In October 2009, I had a chat with our professors on how we could explain our research to the general public and I suggested participating in the Academische Jaarprijs, which is a competition between Dutch universities and research institutes for the best translation of science to the general audience. I have been following it since its start in 2005 and have friends who almost won the prize with their group. It was something I always wanted to participate in, so I tried to make more people in the department enthusiastic for it . And I think it worked - as on our research retreat, the Academische Jaarprijs was on the program and one of the invited speakers was the 2007-winner of the prize. After inspiring and sometimes hilarious brainstorm-sessions, one idea came out as best and we decided to take that further to a real plan (I can’t tell much about it, you will hear more in September). Being the one who had come up with the idea in the first place, I became coordinator of the activities.
In the following months, we formed a team and talked to many people from outside academia, as the Department of Communication, a promotion-centre for the city of Groningen, journalists, web-designers.... They were all enthusiastic about our plan and were willing to help us. So in March, we submitted our idea, it got through the first selection-round, we send in a real proposal and last week it was announced that our plan was among the 5 finalists!
What does this mean for my search for a career in science communication? Well, mainly that I’m actually already doing it! Organizing events, talking to people outside academia about science, writing about it, and meeting a lot of people will help me expanding my network. Working on this project gives me opportunities that I would never have gotten by staying in the lab. How else would I end up at the Hilversum-studio’s to record a TV-pitch for a popular-science program? Doing this strengthens my feelings that I should pursue a career in this direction. But it also gives me the energy to get to the lab and get my experiments going, because I have to do that in a bit less time now.
I will keep you posted on our progress, especially in September when the plans will be revealed in newspapers and on TV, and the audience can vote for the best plan! The take-home message for you is: If you have an idea, just talk with people about it, even if you know you’re not in the position to make decisions. If you’re very enthusiastic, others might support you in your plans and can help you pursue them!! Go for it!!
- This blog was first posted on PCDI's community blog -