Pint of Science

By Leah Cannon posted 05-18-2017 00:48

  

fd67660f-d594-47f5-8312-733fa04efe6b.jpgPint of Science brings scientists into pubs across the world to explain their science to the public in a fun, informal setting.

It started in 2012 when two scientists at Imperial College London, Michael Motskin and Praveen Paul, decided to bring patients with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s into labs to meet researchers working to cure their disease. Both the patients and the scientists were very positive about the experience, so in May 2013, Michael and Praveen decided to take the scientists out of their labs and into pubs to talk to a wider audience about their work.

Pint of Science now happens every May in over 150 cities in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Thailand and Japan. Two scientists give 20-30 minute talks at each event with a break in between for trivia, prizes and drinks.

This year, Lisa Stinson coordinated the Pint of Science events in Western Australia. I asked her why she volunteered to do this and she said, “I feel there’s a gap between what scientists do and what the public perceives that scientists do. There’s a breakdown of trust which causes all sorts of problems like low vaccination rates and climate change denial. Events like Pint of Science help bring the science out and get people involved and let them ask questions in a fun and safe environment.”

And it works. This year I went to the Bio Zone event in Perth, Australia where Lizzy Lowe, a postdoc in Ecology, and Sarah Marley, a PhD student in Marine Biology both presented their research in a way that the audience could understand and people peppered both scientists with lots of questions.Lizzy Lowe told me that she likes the relaxed, interactive format of Pint of Science. “It’s always really interesting to see what kind of questions you get at this event. At scientific conferences, you always get the same questions, you know what people are going to ask, but here you have no idea.”

Lizzy and Sarah both blog, are active on social media and present their work at events like Pint of Science. I asked them why they are so active in communicating their science and why they decided to take part in Pint of Science.

“I love it,” Lizzy said. “I have this personal mission to tell people about spiders. There are so many different types and they’re really amazing and they do all these important jobs. I’m an urban ecologist. I bring nature into cities. People need to know what the nature is doing in the city to want to conserve it. I want to get people used to the idea that we do need to have lots of bugs.”

She added, “It also benefits your science if you can break it down so that anyone can understand it and assess why you are doing it, why it’s important and why your results matter. If you lose this perspective, you end up doing bad science.”

Sarah agreed. “I just love talking and getting people involved, getting them psyched about research. People don’t need to understand every nitty gritty detail of your work, they just need to share your enthusiasm and understand why it’s worth supporting science funding. We can’t fix the funding problem as individuals but we can do something if we get more people interested and they start fighting and voting for it.”

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