Today I visited the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron Moussikis) to attend a talk by Marcus de Sautoy (website1, website2). I found out about it the last moment through twitter (twitter gets more and more useful everyday!!!).
According to wikipedia:
Marcus Peter Francis du Sautoy OBE (born in London, 26 August 1965) is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. Formerly a Fellow of All Souls College, and Wadham College, he is now a Fellow of New College. He is currently an EPSRC Senior Media Fellow and was previously a Royal Society University Research Fellow. His academic work concerns mainly group theory and number theory. In October 2008, he was appointed to the Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science.
It is this last sentence that really obliged me to go to see him. Maths is especially difficult to communicate, since people have all sorts of prejudices against it. Biology is sort of easier I think, which does NOT mean that it is easy. Just easier.
I would have gone anyway, even if he was not the Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. Why? Because it makes a huge difference to attend a talk where the speaker knows how to engage the public. Having watched his TED talk (see below) I knew he was one these speakers, the speakers that drew you in so much that you did not want him to stop. That makes forget even that he is talking about maths.
Maybe this post, once again, has a Greek as well as a biology twist. But I do not think that Greece is the exception. I think that Greece is the rule. It requires a lot of work, a lot of training and a lot of talent to be able to stand up in front of large audiences and seem like you are talking to your mates down the pub. The key word here is the “training“.
To be one of these charismatic science communicators you need to present your facts in an interesting, easy and fun way. Which is bloody difficult. This is why this training I am talking about should NOT start at the PhD level like it usually is in most countries. It should start a lot earlier. From school. The development of Presentation and Communication skills is something that is not included in the curricula of a lot of educational systems. Yes, in the US and the UK such skills are appreciated and promoted from school (I mentioned the US and the UK because these are the countries I know something about, that is all) but in countries like Greece, this is not and has never been the case.
So how does one find out
1) what is the situation concerning presentation, communication and debate skills in one’s country?
2) where should a country begin in order to improve the situation above?
I know that these are simple/stupid questions but for me they are not… For me they are just two of the first questions I will pose in this blog.
For the time being though, enjoy Marcus de Sautoy: