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Course Science Communication at Finse

16.-20. September 2013

Science Communication Course at Finse - Report

On Monday September 16th our group of 18 young scientists including postdocs, PhD and Master Students in climate studies and related fields arrived at the Finse Alpine Research Center. Here we set out to learn how to communicate our research to the general public. This is an important part of every researcher's work, but it is not necessarily an easy task.

The aim of this course was therefore to get a deeper understanding of science communication, and strengthening our awareness of the different methods of communicating. During this course we learned how to adapt to different audiences and to transform the learned into practice by writing popular science texts, creating presentations and organizing field trips. Experienced scientists provided lectures in teaching, writing newspaper articles and presentation techniques. Each of the participants had previously chosen what they would focus on between 1) Cronicle Writing, 2)PublicPresentation, and 3) Field Trip Planning.

Following an introduction into the week's objectives and schedule by Kerim Nisancioglu, Department of Earth Science, UiB, and Frede Thorsheim, Centre for Science Education, UiB, we went on a short field trip around the Jomfrunuten, a mountain near the research station. Geological features along the way included the layering of metamorphic sediments over the granitic basement rocks, and the remains of an ancient overthrust covering both. Our field guides also showed us a permanent snow patch, permafrost marks in the ground and large rocks moving down slopes by the force of freezing and melting water below them. The largest example of these so-called ploughing boulders weighs over 350 tons. Another point was the characteristic weather and cloud pattern above the glacier Hardangerjøkulen, which is located just south of Finse.

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The Finse course attendant group. Photo: Kerim Nisancioglu

During the following days, communication advisor and former journalist Camilla Aadland presented techniques on how to write catchy popular science articles for newspapers. A physicist and teaching specialist gave lectures to stimulate thoughts and discussions about knowledge transfer methods. Very practical information about high-school students and teaching came from a former meteorologist who later became a secondary school teacher herself. A project developer from VilVite came to tell us about the aim of this Science Center: to communicate natural science to a general public by interactivity, using both mind and body. Kikki Kleiven, having long experience with outreach programs such as Generasjon Grønn, gave us tips about how to compose and perform presentations in an engaging way.

One core question that was often returned to was how to gauge an audience. Finding the right teaching, presenting or writing style for the targeted audience - or finding the right audience for a given piece of information, that is one of the basic matters a science communicator has to consider.

During group activities, the writing group focused on creating a short article to popularize their fields of research. Ideas of journalistic and popular writing were discussed in the group and presented by Ellen Viste from the Geophysical Institute. As a second task, the group wrote short reports about the course for website.

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Turspor group discussing plans. Photo: Kerim Nisancioglu

The presentation group prepared 45 minute climate science lecture, which is going to be presented at the Forskningsdagene. The group worked out a fitting style and storyline to catch the interest of the audience.

Several excursions into the surroundings of the research station were the basis for a high-school field trip organized by the teaching group, or Turspor group. Turspor is an outreach and teaching concept bringing scientists and the interested public together to explore and explain features of the Norwegian landscape. The created plans and texts to present the geological and meteorological features of Finse.

The Turspor group was also the first that had to go into the fire. On Thursday, over 50 school pupils from schools in Bergen came to be taught by us. The students already had a good background in geology and were generally well prepared. They were full of curiosity and eagerness to learn more about rock formation and glaciers, making the project a real success.

Comunication course Finse 2013 nr 3 

High-schoolers attending Turspor field trip. Photo: Vivian Felde


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