Talking Science in Cumbria

From 2003-5, I was an Outreach Associate of the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences institute (PEALS), University of Newcastle, the person 'on the ground' in the Talking Science in Cumbria project, for which Dr Tom Shakespeare at PEALS and I had received a Wellcome Trust People Award. For two years I travelled the county, talking to any group that wanted me, about one of several aspects of modern science. My audience were almost all non-scientists, many had left school at sixteen. I talked about the Human Genome Project, stem cells, cloning, genetic selection and genetic modification (learning a great deal from farmers as I did so), about the use of animals in experiments ... to University of the Third Age, Young Farmers, schools primary and secondary, Soroptomists and Rotarians, Humanists, WIs, and many more.

I gave more than 50 talks, to nearly 1400 people; travelled nearly 5000 miles, sometimes in snow and fog, to remote halls and pubs - and had the time of my life!

At the end of each session I handed out an evaluation questionnaire and it was gratifying to see how much people appreciated and enjoyed finding out more about modern science, without too much jargon or being 'talked down to.'

As I said at the end of my interim report, "analysis shows clearly that opinions about the science shift towards the positive after the talks, even when - as an experiment - I tried to present it negatively. Science policymakers, take note."

Some further information and a brief analysis is presented here.