Episode 9 – Interview with Dr Shane Huntington OAM
Welcome to Season Two of Let’s Talk SciComm! We’re thrilled to introduce you to our first guest for this season, Dr Shane Huntington OAM.
Shane is the Chief Executive Officer of Little Big Steps; a charity helping kids with cancer. Shane is also a speaker, trainer and facilitator. He has been providing consulting services in communication and strategy for over 20 years.
He is the host and producer of 3RRR’s science radio program Einstein A Go Go. Over the last 30 years he has interviewed thousands of scientists and explained hundreds of scientific concepts to the public. In 2020 he was awarded an Order of Australia in recognition of his science communication work.
Shane is a prolific writer with articles on Medium.com read more than 80,000 times.
He is the Founder and Director of the Innovation Group Pty Ltd, a scientific equipment supplier in Australia and New Zealand since 1999. Until April 2021 he was at the University of Melbourne, where he had a distinguished career as an academic and leader of university strategy.
Shane was the Founder of the Telescopes in Schools Program, a Victorian based initiative designed to bring the wonders of Astronomy and education to low SES schools in Melbourne’s Northern and Western suburbs and rural districts through the prevision of research grade telescopes and support.
Shane was an academic until 2008 with a PhD in Physics. His specialty was in Photonics and Imaging and he has published more than 70 refereed journal papers. During his 10 years as a researcher he acquired more than $6M in competitive grants.
He holds an honorary appointment at the University of Melbourne in the School of Engineering and is an Ambassador for the Lost Dogs Home.
You call follow Shane and find out more about his work here:
Welcome to Let’s Talk SciComm, a podcast by the University of Melbourne Science Communication Teaching Team.
I’m Dr Jen Martin and my co-host is Dr Michael Wheeler and we believe science isn’t finished until it’s communicated.
Welcome to Season 2 of Let’s Talk SciComm. Michael and I are so thrilled to have your company. We’re really excited about this season. We hope that you’re going to love it as much as we do.
We’ve got four fantastic interviews coming your way with really amazing scientists and science communicators from all different backgrounds and areas of expertise. We’ll be speaking with Dr Shane Huntington, Dr Catherine Wheller, Doug Gimesy, and Amy LeBlanc.
We also have four episodes coming your way that discuss some topics that we hope you’ll find really helpful. Michael and I will be talking about how to build your online professional profile, how to edit your writing effectively, how to make fantastic videos about science and one that I think is close to all our hearts: how to tackle procrastination and why procrastination can be such a barrier to effective science communication.
So please join us. We’ll be releasing a new episode every Thursday. And of course if you haven’t yet listened to Season 1, we would love you to go back and listen to our first eight episodes as well.
So welcome, thank you for joining us and on to our first episode which is our interview with Dr Shane Huntington.
Hello and welcome to another episode of Let’s Talk SciComm.
I am Jen Martin and I’m delighted to have your company. And of course I’m thrilled to be joined by Dr Michael Wheeler. Hello, Michael.
And Michael, I am so delighted to introduce you to our guest today, both to introduce you to our guests as well as our listeners.
So Dr Shane Huntington is a very good friend of mine. He is a radio colleague and really someone whose experience and expertise is in both the act of doing superb science communication but also teaching others how to communicate effectively. It’s just something that I have the utmost respect for, and I’ve learned so much from Shane since I first met him 15 years ago. I counted on my fingers… 15 years ago.
And it’s been such a privilege for me to work with Shane since then on Einstein A Go-Go, which is Australia’s largest community radio station, 3RRR’s science show. And it’s just this fantastic show which Shane anchors.
So welcome Shane, thank you so much for your time today.
It’s my pleasure to be with you guys. Thanks for inviting me.
Now, Shane, obviously we’re going to ask you a lot about radio and about communicating science on radio during this conversation. But of course presenting science on radio isn’t actually your day job, it’s not your paid work. All of that you’ve been doing as a volunteer starting back in 1993.
I’m not trying to give away how old you are Shane, but it’s a very impressive innings of community radio work and I need to tell our listeners that Shane was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia for that work. So congratulations again Shane, what an achievement!
Aww thanks Jen. Look, it’s lovely to be recognised in that way. I think, I remember the night I got the award. My wife and I had just moved into our new house and I shed a few tears, ’cause it was one of those things where it’s not why you do it. But when someone notices that you’ve been doing it for so long, it’s kind of yeah, it’s a good feeling, it’s a good feeling.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I can tell you that a lot of your colleagues also shed a few tears ’cause we were so happy for you, Shane. But, so as I said, that’s all volunteer work.
In your day job, you’ve worked as a physicist, as the founder and CEO of Quantum Communications Victoria, as the founder and director of your company, The Innovation Group, as the principal strategy advisor to the Vice Chancellor at the University of Melbourne and until very recently, you were the deputy director of strategy and partnerships in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
So Shane, you’re currently the CEO of Little Big Steps, which is a charity working to support kids with cancer to get access to exercise medicine, to help them to be active again in whatever way is possible for them, because research shows just how important that is. And I know Michael is going to want to ask you all about that as an exercise scientist.
Shane, I know you also spend a lot of your time providing communication and strategy and leadership training to scientists. So a whole wealth of career there to talk about. And I can’t wait to hear about some of the common threads between all of those roles.
But we want to start back at the beginning and just hear about your journey into science. So Shane, I want to hear about you as a little kid. Was there a moment that you realised science was your thing and that you wanted to be a scientist?
I think Jen there were elements of it which I can remember very clearly, which strangely enough were actually based around the communication of science. And examples where it was done really well and for me the examples where it was done well were things like books by Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, seeing films like The Time Machine, with I think it was Rod Taylor, I think was the actor who was in that at the time.
Yeah, I think so.
These were the things that, for me, kind of spurred my interest. And I just loved space and astronomy. And, you know, I was born during the Apollo era. In fact, I think if I tracked back I might have been born like almost exactly nine months to the day after one of the moon landings. I’m not sure if that was in some way related with my parents.
But you know, I grew up in that and that was inspirational for me and I just love that. And it’s interesting because of course, at the time it represents the example of where the best communication was, and it was actually in fiction and on television, that’s where we were exposed to it. It wasn’t at school, it absolutely wasn’t from scientists. And so I ended up in all of this because of great science communication from sources that we don’t normally think about.
And even today we see great science communication in television shows like House or CSI and half the science is wrong, but boy is it communicated beautifully, and that’s often what matters.
So that’s kind of where I, I got into it and then, you know, I just went from strength to strength there and did more and more science wherever I could, ’cause I just found it fascinating and I wanted to be an astronomer, that was what I wanted to be when I was a little kid. And I didn’t, I didn’t realise at the time it means sitting behind the computer for your whole life, for the most part. But that came later, that came later.
Yeah Shane, you’ve got a really extraordinary journey there, especially considering the variety of different roles that you had, from your background in physics to science communicator to strategist extraordinaire and cancer charity CEO.
And I suppose at the heart of that, that science you’ve got communication and you’ve got strategy. But I suppose I’d love to hear what drives you, you know, what connects all of those different roles together and what motivated you to take that path?
Well, there’s a few things. I suppose that the core though, it’s solving problems. And some of those interpersonal problems, some of those are mathematical problems, some of those are various different types of problems. But essentially, it’s just problem solving. That’s what science is really about. It’s about understanding the world and trying to work out how it works and how you can make it something that you can be a positive part of.
And for me most of my, my roles have had that. It’s really interesting, often I’m asked, when you left your career as an academic and you became a professional staff member, was there a big shift? I’m like, well, I was actually the same person the day after I left as I was the day before.
But there was actually one big shift that I found interesting, and this is one thing that most academics don’t think about when they make this change. But when you’re an academic, you own your knowledge, it’s yours, it goes with you, it travels with you. When you become a professional staff member or something akin to that, you produce knowledge for other people and they own it. And it’s no longer yours, and that was a big shift to me. So that was one of the things that did change and I had to adapt to that.
But what I did realise is that in all of these roles, including the current one I hold as CEO of the kids cancer charity, the core is good communication. I got all my grants because I was a good communicator. I got the job as CEO of this charity because I spent a lot of time working out how to communicate with their board. That’s the thread that runs through the whole lot and what I always say to people is, if you think about it in a really overt way, you really deliberately think about what the communications structure is going to look like. You’ll take a very different approach to if you just sort of let it happen and hope for the best, and I’d say 99% of people just let it happen and hope for the best; they don’t think about it structurally. And they do themselves a disservice because they’re not putting their best self forward in those environments if they don’t do that.
Hmm yeah. Shane, it’s really fascinating.
And I’d love to actually ask you a little bit more about how you came to be the CEO of cancer charity and you’re… and what’s it like communicating to the board? It sounds quite opaque I guess, for people who are in a research bubble, maybe they don’t get to interact with people like that on a daily basis or at all.
Yeah, so regards to how I ended up in this current role, I was also lucky enough to be given one of the redundancies from the University of Melbourne during the pandemic changes that occurred in… I guess starting in 2020. And after 27 years, that was a big shift for me, I’d been there my entire life, pretty much my entire working life. And so I thought OK, as institutions like tertiary institutions become more and more like big businesses, I was feeling more and more of a need to do something that mattered.
And so I had a look at a couple of different roles. One was with a climate change organisation actually and it’s interesting you mentioned the board because when I looked at that organisation I had a chat to a couple of the board members before applying and realised that they were dysfunctional. And so decided to walk away from that and not go after that one, because that was something I felt really passionate about Dr Jen knows well. But I wasn’t going to get into an organisation that was problematic and so have that be a distasteful experience for me on a topic that I am really passionate about.
So then I thought, OK, what else is around and I, I saw this one. If you’re looking for meaning at the end of the line of meaning there is kids and cancer. It doesn’t get much… I mean, yeah, there’s a few things at that point. There’s domestic violence. There’s a few things, but you can’t go much further in terms of good meaning organisations than some of the cancer charities around and this is a relatively new one. So it’s sort of only a few years old.
For me it was a matter of having a look at what they’ve actually done. Was it worthwhile? Could I be passionate about it? So if I was standing in a room full of investors, could I get up their hand in heart and really sell this stuff to them? And get them to support it. And it was a really easy yes. So… and to be fair, not all of the kids cancer charities meet that criteria for me and not all the charities around meet that criteria. In fact a lot of them don’t.
But this one for me really met that criteria. It was really easy to see why it was worthwhile. And so I thought, can I bring my strategic research communication knowledge to bear on a problem that is really valuable to solve? Yes.
Am I willing to take a massive salary hit at this point in my life? Yeah, OK. It’s like not the best thing in the world, but when you’re searching for a bit of meaning and something more meaningful career point then that’s what you do.
Yeah, and you’ve got to fall asleep at night believing in the value of what you’re contributing to the world. Otherwise, what’s the point?
And we’re all so fortunate that we have the privilege of being able to do roles that we believe in.
Yeah, absolutely and look, I’ve had a few situations lately where my only way to describe it is there’s been one of the kids involved, one with the kids with cancer. And for a moment, they’ve smiled.
And that’s enough for the year you know. Like you look at that in context, with the sort of work I’ve done in the past and that doesn’t equal 50 academic publications. There’s no comparison, there is no comparison.
And so I feel a level of fulfilment in the work I’m doing at the moment that I don’t think I’ve ever felt in terms of my academic career or my other careers. I had amazing moments in those careers, but it’s not, it’s not the same.
Well as a friend of [yours] Shane, that just makes me extremely happy for you, I’m, I’m really pleased. But Shane you identified that good communication has been a really clear thread through your career. And I know that you and I would agree that science communication per se is not necessarily a thing. It’s just good communication of whatever the topic is that you need to communicate. And there are particular facets of science that maybe make it a bit more challenging to communicate sometimes for some audiences.
But looking back, what do you think your first experience was of communicating science to an audience, perhaps outside of other scientists? Was it as a kid describing having watched you know, something to do with Apollo to your friends or?
Well actually I don’t remember this. But my current situation is my wife, she does education now in empathy and so forth. But originally she did sex education training and my mum took a lot of pleasure in telling her that when I was in primary school, apparently at one point I took over the class and did the sex education aspect of the class.
No, I do not remember doing this, but apparently this was my first real adventure in the communication of science about as far away from physics. Well, you know, maybe there’s some pendulum stuff in there but… a fairway from physics. But that was apparently my first real foray into the world of science communication. Sadly, I don’t have any video of that, Jen. Otherwise I’d hand it over but…
Can you imagine if someone in that classroom had, had a smartphone back then and they just kinda whipped it out and, and filmed it? That would have been gold.
It would have been great. Look I, I have some fond memories of sort of talking to family and friends about science. But to be honest with you, I never really took all the communication that seriously until I started working out through our radio programme and through the work I was doing in physics at the time.
That you know, the science was important but boy, maybe it was half the battle and I didn’t really appreciate that early on. I think a lot of people come through, they come through their entire high school experience and primary school experience, and often university experience.
If they haven’t been fortunate enough to be in your class, and never have once been told communication’s important? Yeah they do Masters, do English, they do Geography, they’ll do History. There isn’t a subject called communication, but this is the one thing that we use no matter what field we enter. In our work, our personal lives, everything and we don’t teach people how to do it typically.
So I was like that, I didn’t work it out until much later that this was a structural thing that you could dive into and learn a lot about and really make work for you. I always say I got pretty much every grant I ever applied for and people say, “wow, your science must have been amazing”. I said, “nah, my science was crap, but my communication was awesome”. It freaks them out.
Yeah and Shane, I’m a big Einstein A Go-Go fan so I have to say congrats on your nearly 30 years of broadcasting science on 3RRR.
And I suppose I’d love to hear about your passion for sharing science on community radio and what you’ve learned about what it takes to communicate science effectively on radio.
Yeah, there’s a few things there. One is a very important feature of community radio is that I have more or less complete autonomy over what we do on the programme and that gives me latitude to do something that the commercial stations will not do.
And that is I can grab you halfway through a project and talk about how it’s going. I don’t need you to have finished it, I don’t need some flashy press release having been put out, it doesn’t need to have been commercialised. I can grab a PhD student who’s six months in and talk about what they want to do. And that’s great radio, because what the commercial stations often miss is there is one really essential element that makes science worthy of listening to by the audience, and that’s the passion of the person doing it.
So people say to me, what is your goal in terms of broadcasting science? My goal is really simple. I would like my audience to just get a sniff of the passion that the researcher doing it feels. If I can get the smallest piece of that across, then we’ve done our job.
And Jen and I have done this for many years together. And I think you can tell when you’re interviewing someone and there’s a little point in that interview where they’re a bit more passionate and then you just chase that, you chase that piece and they just light up. They go crazy on air and they’re just, you see the energy coming out of them and the audience can feel that. Yeah, it’s contagious, umm can we say ‘contagious’ at the moment? It’s probably a bad word but yeah, it, it’s more contagious than whatever strain comes after Omicron.
It’s like people love hearing the passion come out of researchers. And what they often hear in the commercial setting is not passion, it’s bloody fear! They’re worried about what question they’re going to be asked, it’s going to make him look like idiots. So you know, we don’t do that. That’s, that’s the call.
Yeah, and being able to interview PhD students six months in, that’s the time of peak passion before they, before they start getting worn out?
Yeah. Look I, I think you’re right about that. There’s such an element of joy that they come in with. But even the ones that are still on the tail end, you know, they’re writing up and so forth, they come into our station and they’re still amazed with the world they’re entering because the passion hasn’t been completely knocked out of them at that point. And what is great for them is hearing questions from someone that seems to just be ridiculously interested in what they do.
Most of them have been telling their family for three or four years, and getting blank stares and they, they don’t have that broader audience. And to give them that briefly, even though they may not have finished the research they’re doing. There’s a real gift. And we get to do that, and that’s one of the reasons I love community radio, ’cause it’s up to us what we do. But I tell you what? People love hearing the passion. They don’t care what it is as long as they hear the passion coming from the individuals.
And Shane, I think one of the things that you’re incredibly good at, which you sort of alluded to, is just helping people to feel comfortable, to let them talk about their stuff. And to know that the people sitting in the studio with them actually care and really want to hear what it is that they are experts in or where they’re trying to gain their expertise.
But I’m thinking about our audience listening to this podcast, many of whom may have a radio interview coming up or may in the future get an invitation to be interviewed on radio. What advice do you have for a scientist who is preparing for a radio interview, particularly if they find themselves in a situation with a host who’s not quite as welcoming and mindful of the challenges for the person being interviewed as you are?
Yeah, look, there’s a few things. One is the way in which you provide information to the host or the station that you’re going on with. So if you think it’s a good idea to send them 3 pages of material, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. You wanna send them a paragraph, maybe two and I always advise people to send me three or four dot points about what they’re most passionate about, so I can kind of steer the interview towards that. Even with those instructions, I will often be sent three pages of material, of which I read half a page. That’s the thing, that’s what you need to keep in mind.
Another thing to keep in mind is when you get there, you will feel nervous. This is good. It means you care. It, it actually matters. I, I really applaud people for being honest about that. But be aware that what you feel is very different to what everyone else experiences. So I will see about 10% of what you feel when you’re nervous. I won’t hear it in your voice. I won’t see your, I can’t see your heart rate. I can’t see your blood pressure. I can’t see that you’re sweating. I don’t experience any of that as a person who’s interacting with you so you will be sort of a bit freaked out by it as a person going on radio. But just try and remind yourself that no one else can tell. So don’t let that overtake you because it really is not that prominent for everyone else. It’s really prominent for us because it helps us survive when we’re running away from a lion somewhere in the savanna. Of course you know, it’s not that helpful when you’re, you’re doing radio.
The other thing is just to keep your answers relatively short and try not to get yourself into a position where the interview is leading in a direction where you feel uncomfortable. [If] that starts to happen, it’s really easy just to say, “Look, that’s outside my area. There’s probably something like this. But I’m not the right person to talk to about that” and just put an end to it. So this will often happen in commercial interviews. It won’t happen in my interviews. Although on occasion it does, it comes up by accident. But we move away from that as quickly as possible.
But I think if at all possible, get into the studio or one of the studios before you do the interview just to get a feel for the space. Radio studios are weird acoustically. You go in there and they feel very dead. And it’s not until you’re actually on air that you hear things through the headphones and so forth and they feel a bit different. So it can be an intimidating space for some people. And I think if you get to wander in there and have a bit of a feel for it beforehand that can be really helpful. There’s usually a producer with most shows except volunteer ones like ours, where we do it ourselves. But there’s often a producer for most shows. Chat to them, ask them lots of the things they think the interview will be about, get as much information before you go in as possible. But just try and relax. I know it’s hard, but it’s good if you’ve got a bit of, bit of nerves going on ’cause it makes you sound a bit more edgy.
And Shane, I know you do a huge variety of science communication training, from workshops to mentoring young broadcasters, sharing advice on social media, writing articles. And you’ve got an amazing piece on Medium called How to be an Excellent Communicator — You Only Need 3 Axioms. Can you tell us about those three axioms?
Yeah. In fact, amazingly of all my Medium pieces that, that’s the one that’s been read the least. The one that’s being read the most is entitled Why you should quit your PhD.
Michael & Jen (00:22:47)
Ha ha ha.
And when I say that, I mean it is literally being read, I think 3000 times more. I don’t mean an extra 3000 times.
I mean take the other number multiplied by 3000.
It’s disturbing how many people are thinking about quitting their PhD.
But look, the three axioms deal with something I’ve been teaching now for almost 20 years. And they’re very simple. The first one is audience. But everyone talks about this you know, know your audience, know your audience. It’s not like that for me. What I talk about is understanding the psychology of your audience and how they will engage with whatever communication medium you’re using. So if someone’s reading a piece that you’ve written, what does the title in the first couple of sentences mean in terms of their ongoing engagement? How will they engage with that? I really try and teach people about how audiences interact psychologically with you as a presenter or in any way shape or form that you might be communicating. And then, of course, how to utilise the audience as part of what you’re doing. So if you just get up there and speak at people, that’s one version of communication. But if you talk to some of the audience members when you first arrive to give a talk and learn about why they’re there, you can utilise that in your presentation that work as well, and it’s to your benefit and to their benefit. So audience is number 1.
Number 2 is understanding the purpose. I really like people to be able to articulate the purpose of their communication before they do it. So if you were giving a talk at a conference as a scientist and your purpose was to seek collaborations in a certain setting, your slides should probably reflect that purpose in some way, may put different information up to if you were, for example, trying to find a new postdoc position. So understanding being able to articulate the purpose beforehand is really important.
And the third one is the one I almost don’t need to say, but it’s memory. How do we get people to remember what we’ve done? The number of times I asked people “at the last conference you went to, scientific conference. How many of you can remember more than two of the talks, or even two of the talks that you saw there?” And no hands ever go up. And then I say, but how many of you can remember an advertisement from when you were five years of age. And every hand goes up. And there’s something wrong with this, you know. But I said look, marketing companies are paid to make us remember, that’s their job.
As researchers or communicators in general, we need to spend time working out how they get people to remember what we’re saying. And like even now in this podcast I can repeat the fact that there are three axioms and deliberately do that so that when people listen to it, they may actually remember that those axioms are audience, purpose and memory. And if we say them a few times and we actively try and do that, then there’s at least a good possibility people will remember them tomorrow. Whereas if we don’t actively put effort into getting people to remember things, they won’t remember things. That’s just how human psychology works.
So they’re the three axioms I teach. I’ve had a lot of people throw a fourth at me, always managed to jam it into the three they’ve held up over you know, it’s that good science falsification you know, I’ve been trying to falsify my 3 for 20 years and they’re still hanging in there so you never know, they might change.
Yeah, I mean, I sort of think that anything you might think of absolutely fits into the three and, and we are absolute supporters of what you’re saying. We always encourage people to think about their goal and their purpose first. And definitely audience is so much more than just knowing your audience, we talk a lot about respecting your audience.
But you know, I would think, aww, maybe the fourth should be story, of course or narrative. But of course that’s part of memory. Absolutely, there’s no way people are going to remember what you said unless you’ve got some narrative structure going on.
Yeah, and in fact that the way I’ve often characterised that Jen because that one’s come up a bit is there are, I suppose axioms, I’d call tools.
So for example, part of the way I engage my audience is with good narrative and story.
And so they’re tools that I use. But I’ve had other people than me try and give me a fourth one over the years, and it’s never happened. I, I on occasion I’ve reordered the number of the first two though. Sometimes I go audience first, sometimes purpose first, and I think, I played around that a bit, but yeah.
Aww Shane what a radical. Playing around with the order, I’m, I’m feeling nervous for you… I have no doubt that Michael and I could happily pick your brains for hours and hours and hours about this stuff because we all share very similar passions here.
But I am keeping an eye on the time and so what that means is that we need to switch to the next stage of the podcast Shane, which you don’t know about. Which is where we have some rapid fire questions for you. So hope you’re feeling nervous, bit of a drum roll.
You want short answers? Short, one word answers?
No, you’re allowed to have more than one word. But yeah, short answers.
So take it away, Michael.
OK Shane, the first question.
If you had to pick an alternative career to what you’re doing now, what would it be?
Entertainer, like singer, musician.
I, I don’t have the skills for it, but if I had the choice…
I have to ask what genre? What genre of music?
Probably play the cello.
Ripping off pop songs with choice, something like that.
Love it. OK Shane, question 2 is what is your proudest professional moment?
And I know you talked a little bit about this before with working with the kids. But could you identify one moment?
Oh jeez, that’s, that’s tough actually. I probably, if I can include RRR in professional stuff.
My proudest moment was probably interviewing one of two people or two people actually.
One being Jane Goodall and the second being Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.
We’re gonna have to break with our rapid fire and just ask you to briefly tell us a little bit about speaking with those people because I know the calibre of some of the people you’ve interviewed and to pick those two out above all of the others is really quite profound.
So tell us really briefly about interviewing each of those people.
So Jane Goodall for me was an extraordinary experience. And people often say, do you get nervous doing radio? And usually my answer is no, not really, ’cause I’ve been doing it for so long. I was nervous as hell interviewing Jane Goodall and I talk about how you said how I make people feel comfortable when they come into the studio. Jane made me feel comfortable interviewing her, she’s so lovely.
Both of them. It makes you feel a bit like part of history knowing you’ve done that.
For Gene Cernan, it was a bittersweet one for me because he died not long after I interviewed him and I think I was the last person to do that. But he was a, just absolutely magical man, and there’s a, there’s a movie about his life called Last Man on the Moon, which I would strongly recommend people watch. It’s a beautiful story about him and just being able to be part of that in some small way was amazing, so yeah.
You know, these were two that just blew me away. There’s a lot of others that umm, they’re amazing. But for me they, they would, you know, in completely different fields, very different spaces. But I think of someone like Jane Goodall and just the role she’s played for women in science and for protecting animals. There are few better people in the world. So that was a huge privilege.
Next question Shane, Twitter or Instagram?
I’m old, so Twitter.
Hey, we’re old too then.
And I’m, I’m a, I’m a radio… I’m a radio guy, so you know like, what’s wrong with this imagery shit, you know like seriously?
You don’t need it. Just good, good words. It’s funny you, you spend time building up a following and, and I’ve done that on Twitter and I, I’m just not sure I have the energy to do it on another platform.
Okay Shane, what’s your favourite science related movie and or book?
You may have just told us your favourite movie but…
Oh look, I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan. So that’s sort of science throughout for me.
But there’s some films that I, I absolutely love and the one at the top of the list for me would be the film The Arrival. Which is just an extraordinary film because it is about science, but mostly it is about communication.
It is a film about communication and there isn’t a better one to my knowledge. I think it’s extraordinary, so love it.
Adding it to my list of holiday viewing right now Shane. Thank you.
I’ll Jen, I feel a small amount of shame on your behalf that you haven’t seen this.
Yeah, me too.
It is, it is a magnificent film.
I’m waiting for the text message that will come 30 seconds after you finish it, with you crying saying thank you.
Yep, yep you must.
I’ll send it to you soon, I promise.
All right, Shane, last question. So you’ve given us some great advice on science communication.
But if you had to pick your very top tip for effective science communication, what would it be?
Similar to what I said before, chase the passion, revolve your science communication around what you’re most passionate about. That’s what you’ll communicate best around. Don’t try and artificially create that. Just drill into what you’ve already got. That will be the thing you love talking about, you love engaging with. People can pick up on that, they really do.
It’s similar to you know, when you’ve have people with kids, you can’t shut them up about their kids, right? We’ve all had that experience. You know, whether you got kids or not, you know people have got kids and you just can’t shut them up talking about their kids. It’s ’cause they love their kids. I mean, it’s the same with science communication. Grab the bit that you love the most and talk about that part, ’cause it will sound different. It will sound better and it would be better for everyone else to listen to.
I think that’s such superb advice, Shane. And I think where we come at that advice is often when we’ve got our Masters students who are all doing their research and then we asked them to speak about their research and imagine they’re doing that with different audiences.
We generally just say what was it that got you excited about this project in the first place? If you can remember your initial sense of ooh, this is something cool, I’d like to spend a year or two doing that. That is where it begins for them and that’s what makes it interesting for other people.
Yeah, 100% agree. For me it was lasers, big lasers.
Well, Dr Shane Huntington, thank you so much for your time today. I know you have many more decades of experience than we’ve had time to pay you credit for today, but we’re very grateful for your insight.
We can’t wait to keep listening to you on Einstein A Go-Go and we’ll be sharing all of your links, all of the places that people can read more about your work.
And thank you for joining us.
It’s my pleasure guys. Thanks so much and great chatting to you.
Thank you Shane, that was fantastic.
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