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Job opportunity at the EGU Executive Office: Communications Officer

18 Mar

The EGU is seeking to appoint a Communications Officer to work with the EGU Media and Communications Manager in maintaining and further developing media- and science-related communications between the EGU and its membership, the working media, and the public at large. The Communications Officer will also work under the direction of the EGU Executive Secretary on activities related to the promotion of the organisation. The position will be based at the EGU Executive Office in Munich, Germany.

More information about this vacancy, including main tasks, requirements, application materials, and salary and starting date, is available in PDF format or on the EGU website.

Informal enquiries about this position can be made to the Media and Communications Manager, Dr Bárbara Ferreira (media@egu.eu, +49-89-2180-6703). Applications should be submitted by e-mail in a single file to vacancy@egu.eu by 8 May.

Do you know anyone who might be interested in this position? The EGU would be grateful if you shared this opportunity widely.

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Scientists are humans

19 Feb

The title of this article may come as a bit of a shock, but it’s true. Scientists aren’t born scientists; they start off just like any other person and one day decide that the natural world is fascinating enough to them that they want to make a career out of figuring out its secrets. But, sometimes it is hard as an ‘outsider’ to see into science, especially academia. Sometimes it can seem like science by itself is just a mass of complicated figures explaining something so small it is hard to understand why anyone would care. Pair that with the monster that is the world of academia and you can have a rather inaccessible field.

But, for those that describe themselves as ‘outsiders’ to science, or those that are still deciding on their future career pathways and currently find science daunting, there is hope. And yes, there is also hope for all those scientists who really are normal people and just want to help people realise that and share their wonderful research with the world. We call it I’m a Geoscientist – Get me out of here!

IAG logo large

The EGU has teamed up with Gallomanor, a UK company that runs the events I’m a Scientist (Get me out of here) and I’m an Engineer (Get me out of here) to fund a European-wide sister project called I’m a Geoscientist – Get me out of here! where we provide school students with the opportunity to meet and interact with real scientists.

This is the chance for school kids across Europe to meet geoscientists, and ask them any questions they want. This could mean finding out that to be a scientist you don’t have to know everything, many scientists are just experts in their own very small, niche area. It could mean finding out why those scientists are interested in something so niche, and realising that, actually, the subject can be fascinating, it could change the world – or both!

And for those who are not still in school and can’t ask questions themselves, you can view all the questions and answers online while the event is going on. If you are a class or teacher not formally taking part in the event, you can still download the free teacher resource packs and take part at your own pace by discussing the questions and answers provided.

For scientists, this is the chance to get your research out there, to show the world what awesome stuff you do on a daily basis. And also, crucially, to let kids see that you also are a normal person as well! It’s a great chance to get some public engagement time logged for your project and discussing it with kids will help you communicate what you do in new and insightful ways that could help you see your research in a new light.

The entire event is held online, so that scientists and school classes across Europe can talk to each other without having to leave their labs or classrooms. So, if you are a teacher with a busy class schedule you can plan one or two hours of preparation time well ahead of the event and if you are a scientist all you need is a few breaks away from your fieldwork or experiments to respond to some questions on your laptop. So, why not get involved?

This opportunity is open to teachers who have taken part in an EGU Geosciences Information For Teachers (GIFT) event in the past and scientists that are members of the EGU. If you are a GIFT teacher then you can register your classes (up to two per teacher) at http://imageoscientist.eu/teachers. If you are a scientist you can register to take part (and also sign up to become an EGU member if you are not already) at http://imageoscientist.eu/geoscientists

By Jane Robb, EGU Educational Fellow

Geotalk: Matt Herod on awesome outreach and education

15 Jan

Matt Herod has long been part of the EGU Blog Network, where he writes about all things geochemistry from his base in the University of Ottawa. In this week’s Geotalk, we had the chance to talk to Matt about all the other science communication activities he’s been up to – from mentoring kids in Canada to speaking science in schools…

This year GeoSphere had its first birthday as part of the EGU Blog Network, but you’ve been sharing science online for longer than that – what got you started?

Awesome question. I was actually studying for my comprehensive exam at the time and needed something to distract me for a little while so I started a blog. I didn’t actually expect to enjoy blogging so much, but once I started writing and engaging with other bloggers and readers I started to get addicted. The real motivation, besides procrastinating, for starting the blog though was that I was deploring the fact that in Canada, and I suspect other parts of the world, geoscience is left out of elementary and high school curricula. Physics, biology and chemistry are covered extremely well, which is great, but geology, the most integrative of the four is generally left out. It is just not taught at all. I found that really bizarre since I think it is very practical for everyone out there to have a basic knowledge of Earth science. I would hear stories and read articles in the news about fracking and climate change, and mining and a whole slew of other environmental Earth science issues that people were up in arms about all over the world and think “if only they understood a bit more about geology they might not get so panicked, or they might react appropriately when something worth panicking about happened.” The people that I spoke with about geology all expressed an interest in learning more, but they just didn’t know where to start. They had all finished high school and university so they weren’t about to pick up a textbook. Ultimately, the real problem was that the desire to learn about geology was there, but not the access. So to help make geology more accessible I started blogging and have enjoyed it ever since.

Meet Matt! (Credit: Matt Herod)

Meet Matt! (Credit: Matt Herod)

As well as science writing, you get out of the office and into the classroom – what do you get up to? 

As far as science outreach goes my two favourite programs have been the Aboriginal Mentorship Program (AMP) and another called Science Travels (ST). AMP is a program run from the University of Ottawa that pairs science grad students up with one or more local aboriginal students. We go to their school and give science talks, run activities and tell them about ourselves. We then mentor them as they prepare a science fair project using our lab facilities to collect data. The students then come to the University of Ottawa for a science fair, lab tours etc. for about three days later in the year. The program involves monthly visits with the students and I participated for two years.

The other program is called Science Travels. ST sends a group of four graduate students to remote northern communities across Canada to give science presentations in local schools throughout the region over the course of a week. I have been on two trips both to northern Ontario. Often the schools that we visit are in native reserves and can often have issues such as alcoholism and drug abuse in the community. I have also participated for four years with Let’s talk science going in to local Ottawa high school and elementary school classrooms to give science talks.  

What are the highlights of working with school students in the university labs? 

The best thing about bringing students into university labs or going to their classroom is the feeling that my colleagues and I are opening someone’s eyes to science and hopefully inspiring them to consider pursuing science as a career. The goal of having actual researchers leave their labs and enter the classroom is to show elementary and high school students that science does not have to be boring and that it can also be a viable career option. By having researchers present the science it helps to bring validity to the presentation, but also makes something that might seem like a silly science demo more applied and accessible. Bringing students into our labs is also great. It is a cool experience explaining how the “black box” sitting on that bench over there can count atoms and even the most hardened “cool kid” softens when you bring them face to face with a mass spectrometer. Also, things that we take for granted like custom glassware or an oven that can reach 1000 degrees is completely new to these students and it is an eye-opening experience for them and us to teach them about how we use the tools in our labs to answer the big questions about the Earth. FYI showing off a Scanning Electron Microscope might be the best lab tour activity ever…or a flume, and I can’t wait to show of our new Accelerator Mass Spectrometer in a few months, that’ll really blow their minds!

Sharing the excitement of science in schools. (Credit: Matt Herod)

Sharing the excitement of science in a school. (Credit: Matt Herod)

And what are the challenges?

The biggest challenge with science outreach is finding the time. When we are in our own little research bubbles it can often be hard to escape and do something else, and if we do, it is easy to feel a bit guilty that we are not doing research. However, the key is to simply realise that getting out there and teaching science is totally worthwhile and that the work will always be there when we get back…at least that’s how I rationalise it. Preparing presentations and activities can also be pretty time consuming, but there are some great websites (e.g. www.earthlearningidea.com) out there with science activities for kids and if you are part of an organisation like Let’s Talk Science lots of pre-made kits exist that cover a wide range of topics. It is always nice to add a bit of personal experience to talks and presentations though and a good story can really help make the presentation memorable.

Do you have any top tips for scientists that want to work with school kids?

The best piece of advice I can give for anyone that wants to get involved in science outreach is try to find an organisation to work with. Don’t try and go it alone. Find a group that has laid the groundwork and made the connections and start there. The time commitment is as much or as little as you would like to give and the rewards for engaging in outreach and working in your community far outweigh any lost work time. Not only that, it is a great way to practice your speaking and explaining skills in front of a non-critical audience. Getting up at a conference to give a talk is nerve-racking enough even if you are comfortable with public speaking let alone if you have not given that many talks before. My last tip is don’t overthink it. If you go to a classroom and give a talk don’t worry about being perfect. In my experience the students and teachers are too happy to have a visitor, especially one who has experience in research, to try and critique every little aspect of your presentation and activity. The best thing you can do is go in, give your presentation with enthusiasm and enjoy it!

Had your fill of sci comm chat? Find out about the latest geochemical research over at GeoSphere: blogs.egu.eu/geosphere

I’m a Geoscientist – Get me out of here! Apply to take part in our 2014 launch event!

10 Jan

Imagine a talent show where contestants get voted off dependant on their skills in their area of choice. Then imagine that this talent show is populated by scientists with school students voting them off based on the scientist’s ability to communicate their research well. This is the basis of the EGU’s new educational (for both students and scientists!) initiative to launch in June 2014.

The EGU have entered into a collaboration with Gallomanor, a UK company that runs the events I’m a Scientist (Get me out of here) and I’m an Engineer (Get me out of here). The EGU are now funding a European-wide sister project called I’m a Geoscientist (Get me out of here) where we provide our scientist members with the opportunity to go head to head with four other geoscientists to win €500 for a future public engagement project. Sound good?

IAG logo large

The event takes the form of an online chat forum that uses an innovative online platform designed especially for the purpose of this event. School students log on and post questions to the scientists taking part, ranging from questions about their research to their favourite music. The scientists then log on and answer those questions. Based on their answers, students get to vote out scientists until there is one left – the best scientific communicator – who wins €500 for a new public-engagement project of their choice.

A public engagement activity could involve: buying equipment to allow a research oceanography vessel to communicate with school students during expeditions, funding an open day for communities living in a disaster area to find out about the natural hazards research and get advice, giving the money to a school in Uganda to pay for science kits and a projector to watch science films on or buying a quadcopter to film inside the rim of a volcano and help local school children understand their local natural environment. It’s up to you!

The primary objective of the event is to change students’ attitudes to the geosciences and make them feel it’s something they can relate to and discuss in a rapidly changing world. Students have fun, but also get beyond stereotypes, learn about how science relates to real life, develop their thinking and discussion skills and make connections with real scientists.

IAG Earth Zone logo large

For scientists, this is a unique opportunity to get involved with some public engagement from the comfort of your own home or lab computer, in your own time. You can build up your skills in talking about your research to varied audiences, tick the box for public engagement in your funding proposals, gain an understanding of how the public relate to your research and, importantly, help inspire the next generation about the geosciences.

So, by now you must be asking how you can get involved to take part in this amazing opportunity! To apply to take part in the event just go to http://imageoscientist.eu and fill in the simple online form for scientists. Applications are open to all EGU members (if you are not a member you can register on the EGU website) from across Europe and close on the 17th March 2014. Once applications close, we will ask the registered  school classes to judge the scientist applications and chose the final 5 scientists who will get to take part in the final event. Successful scientists will be notified by the 7th April and the event will take place over two weeks from the 16th to 27th June.

To take part you need to be able to devote around an hour a day (it doesn’t matter when, but if you can devote more time that is always better) for those two weeks to answer the questions posed by the students – and of course you will have to have reliable internet access. The entire event will be conducted in English, so you will also need to be able to confidently understand and communicate in English.

So, get applying and be part of this exciting new initiative! If you have any other questions about the event email Jane Robb at robb@egu.eu or info@egu.eu.

By Jane Robb, EGU Educational Fellow

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