By Ellen De Korte
It has been four weeks since I started my museum secondment at the National Science and Media Museum and there are three more weeks to go until the Bradford Science Festival. I am busy preparing all text and materials for my study. However, the most exciting bit is that I am now testing objects that I have collected from charity shops and colleagues. This resulted in interesting responses. Also, the visitors are happy to try the task that is part of my activity. The next stage is to get everything ready, test the entire activity and pilot data collection.
How do I feel about public engagement? I found that it is one thing to learn to do science and an entirely different thing to communicate about it. Explainers in the museum seem to do it with ease. However, when I tried to do it myself, I found that it is a lot harder than it looks. For example, you have to learn how to get people interested in what you are doing. Moreover, you need to constantly switch gears, because you encounter people from different backgrounds.
Nevertheless, if you manage to draw people in and interact with them, it is a rewarding experience. People are willing to listen and take a little piece of information with them. Also, the skills you learn when doing science communication can be transferred to communicating your work to a specialist audience. Communication to a non-specialist audience teaches you how to quickly pitch and sell your work in simple wording. The pitching and selling skills are very useful for presentations, for example at a conference, too, because this also requires you to shortly pitch your work to people passing by.
All in all, my museum secondment is an entirely different experience. However, it is also an interesting challenge, from which I will have learnt a lot at the end.