Greece: A science communication workshop
Science Communication is a new field of communication that gives the possibility for everyone to understand science and its beauty. It has built a common language: non-conventional communication. It aims to transform complex scientific information into abstract expression forms, without losing the real meaning of our research.
Due to the importance of communication, many researchers are learning how to integrate it into their work and iGEM will not be left behind. Therefore, we were invited to collaborate with other iGEM teams in an intensive workshop about science communication. It was hosted and organized by iGEM Thrace and with help of the Erasmus+ program, we could be a part of it and fly to Alexandroupolis, Greece. The event reunited people from all around the world: We had participants from Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, France, Spain, Sri Lanka, Russia, Brasil, and Colombia. All these nationalities were represented by the seven iGEM teams that were part of the workshop: iGEM Thrace, iGEM Hamburg, iGEM Aachen, iGEM Marburg, iGEM IONIS, iGEM Sorbonne and iGEM Crete. It was an excellent way to apply science communication from the start. We needed to overcome the language barrier to create the final project of this workshop: a performance that explains complex scientific information in a simpler way.
To achieve this, we started with team-building activities where we could train our communication skills. We got to know each other comfortably so that we could create a real feeling of teamwork. We also had intense courses and discussions about science communication and why it should become an everyday task of the scientific community. After the team building activities, we had some courses about the topic where we learned how people communicate science and experience the methods closely.
After feeling more confident with the challenge, we decided on the topics that we wanted to share with the people from Alexandroupolis: vaccinations, global warming, and of course synthetic biology. We divided into groups and then chose non-conventional methods we thought would fit our topic and our capacities: A performance that was composed of theater, dance, and a narrative line. We started creating our story and our approach to the topic. Thanks to iGEM Thrace we got a crash course about improvisation and theater. This helped us to understand this method more and to develop our performance on an optimal level. The challenge was huge: talk in a language that is not our mother tongue, convert complex concepts into digestible information without losing their meaning or spreading false information, create the elements of the performance, such as dialogue, choreography, coordination, scenery, clothing, among many others. But working together, developing new skills, supporting each other, and enjoying the process made it possible. We presented a three-act stage play, suitable for all kinds of ages, to our audience. We are proud to say that due to our hard work it was a great success and after the play, we created space for a discussion with the audience. We are enormously grateful to the Erasmus + Program and iGEM Thrace for giving us this opportunity.
For us, the intensive workshop on scientific communication in Greece was an experience that we will always carry in our hearts. Beyond all the new knowledge we obtained and the culminating presentation of our topics, it was a truly enriching experience. Spending two weeks sharing with people from different countries, let us put any barriers aside. To promote this type of space, each night there was a theme about a particular country. In this, the people who came from this country could show us the typical music, the typical food and above all to be able to speak calmly about its history. Sitting surrounded by the sea and the beach we were able to leave our prejudices behind and create bonds of true friendship.
Dissemination of science communication
However, science communication kept being a fundamental form of dissemination. When we returned from Greece we wanted to apply our new skills and tell our community a little bit of what we learned. Therefore, all German iGEM-teams collaborated with Fridays For Future in the “Climate Change Strike '' back in Germany. We used this event as an opportunity to share the information that we communicated in our play about global warming. Through the help of specially designed pamphlets, we created a space for discussion with the people who were at the protest, and together we discussed the meaning of climate change. After this, we began to give some small specific tips that can help to take care of the environment on a day-to-day basis. This allowed us to have a pleasant conversation with people and at the same time try to generate awareness.
Dissemination in the community played a fundamental role, but it was also essential to deliver everything we learned to our team. That is why we created an online conference for all German iGEM teams, where we could exchange information and experiences without any physical barrier. After talking a bit about the meaning of scientific communication, we put it into practice with an interactive game. With the help of Skribbl.io, we were able to create a space where each participant had a scientific term and a limited time to draw it. In this way, the other participants could observe the drawing and try to guess the term. Through this activity, we encouraged our colleagues to try to communicate by expressing themselves without words. This challenge demonstrates the essence of restructuring communication and at the same time having a space for relaxation and union as a team.