Last week I volunteered at Soapbox Science London 2015. I really enjoyed the experience and would totally recommend it to other scientists.
This outreach event was held along the Southbank London, we were so lucky with the weather (sunshine really does help enthusiasm). The aim of the event is to attract members of the public to stand and listen to talented female scientists talk about their research.
Though the event is advertised there are a lot of people passing along the Southbank on a sunny Saturday so the idea is to attract in people who were not going out of their way to go to a science event. I like this idea as at the outreach events I have previously done (Mayfest Nottingham University) members of the public make a conscious effort to come onto campus and engage with us, which though good selects for the already engaged members of the public.
From volunteering on the day I can say that not everyone along the Southbank is going to be persuaded to stop and listen. However there is really no way of identifying who will and who wont. Having an interest or curiosity in science definitely isn’t splashed across peoples faces and some people are easier to convince than others. I have to say families were an easy target to get involved, and was encouraged when asking children ‘do you like science?’ I got lots of ‘Yes!’ and one very sweet girl who shouted ‘No I love Maths’ so lots of hope for the future of scientific research I hope.
Later in the day I helped out Dr Jessica Blair who was stood on her soapbox presenting about Superbugs and Antibiotic Resistance. It was great to see such a charismatic speaker. The simple props were very effective, a few cuddly giant microbes, some pictures of the creators of antibiotics and don’t forget some soil! She pulled in a real crowd, with a mixture of ages. Participation was good, bribery with prizes got the audience guessing at the number of bacteria cells in our bodies, numbers that are too big to properly comprehend. I was also interested to see that the public already had some knowledge about the challenge of antibiotic resistance. With complex questions about how to fund new antibiotic drugs and asking about Bacteriophage therapy.
As I said before Soapbox Science is a great outreach experience for scientists and personally I always feel more focused in the lab after these events so would encourage people to sign up and volunteer.
And if that was’t enough to convince you, in two weeks time I will be off to Soapbox Science Newcastle 2015! Looking forward to see what Newcastle’s Scientists have to offer!