Museums and Science Communication

I recently attended the Imperial College Science Communication MSc 21st Anniversary event. It was a really good day, both for the opportunity to meet up with friends from my year on the course (98/99), and catching up with a wide range of ex-colleagues and contacts from the years that followed the course when I worked in the sci-com world in central London (and it felt like every second person I met through work was a graduate of the course).

Science Journalism discussion

The timing of this anniversary event was particularly good for me because just a month later I delivered my first lecture to the Edinburgh University Science Communication and Public Engagement MSc students.

The module I am teaching is ‘Effective Exhibit and Programme Development’ and I’m delivering it on behalf of, and along with, National Museums Scotland. It is basically a six-week introduction to the role of Museums in science communication. This is a subject that is close to my heart as I divide my professional work between museums and science engagement projects.

Cloning exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland

There are five full-time MSc students on the University of Edinburgh course in this inaugural year. Much has changed since I was in their shoes back in 1998, when the web was very much 1.0, newspapers were still made of paper and video and radio production required expensive equipment. But these media are simply tools, the essence of good communication has not changed and neither has the role that museums can play on the public interface between scientific research and wider society.

Since moving away from London, I have maintained links with other Science Communicators through the British Interactive Group and Edinburgh Beltane as well as my own personal connections and various partnership projects. But it was still a rare privilege to experience such thought-provoking, stimulating and challenging discussions as those that were held at the Imperial College event, and used to be a weekly occurence for us on the course.

I left the anniversary event with a new enthusiasm and a reading list to keep me engaged over the coming weeks and months. I hope to pass some of that enthusiasm to my University of Edinburgh students along with the knowledge and experience I am sharing with them – I know that their enthusiasm certainly rubs off on me.

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