As you might remember, back in July of 2017, I announced I was moving from Toronto to Edmonton as Anastassia Voronova – my better half – was taking on a position at the University of Alberta as a professor.
We made the move and it took some time to get back on our feet. But as we head towards our one year anniversary here, we are feeling much better and ready to continue the good work we do.
Before I came here, I had an idea as to how to do something a little different with science communication. An experiment if you will. Now that has turned into the Super Awesome Science Show and I am hoping you will love it as much as I do.
How I got here has been a wonderful journey and I want to share it with you.
Let’s start with…
I had spent the last five years trying to get people to love something that was foreign to them. I think you might know what that topic happened to be…
(This is such a cool cover, don’t you think?)
In addition to the posts on this blog, I was able to see some good success. As I travelled to various places in the world, I witnessed a change in the way people see microbes. It was heartening to see a goal come to fruition.
While my journey has been positive, the same cannot be said for the rest of science. Over the last few years, this branch of knowledge has been dealing with some rather difficult times. To put it lightly, science has been going dealing with…
(You get the idea…)
When you are constantly defending science, it’s difficult to convey the joys of this world. It get harder when you are being flanked by non-scientific campaigns that don’t care if they bend or ignore the evidence.
This isn’t new, mind you. Throughout history, science has had to deal with this issue. It’s been going on for centuries.
Earlier this year, I shared my thoughts on how to approach this challenging landscape in the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education.
(It’s light fare despite the long title…)
As you’ll see when you read the article – and I hope you do – there are ways to deal with the opposition to science in a way that is not antagonistic. Instead, we can use science to show how it matters to the public. When we do that, there’s a surprising turn of perception.
To put it succinctly, when communicated right, science becomes…
As I was planning to move to Edmonton, I wanted to find a way to convey how awesome all of science happens to be in the same way I did for microbes. I went through a variety of ideas and talked with several people and realized the appetite had changed. People wanted something short, fun, and to the point.
In the words of a Tim I know and cherish…
(The other Tim also said something similar…)
This led to the idea of putting together a show that would focus on science and how it mattered to the person listening.
A few ideas were thrown around and eventually, the right mix of the objectives in my JMBE paper above – which if you’ve read it you already know – came in the form of a podcast. It had all the right elements and had the right accessibility so anyone in the world could take part in the joy of hearing about science that mattered to them.
The Principal Investigators
As with any scientific experiment, one needs to have a team to achieve any kind of success. When I first came up with the topic, I had great ideas but honestly, didn’t have the experience to put it together.
Enter Kelsey Campbell…
Kelsey is a radio executive producer, host, and all around audio genius in the station. If there is anyone who can help me get to this goal, it’s her.
She knew about my aspirations as far back as Toronto. Since I arrived, she has been guiding and directing me from writer and stage performer to studio host. Let me just say I’m not an easy student but this old dog can definitely learn new tricks.
Whenever you hear my voice in the podcast, you can be sure that tone and cadence is thanks to Kelsey’s wonderful training.
She also brought the show to a point where it could go to the team at…
(Podcasts for Curious minds)
At this point, three new faces came into play.
(Dila Velazquez, Rob Johnston, Chris “Dunner” Duncombe)
Dila is a script genius.
She has guided me to develop scripts that are engaging and fun.
Rob is a master of music.
At times you might think you’re listening to a movie.
Dunner is the man who runs it all.
He’s supported Kelsey and me from the moment we first talked.
These three have given me the opportunity to put together a show that is beyond anything I would have expected.
Add In Some SASS
During my campaign to get people to love germs, I’ve found that incorporation of humour and snark seem to work best to get people to listen and to act. Some have jokingly called it fecal fomenting. However, the Fecal Fomentor Show, regardless of how cool it may sound to me was well…
(not going to happen)
But thanks to Kelsey, a new title came about that just worked in every way possible.
THE SUPER AWESOME SCIENCE SHOW
It had all you could ask for in a title. It was direct, it was engaging, and best of all, it had an acronym that I loved.
It was everything that Fecal Fomentor was not. You could turn it into a hashtag, you could use it for promotion. And it made for a great catchphrase to end the show.
Make sure to show ’em some #SASS.
Theme-ing The Plot
When we were putting the ideas together for shows, it became clear that a run of the mill news program wouldn’t work. This was a podcast and we didn’t have to adhere to the news cycle. It also meant we could avoid the perils of being listed as…
(News that is…)
As we schemed towards a model, the idea of themes came to mind. As this happened, it became clear that one subject could go dozens or hundreds of ways. This opened the door to qualifying the themes a little more.
The topics will be broad in general but have certain specific branches that can help us all to understand what is happening and how it involves our lives. We may visit the same theme over the course of the show but no two will be alike. Each one will be a new experience and offer new ideas for you to ponder.
Throw in a SASS Class
In every episode, I want to have something that you can take with you after the show ends. When we discussed how this was going to happen, it was suggested that it become a lesson of a sort. A class if you will. The SASS Class was born.
Initially, it was going to be my class as the “Professor,” so to speak. The idea was to use a model like Julius Sumner Miller…
(I’m sure you know about because you read my JMBE paper, right?)
But as I started looking into the various syllabuses, I realized having a guest teacher works so much better.
When you listen to the show, you’ll be certain to have at least one detail that will stick with you presented to you by an expert on the topic. When class is dismissed, you’ll have something you can talk about with family and friends and maybe use as a means to liven up a dinner party.
It’s Time To Get Started
In the lab, when I was ready to run an experiment, I would get my energy up and prepare for the tasks to come. I would always say, “It’s time to get started…” It would look kinda like this…
(I’m such a drama lab rat…)
As I view the podcast as an experiment in science communication, I use the same saying in every episode. When you hear that line, you know I’m in the zone and I am going to give you the best I can to make your experience for that half hour enjoyable, entertaining, and useful.
Making SASS a Success
Although so much time and effort has gone into making this show, we have no idea how it will do. That all depends on the audience…and you.
That’s why I’m adding in this post a request.
Help me show the world science is awesome.
Share the podcast with your family, friends, work colleagues, school teachers, parliamentarians, and whoever else you happen to know. If you’re on social media, share it with the world so they too can experience the joy of science in their lives.
Also, if you can, please subscribe to the show so we can demonstrate to those who control our destiny that we have an audience who believes science matters. It’s free and on pretty much every podcast platform.
Finally, if you happen to have a catchy name for the #SASS listeners, share it with me below. As we move forward, I want to reach out to everyone of you as an equal. It doesn’t matter how…sassy…it may seem, let’s see what we can create together.
Enjoy the Show…
Now that you know more about the history, it’s time to move forward. I hope you enjoy the show and find it as much fun to hear as I had to make. Feel free to share your thoughts with me here in the comments or at email@example.com. As many of you who have already contacted me know, I respond to every Email…it may just take a day or three.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for listening to the podcast in advance. Much like the books, I hope this will be a fun and wondrous experience for us all. Let’s keep the momentum going as we bring some #SASS to the world.
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You can find all the links at the SASS homepage…