We got in touch with Juan López to learn more about the English-language science presentations he helps organize in Ljubljana.
Can you tell me a little about the history of Science Bites?
Science Bites started as an idea between a group of scientist friends. We often engaged in conversation to explain how our work was going (as all of us are researchers in different fields), and we were really happy to explain to our close group of friends (non-scientists) what we were doing. One day we thought that it would be great to do the same on a bigger scale, to inform people about the most recent science discoveries and to explain misconceptions around certain topics like nuclear energy or genetic modified organisms. And this would also be a good way to practice science presentations in English, since as researchers it’s one of the main skills we need for conferences.
The first time we made an event we were just nine friends, and then word spread and by the second edition we had 15 new speakers. It brought a golden opportunity for young researchers and students, as they could also practice their social and presentation skills, and since we always met in a relaxing atmosphere and chill crowd, it was the perfect exercise for those who have a bit of fear about speaking in public.
Photo: Tomaž Suhovršnik
Who can come?
Our events are open to the public. We try not to get really technical in our presentations, and to explain with easy terms for everyone to understand. A science background is not needed. Maybe it’s not suitable for really small children since all the presentations are in English, and we assume that the public has certain basic knowledge from high school. The main purpose is to inform, to share science, to bring to the public that “wow” that follows every discovery or understanding of how the world works. We don’t want to teach in our field, we just want to speak about the topics we know the most about.
Photo: Tomaž Suhovršnik
Where’s the new venue, and how will this change the way the events are organized?
The new venue will be Žmauc [Rimska cesta 21, 1000 Ljubljana], near the city center and the Faculty of Philosophy, and currently we are not planning to change our format much. Twenty-minute presentations followed by 10 minutes of questions, three speakers per session, three to five sessions per season (sessions are held every two weeks, the number of sessions depends on how many speakers we have). We would like to give more visibility to the project, reach more researchers, and get even more people to future events.
What should people do if they want to make a presentation?
People just need passion for what they are doing. With passion comes the desire for sharing it with others. Any scientific background is welcome, in the natural or social sciences. We currently have a Facebook page called “Science bites Slovenia” and a message there will put you in contact with us. We accept everyone that wants to participate. They should design a 20-minutes presentation, and while most of our speakers use a PowerPoint presentation with videos, images this isn’t needed. You can decide the best format for your presentation, such as using a whiteboard to write while you’re speaking, or just a straight talk with no technical support. We aim for presentations to be comprehensible, fun and dynamic, so we can interact with the people that come to listen to us, especially during the question part of the evenings.
What can audiences expect?
Audiences can expect a bit more detail explaining the world around us. Science news that sadly can’t be covered in everyday media and news resources, from young scientists working in many different fields. News about the events and related things can be found in the Facebook page “Science Bites Slovenia”. We also have plans to start using a YouTube channel to record our presentations, for those who can’t attend the event and still would like to listen to it.
Anything else you’d like to say?
The event is totally free (apart from what you’d like to consume at the bar) and our the speakers do it for the pure love of science and sharing. After any event you can come and ask whatever questions were not answered in the question time, and we are always happy to speak with people. And who knows, you may find a new field that you didn’t know about, and which motivates you enough to dedicate your work to it!As noted in the interview, if you'd like to make a presentation, attend one, or just follow the group's activities, then do see the Facebook page called “Science bites Slovenia”. And if you're ready for some relatively simply science presentations in Slovene, then check out the ones held each weekend at the House of Experiments (learn more