December 5, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

This is the first in a series of reviews of the sessions held by the Science Communication Group on 13th September, in celebration of 21 years of the Science Communication MSc at Imperial College. We will be putting up reviews of each session over the next couple of weeks. If you went to the celebrations and would like to have your say, please get in touch: @I_science_mag, or via the contacts page.

Broadcasting Science
Chair: Robert Sternberg
Panel: Andrew Cohen (Head of Science, BBC), Deborah Cohen (Editor Science Radio at the BBC), Kate Kahle (social media manager, CERN), Carlo Massarella (Director, Windfall Films), and Chris Riley (Writer, broadcaster, film maker, and post-digital entrepreneur).

The various BBC channels on offer can be likened to the different sections of a book shop. Or so says Andrew Cohen, the BBC’s Head of Science, who kicked off the discussion by providing a great analogy for “knowing your audience”. BBC 1 would be displayed in the shop window, broadcasting shiny, “sugar coated” science to the high-street; whereas the more specialised BBC 4 could be found in the science section, hidden away in the rear corner, behind the coffee shop and accessible to those who wanted to see it.

One of the main themes throughout the discussion was the switch in the style of science presentation. Deborah Cohen, editor of Science Radio at the BBC, focussed on this change, noting that science broadcasting has become more relaxed and aims at creating a dialogue between the audience and the presenter. All of the panellists mentioned the importance of social media in facilitating this dialogue, and it was interesting to hear that Twitter has actually increased the number of live viewers, since people like to take part in the discussion via the use of hash tags.

It was appropriate that a session which focussed on the current and future states of broadcast media was ended by Chris Riley, the man responsible for the first BBC webcast back in 2001. This webcast covered the total solar eclipse in Zambia, and combined current techniques while broadcasting over the web. This allowed the public to comment on what they had watched, thus initiating a dialogue.

I have never seen as many industry “Top Guns” in one room. Hearing them talk about the “Golden Age” with regards to the marriage of broadcast and social media was incredibly exciting – and certainly left the floor with much to discuss during the Q&A session and later throughout the day.