“Sharing Our Science: How to Write and Speak STEM” with Professor Brandon Brown

Sharing Our Science book reviewed on Bridging the Gaps

Science communication plays an important role in bridging the gap between researchers and the general public, fostering understanding, engagement, and appreciation for scientific explorations and advancements. In an era where science and technology shape every aspect of our lives, effective communication of research findings is more critical than ever. This is also a time where there are conflicting views about scientific work and polarizations in societies. This makes effective science communication even more important not only to ensure that scientific knowledge is accessible to all, but also to empower individuals to make informed decisions, influences policy-making, and fosters trust in the scientific community. However, effective science communication goes beyond simply disseminating information; it requires clarity, creativity, and engagement strategies tailored to diverse audiences. By employing clear language and compelling storytelling researchers can effectively communicate their findings, thereby enhancing public awareness and understanding of the profound impact that science has on society. In his recent book “Sharing Our Science: How to Write and Speak STEM” Professor Brandon Brown, a scientist-turned-writing teacher, provides a highly valuable resource for STEM practitioners aiming to effectively convey their technical work to both specialised and general audiences. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with Professor Brandon Brown; we discuss this personal, practical, and inspirational guide for scientists and technical professionals seeking to enhance their written and oral communication skills in STEM fields.

Brandon Brown is a Professor of Physics and communications specialist at the University of San Francisco. He is an excellent science communicator. He has written for publications such as Slate, Smithsonian, and Scientific American and served as Deputy Director at the Green Science Policy Institute and a Senior Writing Coach for the Strictly Speaking Group.

We begin by exploring the significance of storytelling in effective science communication, delving into diverse tools and approaches such as tension and narrative to enhance the communication of scientific concepts. We further examine the utilisation of relatable examples, including simplifying large numbers and intricate comparisons like the size of an atom relative to its nucleus, to improve clarity and facilitate comprehension. We also address the detrimental effects of disinformation on science communication, which can lead to societal polarisation and divisions. We also reflect on Professor Brandon Brown’s personal encounters, highlighting how adept communication of challenging facts can profoundly influence individuals. This has been both informative and insightful discussion.

Complement this discussion with On Public Communication of Science and Technology with Professor Bruce Lewenstein and then listen to “The Joy of Science” with Professor Jim Al-Khalili

By |February 7th, 2024|Information, Knowledge, Podcasts, Research|

“The Smartness Mandate” with Professor Orit Halpern

Smartness Mandate on Bridging the Gaps podcast

Smartness has permeated our lives in the form of smartphones, smart cars, smart homes, and smart cities. It has become a mandate, a pervasive force that governs politics, economics, and the environment. As our world faces increasingly complex challenges, the drive for ubiquitous computing raises important questions. What exactly is this ‘smartness mandate’? How did it emerge, and what does it reveal about our evolving understanding and management of reality? How did we come to view the planet and its inhabitants primarily as instruments for data collection?

In the book ‘The Smartness Mandate,’ co-authored by Professor Orit Halpern, the notion of ‘smartness’ is presented as more than just a technology, it is presented as an epistemology — a way of knowing. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Orit Halpern, where we delve into the concept of smartness. We explore its historical roots and its cultural implications, particularly its emphasis on data-driven technologies and decision-making processes across domains such as urban planning, healthcare, and education.

Orit Halpern is Lighthouse Professor and Chair of Digital Cultures and Societal Change at Technische Universität Dresden. She completed her Ph.D. at Harvard. She has held numerous visiting scholar positions including at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, IKKM Weimar, and at Duke University. At present she is working on two projects. The first project is about the history of automation, intelligence, and freedom; and the second project examines extreme infrastructures and the history of experimentation at planetary scales in design, science, and engineering.

Our conversation begins by discussing the idea of “smartness” as presented in the book. To understand it better, we look at a few examples. The book suggests that the smartness paradigm relies a lot on collecting data, analysing it, as well as monitoring people through surveillance. We talk about the possible risks and consequences of this data-focused approach for personal privacy and individual rights. Next, we talk about how the smartness idea connects with the concept of resilience. We also touch on the fact, as presented in the book, that the smartness paradigm often reinforces existing power structures and inequalities. We explore the biases and ethical concerns that may arise with the use of these technologies. Furthermore, we explore the possibility of using the smartness approach to promote fairness and equality. We talk about how it could be applied to create a more just society. We discuss the significance of multidisciplinarity, and the role of higher education institutions and educators to create an enabling environment for an informed discourse to address these questions. Professor Orit Halpren emphasises the importance of exploring these questions and addressing relevant concerns to make sure we create the kind of world we truly want for ourselves.

Complement this discussion with Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta and the listen to Reclaiming Human Intelligence and “How to Stay Smart in a Smart World” with Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer

By |June 6th, 2023|Computer Science, Future, Information, Knowledge, Technology|

Augmented Thinking: The New Convergence of Art, Technology, and Science with Professor Julio Ottino

We live in an age of increasing complexity and uncertainty. We live in a time when humanity faces extremely complex challenges. Our ability, or lack thereof, to create solutions to such extremely complicated challenges may determine our long-term survival as a civilization. The question is: is our existing style of thinking adequate, or do we require a new style of thinking in order to innovate and lead into the future. In their recent book Julio Ottino and Bruce Mau make a case for “The Nexus”, a radically new way of thinking — one in which art, technology, and science converge to expand our creativity and augment our insight. In this episode or Bridging the Gaps I speak with Julio Ottino who explains “the Nexus” and guides us how to embrace the powerful idea of complementarity, where opposing extremes coexist. We discuss how blurring the lines between the three major realms of human creation — art, technology, and science — results in a significant expansion of thinking spaces and a richness of potential ideas.

Julio Ottino is Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University, in Illinois. He is also the founding co-director of Northwestern University’s Institute on Complex Systems. He is a thought leader, author, artist, and internationally recognized researcher in chaos theory and complex systems whose work has been featured in “Nature”, “Science”, and “Scientific American”.

We begin our discussion by looking back at the time before the divergence of disciplines and how key figures in science immensely benefited from talents and skills in a variety of fields. Then we talk about how, when, and why the disciplines diverged. We delve into the concept of “the Nexus” and discuss whole-brain thinking. The book is jam-packed with wonderful photographs and diagrams. I ask Professor Ottino to describe the process that he followed to write this book. This has been a wonderful discussion.

Complement this discussion with Asking Better Questions for Creative Problem Solving, Innovation and Effective Leadership with Hal Gregersen and with “Learning How to Learn”: Techniques to Help You Learn with Dr Barbra Oakley and then listen to Multiple Intelligences, Future Minds and Educating The App Generation: A discussion with Dr Howard Gardner

By |June 27th, 2022|Knowledge, Podcasts, Research, Technology|