K305 Alvar

The sounds of science: the importance of audio in science outreach and education


Caitlin Kight


Podcasting emerged over the first decade of the 21st Century as a relatively cheap and easy way for communicators to create and disseminate audio content. Audience engagement with podcasts continues to increase year on year; in 2017, 40% of people polled had ever listened to a podcast--an increase of 4% on the previous year's statistics (1). At the same time, talk radio, which has been popular for nearly a century, continues to thrive; an estimated 90% of the population tune in, and listen to an average of some 21 hours of radio, each week (2). Cumulatively, then, audio platforms offer scientists, researchers, and educators an opportunity to reach audiences in a creative and engaging way without having to invest heavily in training, tools, or dissemination. Further, audio formats can be used to enhance the student experience and provide budding scientists with an opportunity to produce outputs that are not only educational to audiences, but also useful in honing transferable skills and emphasising to students the importance of engaging in 'scicomm' as professionals (3). This presentation will explore the possibilities of podcasting and radio outreach opportunities by examining typical audiences, describing the production process, discussing tips for determining one's niche and brand and producing engaging material, and highlighting ways that audio activity can dovetail with, and support, other forms of scicomm. The discussion will draw from the literature, examine case studies, and include anecdotes from the presenter's own experiences as a radio show host, podcaster, and multimedia science communicator.

1. Edison Research and Triton Digital. 2017. The Podcast Consumer 2017: The Infinite Dial. Research report.
2. RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB. 2017. RAJAR Data Release, Quarter 3. Research report.
3. McGarr, Oliver. 2009. A review of podcasting in higher education: its influence on the traditional lecture. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 25(3):309-321.