Inspiring stories – Lecturers without borders
November 12, 2019

Inspiring stories – Lecturers without borders

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Athanasia Nikolaou, guest researcher studying the magma ocean stage of planetary formation at the German Aerospace Centre, tells us how, together with other researchers, she has set up a network that links travelling scientists with local communities.

Scientific conferences on many disciplines take place annually in various places around the world. However, the local community rarely knows about these meetings and usually does not benefit from the temporary wealth of knowledge that is just around the corner. 

We researchers are relatively frequent travellers with a certain environmental footprint. Anonymous data that we collected from scientific hubs indicate that over 50% of researchers travel 2-5 times per year, and 20% do so more than 5 times per year for work or personal reasons. Travelling researchers are a potential opportunity to bring scientists into direct contact with schools and link them with local communities. 

Lecturers Without Borders (LeWiBo) is a voluntary platform to meet this aim. It was set up by myself, researchers Dr. Liubov Tupikina and Dr. Delphine Zemp, and educator Mikhail Khotyakov. When a researcher travels to a conference, we match him or her with a nearby school or association that would welcome a free lecture on a scientific topic.

What material can prospective lecturers teach? There is no need to reinvent the wheel! Across disciplines, there is a wealth of curated open access material covering a wide range of topics, and we are constantly accumulating more ideas on our dedicated page. Especially among the Europlanet Society initiatives there is a set of curated education and outreach material: ‘Meteorology for Mars’, ‘Planets in your hand’, ‘Exoworld spies’ to name a few. Our member Mikhail Khotyakov, who has 10 years’ experience in secondary education, provides advice for those who wish to generate their own material for a class.

We attract expressions of interest both from travelling researchers and from potential host schools and associations. We use a set of open access digital tools to help us organise the visits. We are looking for further collaborators to help us expand both groups of our network, so that we can reach the critical numbers required to cover requests across large geographic regions.

We cannot yet guarantee to meet every request of every researcher. However, thanks to the engagement of the volunteers, the project is already active as a pilot, and over 30 lectures have already been successfully organised in 6 countries since November 2017.

LeWiBo uses the necessity of work travel to maximise societal gain by empowering kids to ask questions about science – and even choose it as a potential career.

If you want to find out more details or support this initiative, you can express your interest as a potential lecturer or host school/association by filling the form

We look forward to welcoming you into LeWiBo.

Do you like this story and want more? Browse our archive of EPEC Inspiring Stories and get inspired!