Jon began university life as a geologist, following this with a treacherous leap into the life sciences with a course in biodiversity and taxonomy. Now undertaking a PhD in tetrapod biodiversity and extinction at Imperial College London, there was a brief interlude were Jon was sucked into the world of science policy and communication. He blogs at http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/, tweets as Protohedgehog and co-runs an [infamous, probably] podcast series called Palaeocast. Jon can usually be found procrastinating in pubs, trying to exchange bad science, usually about dinosaurs, in exchange for food and beer.
Tell us a bit about you and your social media project
I’m currently a PhD student at Imperial College London, investigating the biodiversity patterns of tetrapods (anything with four limbs/wings/flippers) about 145 million years ago to see what we can figure out in a macroevolutionary sense, and whether we can find a ‘hidden’ mass extinction in the fossil record. I commit some of my time to 3 major social media platforms: blogging, tweeting, and podcasting, with a bit of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and others on the side. These activities are less of a project, per se, and more just stuff I do in parallel, and often with overlap, with my PhD research.
In the UK, many if not most Master’s students do not publish their postgraduate research. I’ve been informed by several people that in US-based institutions, Master’s students are continuously encouraged to publish their material by their supervisors and institutions.
Two years ago, I undertook an MSc at the Natural History Museum in London. One of the requirements, as with most postgraduate courses, was to undertake a research-based thesis. Out of the 21 students, so far only a single person (Roland Sookias) has had their research published. I have been informed that from at least the previous two years, this is pretty much the normal rate of publication! In fact, during the entire year I studied there, not a single supervisor/lecturer even mentioned formal publication or how to even approach manuscript preparation. This is an essential skill that all students should be taught really, and at least in my academic experience has been mysteriously neglected, by both students and their respective supervisors and lecturers it seems. This is especially the case, I feel, for Master’s students who wish to progress in academia, particularly through PhD research. Papers are academic currency, and the sooner you start accumulating wealth, the better.
Welcome to Day 3 of the EGU Annual Meeting. Do check the Geology for Global Development page too for some cracking updates on the sessions, particularly on the more ‘applied’ side of the geosciences, by Rosalie Testovin. This post is a quick break-down of some cool science from the morning session on the interaction between tectonics (faulting and folding from plate-related movements) and stratigraphy (the way in which rock packages are linked with each other). Naturally, I had to cover this one, as it was co-sponsored by the Geological Society of London (I’m an ex-employee), and was convened by a member of my department (Dr. Alex Whittaker) at Imperial College with another giving a talk (Prof. Phillip Allen). Here’s a quick break down of some of the talks (at least in as much detail as to be expected from a vertebrate palaeontologist):
It’s been 6 months now, and a while since I updated y’all with what it’s like in the world of a PhD-palaeontologist. In case you missed it, my intention was to open up PhD life and research a bit to expose what it’s like beyond the simple production of research papers. Which is probably a good thing, as I don’t have any papers out yet. Setting the cultural default within academia to open is something I’m quite in to, and I guess this is my little contribution to that.
So it’s been a few months since I last posted in this series. During that time, PhD life has been both a feast and a whirlwind of writing, reading, data collection, blogging, socialising, teaching, and most importantly, learning.
Throughout this series, I have highlighted the pitfalls and issues associated with effective communication of scientific knowledge to and with the public. This has largely been fueled by a recent paper highlighting these points as stepping stones and hurdles which scientists face and can develop upon to create strategies for becoming better at public communication. However, I’ve yet to offer any kind of solution.
Yesterday, I wrote briefly about the way in which geoscientists can use different plots to help them reconstruct scientific information into a digestible narrative format, taking on the style of a refashioned ‘story’. Continuing to draw upon the analysis by Iain Stewart and Ted Nield, this post will focus on how developing a narrative and particular language can help researchers to ‘talk geoscience’ in a more engaging manner.
To reiterate the actual issue, I’m going to steal a quote from the Stewart and Nield paper citing the geoscientist and science writer Rex Buchanan (it’s like he was made to be a geoscientist with a name like that..):
“We do a mediocre job of helping adults to learn about and appreciate science. Many of the science stories that I read in newspapers or try to watch on television aren’t very engaging. Some are too long, and many seem irrelevant. Popular science often seems like castor oil – some we should take because it’s good for us, not because we want too” (2005)