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The Storytelling of Science

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by Kiesten McCauley (subscribe)
My early career was in teaching, writing, producing and directing for theatre, comedy and impro shows. Now I'm a professional creative person. Mostly high-end branding, strategy, writing, editing and digital content creation.
Once Upon a Time there was a Big Bang
aimee, cunningham, geoff, garrett, joan, leach, professor, doctor, john, taylor, greg, wah, andrew, stephenson, storytelling, science
L-R Top: Aimee Cunningham, Dr Geoff Garrett, A/Prof Joan Leach, Bottom: John Taylor, Greg Wah and host and organiser Dr. Andrew Stephenson.

What if science communication events were a ubiquitous part of our culture, like going to the footy, the opera, or to the theatre? That goal to make science a fun and accessible part of our culture is coming to fruition thanks to science communicator Dr. Andrew Stepehnson's new brainchild, Science Nation.

Science Nation is kicking off with a big bang, a show called The Storytelling of Science, in Brisbane on the 2nd of May, before events in Sydney on the 16th and Adelaide on the 24th of May. Each city will feature a different lineup of science communicators who'll be engaging audiences with accessible stories of science; where inspirations, 'Eureka' moments, revelations, side-splitting mishaps and the human side of science will be revealed.

Dr. Joel Gilmore, senior manager in power and utilities at Ernst and Young and science communicator for the University of Queensland was kind enough to take time out of his packed schedule to speak with me about Science Nation and The Storytelling of Science.

"Science Nation is about bringing interesting and exciting speakers to the general public in an entertaining way," he says, "Andrew and I worked together running a similar series called BrisScience in Brisbane for about ten years and so this has kind of grown out of that experience."

The first Brisbane event for Science Nation will see Dr. Andrew Stephenson host a discussion with panellists Aimee Cunningham from the Princess Alexandria Hospital, Queensland Chief Scientist Dr Geoff Garrett, president of the Australian Science Communicators and convener of U.Q.'s Science Communication programme Associate Professor Joan Leach, ABC journalist and news reporter John Taylor, and comedian Greg Wah the co-creator of the podcast of science, comedy and ignorance Smart Enough To Know Better.

The Storytelling of Science promises to delve into the human experience of science to draw out the relatable, amazing and just plain hilarious sides of being a scientist, and as Joel explains, you don't need to be a genius to be able to appreciate this event.

"Andrew has worked really hard to find speakers who he has heard before or he knows through direct recommendations – people who really do communicate with an audience well and connect and people who have an important message to pass on as well," he says, "That ranges from getting the Queensland chief scientist in Brisbane and somebody who obviously has a lot of connections to politics and has some interesting insights into how that all works, through to the author and comedian Greg Wah who connects with people in a very different way but still has a vital role of making science accessible and not something that should be treated any differently to anything else."

The intermission will be in the form of an afternoon tea break with refreshments provided as part of your ticket price. The hope is that this will encourage discussion among likeminded people and offer an opportunity to socialise with other science enthusiasts and lovers of knowledge.

"This is a really fun event, I'm really excited to be speaking at the Sydney and Adelaide ones this year," Joel enthuses, "We often have public lectures where people talk about their work and results but we don't often get to hear about the scientists themselves and how they came to be working things, why they're working on things and some of the amusing anecdotes about things that they've been through."

When asked of his own comical experiences, Joel says, "My first day at uni I went to see a science show, and the conclusion of this science show was one of the presenters using liquid nitrogen to accidentally blow a hole in the roof of the physics building. I saw him do that and I thought to myself, 'I want to do this' and that's how I got into science communication."

"Years later I got to try out the same demo and accidentally flooded an entire lecture theatre," he laughs, "It's amazing the little things that shape your whole career."

Joel says the shows will be great for young and old, for "Anyone who is in high school, or if you've got an enthusiastic primary school student who loves their science I think they'll have a lot of fun too" he adds.

To really fuel discussion and understanding, audience members can submit questions for the panellists prior to the events or in real time during the show via twitter @TheSciNation.

Details of the Sydney and Adelaide events can be found here.
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Why? Hear some fascinating science stories
When: 2-5pm, 2 May 2015
Phone: Please book via the website, or email
Where: The Edge, State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane.
Cost: $20 online, $25 at the door
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