Rather than reinventing the wheel or preaching to the converted, InspiredNT manager Paul Lyons is working with a range of science engagement activity organisers to bring bigger and broader audiences to their events, as well as his own. Just don’t say the word ‘science’ too loudly.
Territorians aren’t particularly known for their interest in theoretical physics or stem cell science. But they are interested in crocodiles, beer and northern development.
“They won’t come just because you’ve said the word ‘science’.”
That’s why Inspiring Australia NT’s Science@Sunset events involve expert panel discussions on hot topics while the audience enjoys beer, wine and nibbles.
“My standard Science@Sunset event brings three researchers connected to a local industry to show how science helps the economy and the community,” Paul says.
- Developing the North—but what is out there? Explored the potential impact of northern development on the wildlife of the Northern Territory.
- Using local knowledge to become a millionaire brought science into the Million Dollar Fish competition organised by Tourism NT.
- Biological art looked at biomedical visualisation and what it offers artists and scientists.
Paul describes his approach as ‘science by stealth’, using an interesting topic as the hook.
Science@Sunset now has a reputation and a following, which Paul uses to help others promote their events.
When the local branch of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) brought out Kari Pitts from ChemCentre in WA for the ‘Zombies, Cars + Shoes: Case Studies in Physical Evidence’ talks for schools, they asked Paul to help promote it. He also organised an extra public lecture as a Science@Sunset event.
“We find that if an invitation is sent by an academic, people will see it as an academic event. If it comes from a teacher, people will see it as a children’s event. I’m not a doctor or a teacher, so I can send out event information and I can answer questions people have about them. And I know the local networks, so I can target different events to niche audiences.”
Paul encourages the Territory’s science community to let him know about their science outreach events.
“Let me know about it and we will see if we can attract a bigger group or a different audience.”