Inspiring Stories – Science to Go!
May 12, 2020

Inspiring Stories – Science to Go!

Science communication by scientists

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Dr. David Píša, a researcher studying the plasma waves in space at the Czech Academy of Sciences, tells us how he and other researchers are organising outreach talks across the country.

Science to Go logo

As a scientist, have you ever experienced a situation when your friends or family were too embarrassed to ask you about your research? Have you ever asked yourself why that’s the case? Were they scared that they wouldn’t understand that top-notch research? Or do they not want to embarrass themselves by asking you ‘simple’ questions, and risk looking uneducated or asking something that may be obvious?

Because that’s exactly what happened to us, a group of PhD students finishing our respective studies in the Czech Republic. It was seven years ago when we decided to reverse the aforementioned situation and approached the problem of ‘question-asking shyness’ from the other end. We did not wait for questions, but instead wanted to proactively provide answers to our friends and families. The first event, named “Science is coming to your village”, took place in a small village deep in Eastern Bohemia.

About thirty friends and relatives came to hear what we were doing on that specific occasion. It was very satisfying to see how they were excited about our work. The complexity of the topics wasn’t an obstacle in any way; we were able to explain even complicated topics such as the vacuum or standard particle model. It was our small victory and motivated us for further work in this regard.

So what happened next? The ‘Science to Go!’ project was founded! This project connects scientists who are sharing their passion for science with a broad audience open to listening. It was quite wild in those times when two or three people were organising everything, including communication with the host venue, presenters, and promotion. However, the idea was stronger than the difficulties that we encountered. We ended up with a concept of three talks by different speakers about their research. Every presentation typically takes twenty minutes with the final ten minutes being dedicated to an open discussion. Each of the three talks is ideally from a different scientific field. This concept ensures that 1) the speaker is an expert, 2) the audience is more likely to see a topic matching their interest, and 3) the length is acceptable.

We started with a monthly event at the municipal library in Prague. A typical event presents three young scientists – this format sometimes alternated with a bigger show featuring a well-established scientist. The highlight was a presentation of gravitational wave observations by Prof. Podolsky (Charles University) that was attended by more than four hundred people!

Presentation of gravitational wave observations by Prof. Podolsky (Charles University)
Presentation of gravitational wave observations by Prof. Podolsky (Charles University). Credit: Science to Go

After two years we were forced to find a new venue for our events. We chose the Czech Scout Institute at the Old Town Square in Prague. They have been brilliant hosts and we’re still happily functioning there to this day. For our efforts, we were nominated for awards from the Czech Mathematics and Physics Society and the Czech Physics Society. We told ourselves that it was time to enlarge the organisation team and established ‘Science to Go!’ as a non-profit organisation. We accepted more than eight new core members, and a new era started. We created a division for social media and regional events.

Science To Go presentation at the Czech Scout Institute at the Old Town Square in Prague. Credit: Science To Go
Science to Go presentation at the Czech Scout Institute at the Old Town Square in Prague. Credit: Science to Go

Nowadays, the situation with COVID makes things a little complicated, as we are not able to host our events in person. But that doesn’t stop us! Every week, we broadcast a scientific talk on Facebook – one session on Mondays when the scientific concept is introduced, and then a followup Q&A session the following day where we engage with the audience and answer their direct questions online. While this has been working fantastically, we miss our regular attendees and are looking forward to meeting our audience in person again.

After more than six years in existence, the project has managed more than forty events across the whole country, visiting cities and even small villages. We have presented more than sixty scientists with their research.

Why are we different? Because we can come even to the smallest community and show top-notch science. Science to Go! is willing to continue and evolve. We are open to new enthusiastic people who want to communicate their research to anyone who listens.

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