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Recap: Raw Talk Live: It’s not you, it’s the scituation

By Catherine Choi

Raw Talk Podcast is an academic and student-driven program featuring faculty, students, and alumni from the Faculty of Medicine at UofT. On May 30, they hosted Raw Talk Live: It’s not you, it’s the scituation, featuring two panels on the topics of public engagement and science communication. New discoveries and knowledge in science are often held within the cozy nook of the scientific communities, which makes it hard for the general public to access this information. Each panel shared their own ideas on ways to connect the gap and on the impact that science communication and public engagement can have on the general public.

The first panel, on Public Engagement, featured: Tetyana Pekar (Founder & Academic Editor of Pekar Editing), Mehrdad Hariri (Founder & CEO of Canadian Science Policy Centre), Doina Oncel (Founder & CEO of hEr VOLUTION), Dan Weaver (PhD Candidate for the U of T Department of Physics), and Connie Putterman (Advocate & MSc Candidate for ASD Research & TRP). They discussed the growing importance of public engagement in scientific communities and how public engagement is a critical tool in empowering the people who want to learn and contribute but don’t have the necessary resources. They suggested that scientists should go out into the community and actively engage with the public and should translate research finding using basic terminologies that are easier to understand and therefore accessible to a wider audience.

Panel two focused on Science Communication and included: Eryn Tong (Science Podcaster & IMS MSc Candidate), Kevin Millar (Senior VP, Creative and Medical Science INVIVO Communications), Elah Feder (Co-Host & Producer of Undiscovered Podcast), Helen Kontozopolous (Co-Founder of the U of T Department of Computer Science Innovations), Vicky Forster (Science Communicator & Postdoc at SickKids Hospital). Discussions touched on the use of social media outlets and other traditional communication methods, such as written works and podcasts, as an effective and increasingly popular conveyor of scientific discoveries to the general public.

Jabir Mohamed, (one of the Raw Talk Executive Producers and event co-organizer) and Alexandra Mogadam (Raw Talk segment host and event co-organizer) shared their thoughts on the event and science communication and public engagement more broadly:

“Something that we talk about a lot amongst the podcast team, is the importance of accessibility of scientific information. We don’t just see this as a “nice” thing that the scientific community should do, but as a duty… There should be a platform in place, where the public and the scientific community can interact and exchange knowledge.  We often forget the valued insights and ideas that can be gained from those with lived experiences pertaining to a scientific phenomenon.  The need for ‘cross-talk’, and current lack of it, should be discussed more in graduate training, in research institutes and also among government policy makers. 

 Raw Talk Live reminded us that meaningful conversations about science require knowing your audience, inviting critics as opposed to dismissing them, and placing equal importance on communicating the scientific process as we do to the findings. We learned a lot, and hope our attendees did as well.”

A key focus of the IMS 50th Anniversary celebrations this year is on looking forward, and asking ourselves what does the future of medical science graduate education looks like? How can we, as an Institute, best prepare our students for this changing landscape? The discussions and insights raised at this event was an important piece of that wider conversation.

It is crucial for science communication to develop in a way that breaks down barriers between discoveries within scientific communities and relaying this information to the public at large. The Raw Talk team is doing a great job of helping to bring these discoveries to the public in an engaging, fun and accessible way through their podcast and live events.

Take a look at their Twitter Moment to see live coverage from the event!

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