Professionally, I wear a lot of hats. Personally, I very rarely wear hats, except for in the dead of winter, which rarely occurs here in South Carolina, because my head is very large, and finding hats (but not commas) that fit is very hard. One of those hats is was as the “researcher” for the science podcast, Skeptically Speaking.
Today, Skeptically Speaking changed its name to Science for the People.
The new name better reflects the inspiration and ethos of the show and all of us that work on it (everybody else works a lot harder on it than I do. Science for the People is not about what’s trendy or “gee-whiz” results. The hosts take on the role of asking the guests the questions you would want to ask them. It is also about putting the science into the context of our real lives.
I got started by commenting on a show about human genetics. As I recall, the guest was not describing heritability calculations as accurately as I felt the subject needed.
That lead to me providing some background on evolutionary biology and genetics for another show. That lead to me appearing as a minor guest to talk about my blog post (I’ve also done a short book “review” of a children’s book about Mary Anning). The shows linked to in the images on the right represent some of the shows to which I felt I contributed particularly significantly*.
Eventually, they found that I was helping out infrequently enough that I made it into the credits. But, I always listened to the credits before that happen. I swear.
My job as “researcher” is a bit different from you might imagine. Guests are chosen because they have interesting things to talk about. That does not always mean they are right. Sometimes the topic is really complicated. Sometimes they represent a particular side of an active debate. Sometimes they are interesting, but wrong.
Part of the appeal of Science for the People is that the hosts ask questions from the perspective of intelligent, interested amateurs. We are all amateurs outside of our narrow fields of specialization, anyway. My job is not to take anything away from their ability to represent the public in these conversations. My job is to make sure the hosts are equipped to play Devil’s Advocate to their guests’ theories.
With hosts like Desiree Schell, Rachelle Saunders, and Marie-Claire Shanahan, I don’t have to work very hard; but I like my work anyway.
*The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Science for the its staff, or management.