Science Communication Conference 2011 — Hearing from the Experts: Professor Funk

By Michael Edmonds 05/03/2011

On February 21 -22, I attended my first Science Communicators Association (SCANZ) of New Zealand conference  in Auckland. It was a good opportunity to meet other people involved in science communication and a chance to hear from some experts in the field.

The first speaker was Daniel Keogh aka ‘The Professor Funk’ from Australia. Daniel showed us some of his excellent work producing educational science as examples of how to communicate more effectively. Check out his Youtube channel here. Incredibly innovative and amusing. Below is one of his videos.

Some of the key points from Daniel’s presentation included:

Tell a story — Human beings communicate through stories from an early age. And the best stories come from the primary literature, you just have to find them and bring them to life. In telling a story you can still approach it using the scientific method by beginning with an introduction, followed by the method the results and a discussion. Daniel describes this as ‘guerrilla science.’

Science is active — how many scientists are scientists because they enjoy writing papers? It’s the doing that draws most people into science — the testing of ideas, the running of experiments, the discovering of something new. So this is what we need to communicate to the public. Visual tools — colourful diagrams, models and animations can also be used to communicate that science is active.

Emotion vs Reason — While science focuses on reason, it has been shown that most people are much more engaged by emotion. So presenting science in such a way that it has some meaning to people, so that it has some sort of emotion ‘hook’ or relevance is important.

Share the Journey or Lead the Way — Professor Funk also showed a video of him getting a Gardasil vaccination, pointing out that as men can pass the HPV to partners, increasing their risk of disease. By doing this he is both leading the way, showing a commitment to where he stands on immunisation, and sharing the journey of those being immunised.

Daniel/Professor Funk’s innovative approach to science communication was truly inspiring. As another example of his work take a look at this clever demonstration of gullibility.