Category Archives: How Science Works

Choosing themed zones for next year

You’ve given us quite a few suggestions for themed zones for next year. Along with the ones we used last year, there’s a good list here for you to vote on. Please vote for the zones you think you’d like to take part in.

HOWEVER, you’ll see that some suggestions I haven’t put up. This is because I wasn’t quite sure how they’d work, or they were a bit vague and I wasn’t sure what the right specific suggestion would be.

I’m explaining why (i.e. rambling on about this) below the poll. Please can you help me work this out?! Use the comments to add your thoughts and when we’ve worked out more suggestions I can keep adding things to this list.

[poll id=”5″]

A discussion on How Science Works (HSW) zone topics

One suggestion was a HSW zone. The problem with this is, who would we put in it? Sadly we don’t have enough time/money to develop extra teaching materials for each zone, so the topic has to sort of be covered (as much as it’s going to be) by the people in the zone.

So surely any scientist could go in a HSW zone? In fact they are all HSW zones! The main idea of the event really is that students learn HSW more than anything else (and that’s why the info sheets and lesson plans are all on HSW topics). I can’t quite see how a HSW zone would work, but I can see how we could have zones on some HSW topics.

For example, Verity suggests Investigative Science and Evaluating data. But again, who would we put in those zones? Surely any scientist could go in there? What would make it specifically an evaluating data zone?

Emily suggests a moral/ethical debating zone. I’m not sure whether she means one ‘ethics’ zone, or having zones on different issues. Which would you prefer? What issues would you want to see a zone on?

I would definitely LOVE to have zones on different issues – and potentially have some relevant scientists, but also social scientists or philosophers, who could bring a different angle. I think this would be a fantastic HSW exercise, showing the students that different sorts of evidence and points of view need to be considered.

One specific example, we’ve just brought out the cannabis legalisation debate kit. I would love to have a cannabis legalisation zone. Then I think it would make sense to have scientists who’ve studied the effects of smoking cannabis, for example whether it’s likely to cause psychosis. But also have a sociologist who could talk about the social effects of it being illegal, etc, etc.

Or would broader topics be better – for example, ‘Medical ethics’ which could then include medical researchers whose research has ethical implications, as well as, for example, a philosopher who specialised in ethics?

Would you like zones like ‘Philosophy of science’ zone? Although I’m not sure that we could have any actual scientists in that…

Would you feel OK in general about including non-scientists in zones where it seemed relevant? For example,last year we had a Drug Development zone. If we did that again, would it make sense to have a medical ethicist who could discuss the ethical issues in drugs trials?

Please contribute your thoughts, requests, etc and together we can work out some things that will work well for teachers and in the classroom, but also are feasible for us to organise:-)

I can’t promise that whatever we decide, I’ll be able to recruit the ideal people anyway! Of course I’ll do my best, but bear in mind that to an extent, broader suggestions are more feasible to put into practice (like I can’t promise to find five experts on the science of climbing Everest). But too broad and topics become a bit meaningless.

Posted on November 26, 2010 in How Science Works, IAS Event, Science Education | Comments Off on Choosing themed zones for next year

Guest blogger: IAS March 2009 winner Gillian Hamilton

Normally young people don’t get much say in science funding, but in I’m a Scientist they choose which scientist they think should get a prize of £500 to communicate their work. March 2009 winner Gillian Hamilton has very kindly agreed to be our guest blogger this week and tell everyone about what she did with the money.

Winner of I'm a Scientist March 2009

Winner of I'm a Scientist March 2009

I decided to take part in the I’m a Scientist project because I liked the idea of chatting to high school students and telling them more about what a career in science entails, something I didn’t know much about when I was at school. From the feedback it sounds like the majority of students enjoyed the experience which is a great result. Winning was completely unexpected, and I’m still thrilled about it!

I have used the prize money to attend the annual Alzheimer’s Research Trust conference which was held this year at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. Conferences are great places for scientists working in the same field to come together and present their work, and this year was no different.

The conference was held over two days and scientists from all levels had a chance to present their work, from PhD students just beginning their careers, to the high up Professors in charge of million pound budgets. The talks were wide ranging also, from molecular work being carried out in fruit flies to discussing the effect of diet on risk of disease and the development of new drug treatments.

Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent

However, we try not to forget the reason we’re carrying out our research and there was also an emphasis on the human aspect of Alzheimer’s disease. This year, the actor Jim Broadbent gave a fabulous talk on the first day. Jim’s mother had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and so he shared some of his experiences with us.

On the second day, we had a very unusual start to the conference. The Opera Group is a small team of singers and musicians who are putting on an opera, based on a patient with Alzheimer’s disease and his experiences, next summer (

The Opera Group

The Opera Group

We were treated to snippets from their, as yet, unfinished opera. It was an amazing and very moving experience. As a lab based scientist I very rarely meet people who are affected by this awful disease but the portrayal in the opera was excellent and I look forward to seeing the final piece when it goes on tour next summer.

Following the conference, I am now back in the lab working away on my projects, with a renewed enthusiasm about my work and some new ideas too! So thanks to I’m a Scientist and all the high school students who were involved!


Posted on May 1, 2009 in How Science Works, Scientists | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Guest blogger: IAS March 2009 winner Gillian Hamilton

Webchats, sci-casts and your chance to meet the lovely (ahem) Sophia…

Firstly, one of our nice teachers from the pilot has asked me to help publicise another ‘webchats with scientists’ project:-

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Posted on December 18, 2008 in How Science Works, Science Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Webchats, sci-casts and your chance to meet the lovely (ahem) Sophia…

Me Miss! I know the answer!

We got a great response to our request for suggestions on who to approach for funding – thanks everyone! Suggestions included Learned Societies and Institutes, companies, charities and public bodies like NESTA, SETpoints and the SLC.

Some of these people I did contact when we were originally looking for funding for the pilot, but didn’t get very far. Pretty much everyone said they didn’t have any money, but suggested we tried the Wellcome Trust People Awards (who came up trumps). However, now we have a tried and tested event it should be a different proposition. Hopefully.

I keep reading about how there’s going to be a skills gap, young people are being turned off science and technology and everyone wants to invest in projects to combat this, and all I can think is, “We can do it! Give us some money!”.

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Posted on December 10, 2008 in How Science Works, Science Education | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Me Miss! I know the answer!

We've chosen the scientists!

This has been even harder than choosing the schools. We ended up cutting out bits of paper with everyone’s details on and moving them all around the desk, making up fantasy groups and trying to see if each group had got everything covered. I really wanted to include almost everyone, but we had to say no to some really great people.

However, I think the 15 scientists we’ve picked (five for each group of students) will be fantastic – good communicators, enthusiastic, with interesting work to discuss and raising some thought-provoking issues. I would publish the details on here, but I’ve not had confirmation back from everyone yet.

But I can tell you that topics covered range from studying climate change to engineering solutions for rectal incontinence. Which is really quite a range, however you look at it.

Teacher packs

We’re sending the teacher packs out today to participating teachers. All our teaching resources can also be downloaded by any teacher who wants to (below). Each pack contains:-

I would email everyone electronic copies too, but it’s loads of files and would clog up inboxes, so I’ve uploaded them here. Once the actual site is live they will all be available there, but in the meantime, you can download them from here. We believe that information and education should be free, so all the materials are copyright free (under a Creative Commons Attribution license) and any teachers are free to download the materials and make use of them.

Posted on May 23, 2008 in Downloadable Teacher Resources, How Science Works, IAS Event, Science Education, Scientists | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Do you think scientific speed-dating would work?

Well we’ve been beavering away here in I’m a Scientist Towers. We’ve taken on a freelancer to develop the teacher packs. Becky Davies usually works at Techniquest Continue reading

Posted on March 12, 2008 in Evaluation, How Science Works, School, Science Education | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What teachers want

This is a quick summary of what we’ve found out so far from teachers. It’s been really useful talking to them. Most have been excited about the event, but some exhibited what you might call a bit of skepticism about the new GCSE curriculum, Continue reading

Posted on February 28, 2008 in How Science Works, Science Education | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment