Why It Matters To you
“Your job is fascinating
You are inspiring
Our work is important"
- Dr Ceri Brenner, Senior Application Development Scientist for High Power Lasers at the CLF
As well as it being a great experience for the general population, public engagement can also be a fantastic experience for you as a user. What you get in return when you take part in public engagement is not only the exposure of your work, access to new contacts and the opportunity for career development, but also the chance to hear alternative views and to gain a clearer understanding of your work.
Remember, public engagement is not always speaking face-to-face: Sharing your papers, progress and findings on social media platforms helps it to gain attention and popularity – and this means a higher chance of receiving funding.
For example, Dr. Ceri Brenner used twitter to promote a paper she published. She stated that, “due to the level of people clicking the link, the paper ended up sitting at the top of the “most read" section on epubs for weeks. This exposure made it far more likely to get cited."
It is also not to be forgotten that sharing the research that you are part of and seeing peoples' eyes light up with amazement feels good. The experience can give you confidence and make you a better communicator, which will be reflected in your talks and papers. Emer Montgomery, a scientist at the CLF who often helps with public events, stated about the last Laser Roadshow, “I really love helping with the laser roadshow. Figuring out how to break down complex concepts forces you to examine how well you really understand them."
Why It Matters To The Public
“The public is waiting to be inspired; we cannot do it without you."
When it comes to thinking about their GCSE, A level or future career choices, it is true that some young people are encouraged into a scientific route just by seeing science in the classroom. However, this is certainly not the case for everyone. Getting to see science in action, or speaking one-on-one with enthusiastic people who themselves have chosen a scientific career is what really makes a difference.
Furthermore, a lot of the time, schools cannot provide this by themselves: What it takes is scientists and engineers coming from their chosen field to share a simple, yet expert explanation of what they do. Very few people know what lasers actually are, yet the CLF has found that by taking a bit of time to explain them to adults and children alike, they are met with fascination.
Why It Matters To Science
“An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid."
- Prof. Ernest Rutherford (1973)
When the public does not know or understand enough about a scientific topic, misinformation can be spread. As mentioned in numerous papers on the matter*, It is important that we share our knowledge and information even to people who are not interested in becoming scientists. Misinformation can lead to doubt, speculation and even fear.
Plus, as mentioned before, this is particularly important with laser science, as much of the public is still fairly unaware of how lasers can be used to make technological and applied scientific breakthroughs.
Finally, public engagement also leads to funding, which can lead to increased research, equipment and employment.
The CLF holds many events designed to inform and to give young people their “wow" moment in science – but unfortunately, it is often difficult to gain enough volunteers to help with these pursuits. Having a specialist share their knowledge with the aspiring public can be hugely effective – but we cannot do it without you!
If you are interested in taking part in a bit of public engagement, please contact Sophy Palmer at email@example.com and she can inform you of the events coming up.
Papers referenced to inform this article: