The science communication initiative that puts female scientists around the globe in the limelight! Applications for 2019 events are now open.
Soapbox Science events draw inspiration from the ‘Speakers’ Corner’ in Hyde Park, London – a historic site of public debate. Since the first event in London in 2011, Soapbox Science has grown tremendously with events being held across the globe!
Put simply, the initiative promotes the work of female scientists of all disciplines and career stages by plucking volunteers from a pool of applicants, plonking them atop a soapbox (like a small crate) for an hour in a public place, and giving them the freedom to communicate their research. Sound scary? I’m here to assuage your fears by telling you my experience of participating in last year’s Soapbox Science.
I’m going to start by saying that Twitter is a marvellous thing – if you haven’t got an account, get one! It was through twitter that I found out about Soapbox Science. I saw the initial call for applications and imposter syndrome reared its ugly head, preventing me from applying. Time went by and I saw that the deadline for applications had been extended. Realising I had absolutely nothing to lose, I furiously typed away and submitted my application in the nick of time. To my delight I was selected as a speaker!
I’d previously been involved in other science communications projects within my workplace, but this was the first time delivering an event which hadn’t already been tried and tested. Certainly, this seemed quite a daunting challenge for me at first.
My fears quickly dissipated when the Soapbox Science team got in touch. A training day was arranged where we could meet the local organisers and other speakers, learn more about the event and have a test run of our speeches on the soapbox. After that I watched videos from previous events and carried on working on my speech.
On the big day, each speaker is given an hour to talk to the public alongside 3 or 4 other speakers. This isn’t to say that you give an hour-long public lecture; in reality, it is more like 5-10 minute snippets which you repeat to different groups of visitors. There are volunteers on the day whose job is to steer the public in your direction, so speakers needn’t fear having to approach random passers-by.
My experience of Soapbox Science was exceptionally positive. The event I took part in was in Edinburgh (unfortunately there wasn’t a Glasgow event, and it's the same this year), based just off Princes Street on ‘The Mound’. The hour flew by, I didn’t get rained on, and I ended up having some stimulating discussions with the public. I gained so much confidence in my ability to successfully communicate my research in a relatable way – something which fed into my academic presentations and other science communication projects.
Although Soapbox Science speaker applications are only open to women in science, anybody can get in touch to become a volunteer. Several volunteers at last years event were scientists, and discussed their research with the public too, just minus a soapbox.