SCIENCE IN THE PUB
Got a scientific question? Well head down to the local where they’ll have the answer.
You’ve got a burning question. Maybe a health query about how your body works. Maybe you’re puzzled by modern technology. Perhaps you want to know more about outer space or insects or climate change. Who do you ask?
Most turn to Google these days. How did we survive without this know-it-all search engine? But it can be hard to determine how reliable each source is, and science information isn’t always presented in an easy-to-understand way. Which is why Tasmanian scientists Andy and Emily Flies started a free, monthly Science in the Pub event at North Hobart’s Republic Bar, presenting a panel of experts to answer science questions.
The formula has proved popular with about 100 people turning up to each session, and many more livestreaming. The program recently won the University of Tasmania Vice Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Community Engagement while Emily, who organises other science events, was named the STEM Communicator of the Year for Tasmania in 2017.
The husband and wife team started Science in the Pub in Adelaide five years ago and decided to run a similar event in Tasmania when they moved here three years ago. They’ve been delighted by the response. “People just keep coming back and telling their friends and bringing people along,’’ Emily says. “And to us that’s a really good sign, it means people are enjoying us.’’
The biggest struggle has been finding a large enough venue. They started at the New Sydney Hotel but moved to the Republic Bar for more space. “When we conceptualised the idea we thought about what would get people in the door and what would keep them coming back,” Emily says. “It was important for us to make it free, and it was important to us that it was external to the university. It’s a relaxed setting. Beer always makes things a little more friendly and cordial.”
Half of those who attend have a bachelor degree, 20 per cent of attendees have even higher level study, while the remaining 30 per cent have not attended uni. The event attracts families with young children through to retirees, although the median age is 45.
Three guest speakers address the crowd each month, talking for no more than 15 minutes each. Emily says short, concise presentations aim to give three different perspectives on a single topic and are followed by a Q&A session as attendees enjoy a beer and a chat.
Emily and Andy hail from the US. They moved to Australia so Emily could finish her PhD at the University of South Australia.
Andy, a postdoctoral researcher, is fascinated by the Tasmanian devil and is working to develop a vaccine for the facial tumour disease that is decimating devil populations, which led the couple to move to Hobart.
They have since gained permanent residency in Australia, bought a house in Lenah Valley and have two children. Andy works at the Menzies Institute, specialising in wild immunity, while Emily is employed as a postdoctoral researcher at UTAS in the School of Natural Sciences.
The next regular Science in the Pub event runs on February 7 and then on the first Thursday of every month at The Republic Bar in North Hobart from 6pm-7.30pm. For more info visit SciPubTas.org.au or facebook.com/scienceinthepubtasmania