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SSPC to host virtual PhD Summit on STEM Communication
August 14, 2020

On Tuesday, August 18, 2020, SSPC, the SFI Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals will run its first 3-day PhD virtual summit, based on the theme of STEM Communication. The Centre will welcome students from SSPC and the UK.

The objective of SSPC’s first PhD summit is to enhance and develop awareness and understanding of the broad area of communication, along with a range of tools and transferable skills that participants will be able to use when communicating to a range of audiences with particular reference to the public. This is increasingly important as funding bodies and policy documents have recently elucidated the need for public engagement as a gatekeeper to impactful research.

With this in mind, there is concern that skills shortages within STEM could negatively influence national and global economies. Addressing challenges across these areas requires engaged and informed citizens with STEM as a central asset to their lives. Within this remit, there are issues with how researchers ‘responsibly’ communicate to the public, with this communication being very much dependent on their ability to share and explain their knowledge in a meaningful fashion. In light of the above, the SSPC PhD Summit 2020 represents a timely and important venture providing much needed bespoke training for students guided by a modern focus on a variety of engagement techniques.

Martin McHugh, SSPC Education and Public Engagement Manager, said:

“As our largest internal event of 2020, the SSPC PhD Summit is the first annual gathering of our new cohort of research students. The theme of this years’ summit is science communication. Even though the event is taking place online, we have interactive sessions in which participants will conduct experiments from home, develop a pitch for their work and design new SSPC public engagement events. The three days promises to be highly engaging while also giving our PhD students skills that will support their professional endeavours and more.”

As people are often tentative during online presentations, SSPC have joined up with TeamTrees, which means for every question asked or comment made will equal €1 and this equals 1 tree. To keep the summit relevant with current conditions, SSPC have developed a virtual workshop for making hand sanitizer. Each student has received a pack at home, therefore will be able get involved with the experiment at home and make their own natural version of a hand sanitizer.

The SSPC Education and Public Engagement (EPE) programme funded by Science Foundation Ireland plays a key role in communicating the importance and value of science to the wider society in Ireland. The SSPC’s EPE programmes incorporate customised, context-based activities for each stage of the Irish primary and post-primary educational systems. Additional programmes designed for third/fourth level students, industry, and the general public also play a role in the EPE strategy to promote engagement with SSPC’s research, as well as to create a dialogue among all participants about Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM), particularly in the area of chemistry and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Every session explained: What’s it all about?

Welcome to the Summit: Why Communication? – Will you ever work in industry? Do you have to present your research? Do you work with or manage people? This session will give you the ‘why’ behind the theme of the summit and also introduce the rest of the sessions.

Webinar 1: How to make things more interesting when communicating – There are lots of boring presenters, make sure you are not one of them by assessing the needs of your audience and by using instructional techniques called ‘hooks’.

Storytelling in Science – Hear from award winning communicator John O’Donoghue on how stories can shape your science.

Webinar 2: Delivering an effective career talk – At some point in your career you will be asked to give a talk to a bunch of teenagers! This session will show you the do’s and dont’s!

Education & Public Engagement (EPE) at home – Time to get active and follow the instruction of Laurie Ryan as she introduces our hand gel making kits that we use in schools (you will get this kit in the post before the summit!

Webinar 3: Turbocharge your writing – Writing and research go hand in hand and this session will break down the writing process with helpful hints and tricks.

Researcher Communication: Know your audience, know your story – You are doing cutting edge research and this session, guided by Louise O’Neill, will show you how to get your message out there!

Webinar 4: The PhD Viva – The Viva seems like an ancient rite of passage. This session will demystify the process and show you that it is nothing to be afraid of!

Close of summit – All things come to an end, but not before you get to have your say on SSPC’s latest public engagement event, Ireland’s first science escape room. We need your help so get your ideas ready!

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