Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Science Gallery London is launching a peripatetic seminar series
We want to build relationships with the academic community, especially those in the social studies of science, and museums/ cultural studies. We’re not just aiming to build a science/ art gallery, but one that engages with 15-25 year olds both at Kings College London and the local community.
We think we can offer some interesting social interactions with science which academics could study (and challenge us on). In the short term, we think we’ll have some interesting conversations. More long term, we want to forge the sort of relationships we can build collaborative research funding bids with. We think seminars are a good place to start these sorts of dialogues.
We want to bring something of the Science Gallery ethos — our core values of connection, participation and surprise — to a range of existing seminar series.
We can help you structure the event, and find speakers, and offer some expertise in developing discussion in seminar-style events, with Dr Daniel Glaser, Director of the Science Gallery London, available as a facilitator. We can also offer a chance to raise the impact of your seminar series, with the young people we work with available as interrogators (e.g. to make a video diary of the event).
We're working with the brilliant Alice Bell to put all this together.
What do we want from you?
Simply open your doors and offer us a date in your seminar series to be co-run by the Science Gallery London.
Together, we’ll pick a topic and two speakers. They'll be asked to talk for no longer than 15 minutes each, on complementary topics, with the rest of the time being focused on group discussion. Initially, we are looking at the London area, but are open to interest elsewhere.
What will you get in exchange?
A momentary pause in the usual business of academic debate, a chance to discuss your work with new people, and in new ways, find new potential research collaborators, new ideas and new audiences. We are, however, keen that any collaboration will be developed by all parties together, so what we can offer exactly is partly up to you.
Interested? Email sciencegallery at kcl dot ac dot uk ASAP and we can have a chat.
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
This year, I became the first scientist to judge the Man Booker
This year, I became the first scientist to judge the Man Booker
By Daniel Glaser, King's College London
I found it odd that there had never been a scientist as a Man Booker judge. There have been many non-literary types amongst the judges: a former spy, a former dancer, a Downton Abbey actor – but science, apparently, was a step too far. Until this year, when I joined the judging panel.
This step was greeted with some anxiety. The chasm between science and the arts seems, to some, to be unbridgeable. Although Richard Dawkins argues that science enhances rather than destroying the beauty of the world (and I agree), unfairly or not, Dawkins has become associated with a kind of extreme scientism – the notion that only a scientific account of the world is valid. This view has also characterised some of the recent incursions of, for example, neuroscience into aesthetics where, at its worst, the knowledge and practice of thousands of years of culture and hundreds of years of critical thought can be swept away by a “killer experiment” that reduces beauty, love or memory to an activity pattern on a brain scan.
This parody view underlines a certain suspicion of what can happen when science enters new territory and I know that some of my fellow Man Booker judges this year had that anxiety. I hope I proved them wrong.
Admittedly, I do have some arty strings to my bow. During and since my neuroscience research career I’ve been exploring the spaces and connections between the arts and sciences: at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), in my work at Wellcome Trust and now as Director of Science Gallery at King’s College London.
This was the year that the prize opened up to authors from any country writing in English. As a scientist, I found it difficult to be as exercised about the change as others. It’s only within the past 100 years that English has replaced German as the dominant language of science but throughout my career the national origin of the author has been irrelevant. After a hard day in the lab I’d often look round the table in the pub and find no two people from the same country.
In this sense, science often seems less parochial than other pursuits. And in any case the threatened American invasion failed to materialise. There was no formal “blinding” to the origin of the author (although as a literary outsider I did resist reading the biographies and blurbs). But in any case, once you find yourself submerged in the novel – that delicious loss of self which magically occurs, even when ploughing though book after book – any details outside the text fall away.
And yes, there were a lot of books (156). And yes we did read all of them. I have previously been a judge on the Aventis Prize (now the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books). There the submitted books were divided among the judges so we had many fewer to read. And also, I found that I could tell much sooner whether a non-fiction fact-based book was any good.
For Man Booker, looking back over my reading notes I found I had scribbled “plain terrible writing” early on one book that later was a long-list contender. And right up to the final meetings we argued about whether the writing in a given book was “great writing” or not.
Scientific papers rarely address the question of what science is, because scientists rarely discuss their own practice (in contrast with, say, art school, where learning to describe your own work seems almost at the heart of the enterprise). The peer-reviewed scientific literature is formulaic in the extreme. Novels engage much more radically and sometimes explicitly with the notion of what a novel is. That’s partly why it often took so long to work out whether, even subjectively, a book was any good or not.
There was a lot of science in the books we read (I can claim no credit for that). I don’t know if it’s a growing trend, but it’s noticeable that novels are a significant element of the Wellcome Trust book prize shortlist. Two of the shortlisted Man Booker novels had scientific or medical themes at their heart. But to judge or read the Joshua Ferris you no more need to be a scientist than a sports fan: it’s a book about dentistry but also revolves around the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox. I was delighted to see so much cognitive science in the Karen Joy Fowler and chuckled at the reference to the BRCA2 DNA cycle path in the Ali Smith. But my enjoyment of Richard Flanagan’s winning book was not undermined by lack of familiarity with the death railway in World War II.
The kind of mental exhaustion I feel from having read a novel a day for six months is no different than that of my fellow judges. I did draw on some psychological principles in choosing to read them in physical copies rather than electronically – your encoding of memory is richer if it’s multi-sensory. But in the end, science is part of culture and the scientist is a reader like any other. Finding the best novel of 2014 is not a scientific business, but different perspectives should always be encouraged. Next year, let’s get an astrophysicist discussing the best novel of 2015.
Daniel Glaser does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Reach out for Healthcare Science
I'll be talking about communicating science and, partly for the benefit of any participants who want the links here are the main points I'll be making:
Firstly, Science Gallery London is a new initiative at King's where 15-25 year olds can set the agenda for conversations where science and art collide. I'm the director but actually the model is all about building a space where the audience control the content.
Then I'll be talking about the different ways you could communicate a recent study reported as 'ketchup with everything'. I was going to discuss the relation between menthol cigarettes and smoking amongst teens but wanted to get the tone right. I'll mostly be referring to the write-up in the excellent NHS Choices 'Behind the Headlines' site.
Finally I'll refer to the recent study of public attitudes to science conducted by Ipsos-MORI and written up by the always excellent Alice Bell in the Guardian.
We'll also be talking about our new 'Frequencies: Tune in to your life' initiative. Watch this space for more on that.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Some of the projects at Wellcome Trust
We did a whole series of things to mark the Darwin bicentenary including a Darwin inspired experiment for every schoolchild in Britain. The primary school one was called the Great Plant Hunt and the secondary Survival Rivals and around three quarters of the schools in Britain used the kits.
We also commissioned with Channel 4 an online alternate reality game and associated collateral called Routes including the trivial and disgusting Sneeze game that had over 15 million plays online and was written up in the New York Times. There were some amazing young poets in Evolving Words and we were honored to collaborate with David Attenborough on the Tree of Life video and interactive.
For London 2012 we did another series of schools experiments, also taken up by around 75% of the schools in Britain, called In the Zone. This featured Sir Steve Redgrave and you can see a video and read the evaluation here.
Pulling together some videos
- There's a very informal one I did as part of a SameAs meetup on education and neuroscience.
- And I did this one called "Is finding art useful a problem?" in an Art and Mind dinner at the lovely GV Art
- I did quite a long lecture "Are we all interdisciplinary now?" as part of the University of Salford's As Yet Impossible series.
- Here's a brief and esoteric contribution to Treats on Elasticity organised by the Pars Foundation at Wellcome Collection
- Here's a thing on Culture in a changing context about Cultural leadership
- And finally as host of TEDxAlbertopolis at the Albert Hall, I pop up at the end of this talk from Roland Lamb
Friday, December 06, 2013
Olympic legacy and 1851
5 December 2013