What is Science Outreach?
Science Outreach (aka Science Community Engagement and Learning) is any activity that enhances the understanding of and support for science in the wider community outside of Academia.
The Outreach Certificate recognises the valuable time and effort that students invest in science outreach. It celebrates students' achievements and endorses the time and effort that they put into furthering public understanding of science to potential employers.
Why reach out to the community about my science?
The public has an insatiable appetite for science well-told; for science stories that inform and enhance their understanding of science and its relevance to their everyday lives.
Sharing your enthusiasm for science can be an empowering, rewarding experience.
In addition, we seem to have entered an age where 'misinformation’ and 'alternate facts' are leading to confusion and unrest in the community. Science Outreach, well delivered, has the potential to address confusion and alleviate fear.
It takes time, effort and commitment developing skills to reach out to a non-science audience and communicate your science in an engaging way, but the rewards personally and professionally are significant. You will develop confidence, new communication, organisation, and time management skills.
How do I go about engaging with the public about my science?
Science Outreach can take a wide variety of forms from informative and engaging public talks at Museums, or to community groups; to helping out with field trips and education programmes at places like Orokonui Ecosanctuary or NZ Marine Studies Centre; to preparing informative and engaging displays for science events such as Tertiary Open Day; to preparing podcasts for local community radio, to short video for social media platforms; to interpreting key science concepts through poetry, art, song and dance.
Outreach is a giving process by which we reach out and give understanding, inspiration, and comfort to the wider community. The vehicle through which we do that is limited only by your creative imagination. That’s what makes it so rewarding, and so much fun!
Resources to explore
- Talking Science: An Introduction to Science Communication
BBC Science Broadcaster Greg Foot’s You Tube Course is a good place to start
- TED’s Secret to Great Public Speaking
- How to tell a Good Science Story
- Science Communication: A Practical Guide for Scientists. By Laura Bowater and Kay Yeoman (Available from the University of Otago library)
- Successful Science Communication: Telling It Like It Is. By David J. Bennett & Richard C. Jennings (Available from University of Otago library)
Where can I get some experience in Science Outreach?
Science Outreach opportunities within departments varies widely across the University.
Contact your Head of Department (HOD) and/or senior lecturing staff to find out what opportunities might exist within your own department.
In addition, two programmes employ senior science students as support staff and mentors at on-campus science camps:
The Science Academy is a programme aimed at potentially high achieving Year 13 science students attending rural/provincial, small, or lower decile schools. It consists of two, week-long residential science camps, one in January and one in July, together with on-line support for their science communication project between January and July and on-line tutorials in the lead-up to their NCEA final exams.
Each year we need recruit a team of 6-8 senior science students as ‘Greenshirts’ – live-in support staff and mentors for 50–60 students over the week-long camp. This is a paid position and our Greenshirts are encouraged to share their passion for the science they are studying and relate its relevance to society.
For further information, please contact:
Science Academy Director
Science Teaching Co-ordinator
Hands-on at Otago
Hands-On at Otago is designed to support and show interested students what researchers do, why they do these things and to encourage talented young New Zealanders to consider further study as a step in their career pathway.
It is a week-long programme held during the secondary school summer holidays.
Hands-On needs senior students and postgraduates to work with the large cohort of students at the January residential camp. This is a one-off camp for students, and helpers are required for pastoral care and running the social program for the students over the week they are on campus.
For futher information, please contact:
Local opportunities exist off-campus also.
Orokonui Ecosanctuary is actively recruiting Life Sciences graduates as educators offering post-graduate students a valuable opportunity to develop their responsibility, time management, teamwork, personal organisation, and communication skills. This activity can be counted towards the Sciences Division Outreach Certificate and can develop into casual paid employment.
Orokonui Ecosanctuary has provided post-graduate students with an opportunity to educate children and young adults about conservation and their own research, with events at Orokonui, in schools and public areas such as the Botanic Gardens, Octagon, Public Library and shopping centres.
For further information, please contact:
NZ International Science Festival
The Science Festival wouldn't be here today were it not for our enthusiastic and generous team of volunteers who lend us their time and talent in the lead up to and during the Science Festival. We need people to help run workshops and events across Ōtepoti Dunedin.
For futher information, please contact:
What is the Science Outreach Certificate?
The Science Outreach Certificate is a formal acknowledgement by the University of Science Community Engagement and learning activities you have been involved with or supported with your time, knowledge, communication skills and creativity.
To achieve our Science Outreach Certificate, you need to have committed a minimum of 60 hours to some form of Science Outreach/Community Engagement.
These hours may involve presenting a science talk to a community group; helping teach in a school outreach programme such as those run by NZ Marine Studies Centre Orokonui Ecosanctuary, NZ International Science Festival, or your own department; creating web-based science outreach such as writing science blogs; preparing a podcast, exhibitions, artwork, or films; it may be preparing interpretation or information boards for community groups; it may be mentoring high school students (or younger).
Here is how it works
- Click on the `Register Now’ tab below and create a login using your university username and password.
- Enter the information asked about the outreach activities you've been involved in, create a summary, enter details of referees etc... these can be saved and added to over the course of your involvement - this could be years! There will be a printable summary of all the information entered earlier and a sign off space for the HOD or person heading up each outreach activity.Your activities can be post-dated for up to two years. While the minimum for the certificate is 60 hours please enter everything, you’ve been up as your total hours of Outreach involvement will be recognised on the Certificate.
- Once you've finished your involvement with Outreach or completed your studies, write a Reflective Summary of your experience: e.g., why you did it, what you liked about it, found most challenging; what you’ve learned etc.
- Print your portfolio document and get it signed off by your HOD or the person in charge of your main outreach activity.
- Submit it to the Science Community Engagement & Learning Committee (SCEL), c/o Division of Sciences Administration office in Union Court.
- Your Portfolio will be presented to the Science Community Engagement & Learning Committee for approval at their next meeting. (Note: As of 2022 they only meet every 2 months). You will receive your certificate shortly afterwards
- Look out in your email for invitation to receive your certificate at the next SCEL meeting, share highlights of your outreach experiences with us and bask in the recognition of a job very well done. Alternatively, you can opt to have your certificate emailed to you.
NB: The university may at some point wish to use an anonymised form of the information you have submitted for research purposes.