Ever since I discovered New Scientist Live was a thing about 18 months ago, all I have wanted to do is go and be inspired by the wonderful world of science, technology engineering and maths. So, you imagine my reaction when I had the news that I would get a press pass for the full 4 days of the event thanks to Charlie from How It Works magazine – four days of access all areas! Honestly I was shaking with excitement as I made my way to London a few weeks ago. So today I wanted to share my first experience at New Scientist Live and give you an insight into what and who was there and access to what I learnt too before I share more specific posts about some of the amazing talks, people and products I was introduced to. So let’s get started at the beginning…
What is New Scientist Live?
It simply is the ‘world’s greatest science festival’. A huge event all about ‘ideas and discoveries for everyone curious about science and why it matters’. This is how New Scientist describes it themselves but I don’t think I could put it better myself. It is held at London’s Excel and has a enormous exhibition hall full of stands, demonstrations, interactivity and stages – one for each of the different zones – and then there’s the Main Stage and the VIP area.
There are five different zones you can explore – cosmos, technology, engineering, earth and humans. Each is jam packed with inspiring and thought provoking speakers & exhibitors showcasing their latest products or what their research is all about. Everything from a Mars rover prototype, robots and the Bloodhound to insects and glitter and jewellery & everything in between. There is literally something for everyone no matter what your age or your interests.
How did I spend my time at New Scientist Live?
I was lucky enough to have access to all four days of the festival & had access to all the talks and the VIP area. I was told that I probably wouldn’t need to go to all the days but looking back now I am sooo glad I did. Not only were there different talks on every day that my indecisive self would never have been able to choose between if I had to buy a day ticket, but it also meant that I spent two days doing more of a journalist – or at least trying to be – learning from Charlie, and then two days where I could spend it as a guest just wandering heading to all the talks I wanted to head to and all the exhibitors I wanted to see.
Thursday & Saturday were my journalist days were I had the honour of interviewing the amazing Dr Henry Marsh & the world’s quickest interview with Hannah Fry. On Saturday, I bumped into a huge hero of mine Maddie Moate & I got to interview the incredible Dallas Campbell & Melanie Windridge, who is a plasma physicist who has just conquered Everest – stay tuned for their interviews coming very soon. But these days were also spend building up the courage for me to pitch myself to different exhibitors that I loved and how I might be able to collaborate with them. It was great to watch Charlie do her thing though and try and pick up any tricks of the trade so I could get better and build my own confidence in this field too.
Another highlight of my weekend was finally being able to meet some incredible UK scicommers that I had been following on social media for so long in person.
It was like we had all been friends for so long already and wasn’t that first awkward meeting. So, I want to give them all a shout out and make sure you all head over and give them a follow so we can build the UK scicomm brand:
Spending the other days as a guest were just as exciting but for completely different reasons. I was enjoying learning about the research and seeing the incredible products that I wish I had had as a child to inspire me into a STEM career. I learnt about plasma physics, space junk, exploration, algorithms, gene editing, biophysics, Alzheimers, the teenage brain, artificial intelligence, technology in sport and the first stars of out universe to name just a selection of what I saw – and I can’t wait to bring you more in depth info in upcoming posts. It just filled my heart with happiness seeing people of all ages coming together and celebrating the science they were interested in. I also spent a lot of time fighting with myself not to buy all the books and toys and products that were there that I was fascinated by – even if some of them were tailored for kids more than half my age! But I resisted and only came home with two books, some glitter, a tshirt, a comic, a phone microscope & some science top trumps! Trust me I could have bought sooo much more!
What did I learn from New Scientist Live 2018?
Despite the obvious learning about the specifics of all the science I was introduced to, I unexpectedly learnt a lot about myself. I had loads of advice and tips about breaking into the science journalism and writing worlds, but also more about how I can better pitch myself, my blog and my goals to potential collaborators and all the documents that could help me starting with a media kit!
I learnt that having a job that would allow me to do this much more often than I am is something I would love, or even just to succeed in my new dream now of being one of the speakers on a New Scientist Live stage – which I have crazily and perhaps stupidly put in a submission for! But who knows I could be talking about stem cells on the humans stage or using social media for science education on the technology stage in 2019 or beyond. That would be the dream anyway!
But the thing that surprisingly stuck with me most is that it wasn’t the Humans Zone contents that excited me most. I was fascinated by everything that was about space, technology, coding and engineering, and I even started to change my outlook on maths! I was amazed at my reaction. I wanted to buy all the coding products, learn more about engineering and was mesmerised by everything to do with space. It got me thinking if whether I had had access to these sorts of events when I was younger whether I would be an engineer or an astrophysicist instead of a biologist for example. It has made me wish even more that my chemistry, maths and physics teachers at school could have helped me more or I could have stuck at it more and not just completely wrote it off because I couldn’t understand it. Maybe it’s just because I am older now that I seem to be able to understand it all more, but it’s probably because of the amazing science communicators sharing it with me in a way I can understand. I wanted to get involved with it all so badly I genuinely thought I was in the wrong field and wondered if it was too late for a career change. It probably is let’s be honest! But that has just made me even more passionate about not just sharing the science I know and am comfortable with but sharing more about areas that I am not as comfortable with and even my journeys learning new skills; skills that are being taught in schools like coding for example – cue a Learn To Code With Me feature in the near future 🙂 Soph talks science is going to be embracing all the areas of STEM now – not just biology! I have a new found love of all things STEM!
My first experience of New Scientist Live was amazing. Not only did I learn so much about space, engineering & technology but I also learnt a lot about myself and how I could learn from science journalism to boost my science blog. It was amazing to see so many different ages and backgrounds were there over the festival and reemphasised that what I am doing as a science blogger and through social media is worth it. I just need to find those people or have them look for me once they know science bloggers like me are a thing! I was honoured to meet all the people I had the pleasure of mingling with and I have to thank Charlie from How It Works magazine for getting me there and showing me the ropes. But more than anything I cannot wait to go back next year and 120% recommend this event to all my family and friends, scientists and non-scientists alike and tackle the most difficult thing about New Scientist Live again – deciding which talks to go to & who to ask for interview! Luckily, I am subscribed and watch all the talks back and the ones I missed! I was exhausted by the end of the four days, but by god was it so worth it!
If you have any questions about getting involved in New Scientist Live or heading there next year please reach out and please stay tuned for all blog posts about the exciting products, talks and interviews I have to share with you very soon! If you want to know more about how I spent each day there and what I saw then please let me know.
Did you go to New Scientist Live this year? What were your highlights? Would you go again? Or maybe you didn’t make it this year but you have been before – let me know all your NSL experiences and highlights!
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