Category: I’m a Scientist

I’ve just posted this over on the Risk Science Blog, but deviously thought I would also disrupt 2020 Science readers’ day with it as well! For the past couple of years, a highly addictive and innovative on-line teen science engagement event has been run in the UK. I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here pairs groups of scientists with classes of teenagers for two weeks, and the teens bombard them questions – about anything and everything. On each of the last four days of the event, the teens vote for their favorite scientists, and one by one the least popular are evicted. Until finally there is just one scientist left standing in each group. It’s brutal – I’ve been there – but at the same time enormous fun, and highly engaging. Today is the last day of the current event, and 3:00 PM UK time this afternoon the victorious winners will be revealed. But for the spectators, a major part of the attraction of the event is reading the questions the teens pose – and seeing how the scientists handle them. And this year, you can search for questions on specific subjects. S0 if your day is dragging a bit, this is what I suggest: Head over to the I’m A Scientist website and search for questions on “risk” – or just follow this link, which will take you straight there. (Don’t worry about the login box – that’s just for participants). But be warned – you can probably kiss goodbye to doing anything else for the rest of the day, once you get sucked in! The search function by the way returns questions from all events so far. To delve into the current event’s batch of questions and answers, head straight to the I’m A Scientist home page.

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Which were the most popular 2020 Science blogs of 2010?  In reverse order, based on page views, here are the ten most-read posts:

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I love books – the old fashioned kind, printed with ink on paper.  As a kid, books were my source of education, inspiration and entertainment.  As an adult, I still find there’s something oddly satisfying about picking up a sheaf of printed and bound pages and immersing myself in them. So it’s perhaps not surprising that, when it came to using my prize money from I’m A Scientist, get Me Out Of Here, I ended up turning to books.

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An hour or so ago, the final winners of I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here were announced.  To my surprise, I made it to the last two standing in the Silicon Zone yesterday, and have been on the edge of my seat today waiting to see whether I was going to be ousted by the rather younger and infinitely more hip Marianne Baker. And who won?

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Today was a tough day on I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here – three live chats almost back to back, followed by the first evictions.  And believe me – even though I live to fight another day, the evictions were traumatic!  But more of that below.  At the end of a long day, I mainly wanted to pull together a few notes on the event as it stands at the moment.

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The way science is taught, the way it’s portrayed on TV and in the press, he way it’s promoted by science-advocates and science bloggers, often seems to adhere to a rather pompous and hubristic view of science as the ultimate bastion of truth and certainty.  So it’s been rather refreshing this week to see a group of real-world scientists shattering this image in the on-line event I’m A  Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here!

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It’s a quarter to one in the morning Eastern Time, and I’ve just polished off the last question of the day on I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here!  I should be heading off to bed, but I wanted to capture some initial thoughts on this exercise first. I’ve lost count of how many questions I’ve answered today – hundreds it seem (although it’s probably less).  I did see a note come round earlier that 1000 questions have already been answered by the team of scientists – and it’s just the first day. Watching the reactions of my fellow contestants on Twitter, I think we’ve all had the same experience – gobsmacked by the volume and depth of the questions, followed by a rather rapid recalibration of how we go about answering them!

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If you want to participate in the rather fab science event I’m A Scientist, Get me Out Of Here I’m afraid you are out of luck – unless you happen to be one of the 100 scientists and 8000 teenagers taking part. But you can still get a thrill from watching the competition unfold on-line while experiencing science as a spectator sport as you’ve never seen it before! And believe me, this is an event you’re not going to want to miss – especially if you have any interest whatsoever in engaging teenagers in science. So, if you want to watch the fun, where do you begin? Here are three ways you might start:

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Reading the Twitter feeds, it seems that a number of scientists participating in I’m A Scientist, Get me Out of Here have struggled with their profiles.  It’s one thing to design an elegant experiment or write a smart paper – but describing yourself in three words or telling a joke that’s actually funny isn’t something most PhD’s prepare you for! However, the participants have risen to the challenge admirably, and most profiles are up now – just in time for the web site going live to teachers. Browsing through the profiles, there are some pretty smart and interesting people here – the competition’s going to be tough!  Here are just a few entries that caught my eye:

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The good folks at I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here have just posted a new video on YouTube about the event.  It gives a great overview of what I’m A Scientist is all about, and what makes it special: I particularly like the comment “It’s different from a normal science lesson because you can ask just what you want to ask, not what everyone else wants to know.” Essential viewing for anyone interested in science education – anywhere!

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As you’ll have realized from my post last week, I will be competing in I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here in in a couple of weeks’ time.  I’m going to be attempting to capture the event from my perspective through a series of rather shorter, more informal blogs than I usually post – starting here.  It seems a great way to capture the highs and lows as they happen, as well as being considerably less time-intensive than writing the sorts of pieces I usually post – and believe me, less time-intensive is exactly what I need at the moment – as you’ll see below! So today I got access to my profile page on the I’m A Scientist website (you’ll be able to see it in a few days), and faced the trauma of answering questions like “Who is your favourite singer or band?” and “If you had three wishes for yourself, what would they be?” But the most difficult question (barring “Tell Us A Joke”) was “How would you describe yourself, in three words?” My answer: “overworked, underpaid, happy.” But then I asked my family what they thought I should have answered.  And got: “Grumpy, tired, occard*”! Ah. Think I might have some re-prioritizing to do! *”awkward” for non-English speakers

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I can’t sleep, I’m distracted, I keep breaking out in a cold sweat.  And the reason?  I have a deceptively simple question going my head – and I don’t know the answer! The question… well, I’ll come to that in a minute.  I’d rather put the moment of embarrassment off for at least a few more lines – because rest assured, I will embarrass myself.   But let me first back up a little…

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