I was delighted to have been invited, as an observer, to attend this event for PhD students, postdocs and early researchers in various fields of research. The ‘Standing up for Science’ Manchester Voice of Young Science (VOYS) workshop organised by Sense about Science was held on 13th April 2018 at Manchester University.
As a mentor to students in the Life Sciences, my main purpose was to explore how this type of event could benefit my mentees. The workshop turned out to be worthwhile for this purpose and many other reasons…
Cognisant of the potential traffic delays, I set off in good time only to arrive an hour early! Still, this provided a chance to say ‘hello’ to the organisers Anastasia, Chris and Sanjana. After receiving a very warm, friendly welcome I then quickly made myself scarce to enable them to get everything ready for the day ahead. On return (at the correct registration time!), I found the room was filling up with 40 young research scientists a few of whom clearly knew each other and the others soon did.
Refreshments time and a table of take away information to browse provided informal networking opportunities. The attendees were then seated and the lively banter continued – the atmosphere boded well.
The meeting started.
The day comprised a full programme including breakout small group discussions providing researchers a ‘warm-up’ with some fascinating and thought-provoking issues to talk about in readiness to voice their questions and opinions to the wider group, and for the panel sessions that followed each breakout session. The calibre of the panellists was high including researchers who have engaged with the media; policymakers talking about why good evidence is important for them and how researchers can help inform policy; respected science journalists talking about how the media works, how to respond and comment, and what journalists expect from scientists and researchers. Communications experts provided hints and tips on how young researchers can start standing up for science and how to involve the public in communicating research.
In summary, the workshop covered topics such as science and the media; what policymakers are looking for; what journalists are looking for; support available from institutions and also the responsibilities of research scientists for the public discussion of science and evidence. There was much lively, thought-provoking debate. On the day, I was asked to participate in the discussions and I was very happy to do so.
I was struck by the professionalism and slick organisation of the event together with the ambience created to foster open and honest discussion. The enthusiasm, maturity and sheer potential of young researchers today is heart-warming and in my opinion they deserve to be encouraged and supported in their careers and the many challenges they face.
I also heard some new perspectives from young researchers – lifelong learning is important and so much fun.
Based on this experience, I am definitely recommending future events to my mentees, particularly the PhD students in Life Sciences.
A big thank you to the organisers for inviting me to attend what proved to be an informative, inspiring and enjoyable day.
by Dr Julie Charlesworth