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3 Questions with Praveen Paul

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Photonics Media spoke with Praveen Paul, co-founder of the popular Pint of Science festival. Pint of Science aims to reduce barriers between scientists and the public by encouraging opportunities for local connections.

Photonics Media spoke with Praveen Paul, co-founder of the popular Pint of Science festival. Pint of Science aims to reduce barriers between scientists and the public by encouraging opportunities for local connections.

What is Pint of Science and how does it work?

Pint of Science is very much a grassroots nonprofit organization that started as an accident. As soon-to-be unemployed academics, Michael Motskin and I (the founders) realized we didn’t know or understand what anyone else in our department researched. Also, when we spoke to our friends, they thought what we did was science fiction.

We wanted to do something about this and so decided to run events in bars and cafés where researchers could share their latest discoveries with the public and give people an opportunity to ask questions. This is by no means a new idea, but we had a twist: Have all the events happening over three days at the same time, like a festival.

In 2013, and with zero experience, we ran 45 events in three U.K. cities. We never thought the idea would capture people’s imagination. It has now grown to nearly 30 countries and hundreds of cities, which all run thousands of events for 150,000 people over three days each May. The stories from people who have participated — whether at an event or during its organization — are inspiring.

People have always come to us asking to join, and we do our best to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. We aim to show the public and community the fascinating research that is happening in their local area. We also aim to equip academics with skills to carry out science communication events, speak to a nonspecialist audience, and organize and market large-scale events.

Are the gatherings organized around themes, solutions, or technologies?

We have themes that cover all types of research, from the molecular level to universes.

If someone is researching it, then it can be a Pint of Science event. Events are divided into the following categories:

• Beautiful Mind — neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry.

• Atoms to Galaxies — physics, chemistry, math, astronomy.

• Our Body — medicine, human biology, health.

• Planet Earth — geosciences, plant sciences, zoology.

• Tech Me Out — biotechnology, robotics, computers.

• Our Society — law, history, politics, policy, languages.

• Creative Reactions — art and science come together.

It’s interesting to see the trends change each year from AI and machine learning to plastics in the ocean.

What are some of the short- and long-term goals?

Science communication and the way science and scientists are perceived varies from country to country. Being part of a community, we can share our experiences and we can all grow and learn together.

Our goals involve our audience, organizers, and speakers. We want to:

• Develop a space where audiences are engaged with research, where walls are broken down and everyone can share their thoughts, questions, and ideas.

• Provide event organizers with the tools to allow them to use their own creativity and plan events showcasing the research that is going on in their area, while developing cross-disciplinary skills that will prove valuable in the workplace and beyond.

• Equip speakers with training to refine and develop their public engagement skills and give them the confidence to share their story in an approachable manner with a new audience.

• Push forward research and trust in science by encouraging open and transparent conversations between the research community and the wider public, and in turn develop a culture of good public engagement that is accessible to all.

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2020
Pint of SciencePraveen PaulMichael Motskinscience communication3 Questions

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