PM Project Adventure Plan

As promised, here’s my plan for the next year and a bit:


And here (to explain the plan) is my project statement:

Firstly...What’s the point in the PM’s Science Communication Prize?
My take is that the PM introduced the Science Prizes to address a few problems in New Zealand. Although we work hard and have some of the best education and science systems in the world:

•    We’re not very good at turning scientific discoveries into businesses that make an impact on the world and the economy;
•    There aren’t enough young people going into science and engineering;
•    There’s a strong anti-science attitude in our culture (many prefer to believe Ken Ring rather than scientists);

But we need science! Faced with challenges like climate change, earthquakes, peak oil and a struggling economy we won’t survive without it. For democracy to work properly we need more people to understand science. We need:

•    more young people studying science
•    an authentic dialogue between the science community, government, industry and society
•    new industries drawing on our science, innovation and creativity
•    collaboration between the science community and other key sectors
•    greater public understanding and trust in the scientific method

The purpose of the science media communication prize (as given on the website) is:
“to further the recipient’s knowledge, capability and understanding of science media communication.”


When the Royal Society (who administer the prizes) handed me a blank canvas to design my own program of activities, I faced the question:

What knowledge, capability and understanding will I need to contribute to this vision for New Zealand?

There were countless paths I could take. I needed a plan that responded to the country's needs while drawing on my particular strengths and passions. I spent ages analysing the media, seeking advice, researching and reflecting.


I was particularly inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s book “ The Tipping Point” that describes how social phenomena (like smoking, crime and hush puppy shoes) spread like epidemics through populations. He pointed to the influencial role key individuals play.
I liked the idea of creating a social epidemic of science enthusiasm!
To do this I’d need to expand my understanding and circle of influence beyond the science community. In March 2010 this is what my sphere of work looked like:


And this is what I wanted it to look like at the end of the PM project adventure:


After much consideration I decided to start by focusing on social networking.

Why social networking?

•    It’s immediate, responsive, seems to be the way of the future and I knew very little about it.
•    With the internet taking over from mainstream media outlets like newspapers and TV there’s a huge increase in the quantity (not necessarily the quality) of media. This creates a problem of how to choose and who to trust. People turn to personal recommendations more and more.
•    Social Networking has become a powerful way of making personal connections, building networks and spreading ideas.

My impulse was to connect with key individuals around New Zealand– the “rebellious optimists”, to hear about their visions and start to build the relationships that will allow collaborations to form. Hence was born "The Ripple Effect":


The purpose of this research phase is to:

•    Expand my network into the spheres of the arts, community groups, environmental groups, business and education.
•    Develop my understanding of the values, visions, motivations and culture of different groups
•    Research opportunities for science communication and collaboration
•    Identify key skills to develop in the learning activity phase
•    Hone my social networking skills

I am now at the stage of gathering and synthesising my research – watch my blog for updates.


The learning activity phase, which began early this year, is all about developing skills, experience and confidence to contribute to a social epidemic of science enthusiasm.
Some of the skills I’ve chosen to focus on are:

•    Public Speaking
•    Presenting and Performance
•    Podcast and Radio Production
•    Story-telling
•    Artistic expression of science
•    Social networking


I’m using the learning activity phase to reconnect with long buried artistic and performance skills and to integrate them into my science communication practice. By the end of the learning activity phase I aim to have developed a unique science communication brand and to be confident in expressing science through a range of media.
Learning activities include:

•    Voice and presenting training
•    Curating and presenting a Pecha Kucha Science Sessions night
•    Producing and presenting a series of podcasts/ radio shows – “The Nano-Adventures of Elf and Loo”
•    As much public speaking as possible!


In January 2012 I will start preparing for the inevitable transition back to normal life. I’ll be looking for opportunities to use the knowledge, capability and understanding I’ve gained to contribute to a social epidemic of science enthusiasm.
Within this overarching plan there is, of course, plenty of flexibility to respond to opportunities that arise and learnings that happen.
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