, so Pint of Science is over for this year, but there are many other special Pint events throughout the year. For example, I’m going to Space Rocks with Museum of the Moon next week. Why not come along?
Have you attended any Pint of Science events? Did we convince you to consider volunteering to help organise the festival next year? Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @UofG_PGRBlog!