Thursday, 7 May 2020
Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles of the University of Auckland has showcased great science communication during the COVID-19 pandemic - and was the first guest speaker of Otago's Centre for Science Communication’s inaugural Facebook Live event.
The COVID-19 response has shown what is possible when good science and good communication come together, and many Otago academics have played exemplary roles on the national stage.
Known for her flamboyant and clear style, Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles is also a highly regarded academic and industry expert who bridges the gap between science and the public.
Associate Professor Wiles, of the University of Auckland, has also become a household name during COVID-19 which is why she was invited to be the first guest speaker of the Centre for Science Communication’s inaugural Facebook Live event last week.
"The pandemic has highlighted how a scientific issue connects every discipline, so good communication and collaboration can create innovative alchemy across often perceived disparate areas of society."
Head of Filmmaking at the Centre Dr Gianna Savoie says Siouxsie’s talents for communicating science to diverse audiences was evident in the numbers of people tuning in from around the world to the live event, and who are still watching and sharing the recorded session.
“Science has its purpose and function but without communication it has no meaning, so it’s fantastic to learn from people that can convey this meaning and connection to the science in an interdisciplinary way,” Dr Savoie says.
“The pandemic has highlighted how a scientific issue connects every discipline, so good communication and collaboration can create innovative alchemy across often perceived disparate areas of society.”
During the event, Dr Wiles reflected that her communications role during COVID-19 has been the most fulfilling collaboration of her career, especially working with illustrator Toby Morris to create many of the public-facing interactive graphs which have gained attention internationally.
She also stated that science communication is what has had the most impact during the crisis to date, most crucially in its role of explaining to the public the reasons why we have been asked to take the actions we have.
Dr Savoie says she was especially heartened to hear Siouxsie speak so passionately about the need for ‘open source science.’
"Due to the inter-disciplinary nature of science communication we are keen bring in voices from lots of different sectors – from scientists, to economists, historians, and artists – to hear how about all the different angles of response to the pandemic."
“I hope that if there is one bright spot that comes from this pandemic it’s that it has the potential to change the way we do our science,” Dr Savoie says.
“Let’s bring the public into the ‘process’ of science – warts and all – so they can better understand it.
“And let’s share resources and work together in innovative ways because clearly, as Siouxsie has shown us, when people from seemingly different camps are allowed to mingle, a powerful alchemy can result.”
With a reach of 30,000 to date, the Facebook live session was such a success the Centre for Science Communication is planning to continue with the online series in the future.
“Due to the inter-disciplinary nature of science communication we are keen bring in voices from lots of different sectors – from scientists, to economists, historians, and artists – to hear how about all the different angles of response to the pandemic.
“In-person seminars are intimate and necessary but online events like this have proven a valuable additional resource that can reach a broad audience and help put Centre on the map as a global destination for engaging the public in powerful science stories.”
Dr Savoie extends a special thanks to Steve Ting and Dr Cathy Cole from the Centre for Science Communication and Jeff Ormandy from e-Conferencing for the team effort in making the event a success from everyone’s various bubbles.