This month I was extremely proud to launch the website for a new project designed to investigate the influence of literature on scientific thought and practice, What Scientists Read. If you’re a scientist, we’d love to hear from you about your reading habits and how these relate to your work. If you’re based in the Scottish Central Belt (Edinburgh, Glasgow or nearby) please consider signing up for a 1-hour interview. But no matter where you are in the world, you can contribute your thoughts and experiences via the online discussion. Please do get involved!
The project got off to a flying (if early!) start with an interview on BBC Radio Scotland in their breakfast programme on Wednesday 9 May. We’ve also been lucky enough to be covered on the New Scientist blog CultureLab, and the twitterati haven’t been silent, either – check us out @whatsciread.
For me personally one of the most exciting parts of the project is the opportunity to collect research data (scientists’ online contributions) at the same time as engaging with the public, scientists and other interested groups. By investing a relatively small amount of money in an online interface like this, we can create a genuinely international community and allow anyone, anywhere to keep up to date with what we’re doing. You can’t beat a traditional research interview for real-time, face-to-face discussion – but in practice any research project can usually only include a small number of interviews; they’re time-consuming to conduct and expensive to transcribe. In What Scientists Read we have the best of both worlds.
My fellow researchers on the project are Dr Sarah Dillon, Lecturer in Contemporary Fiction at the University of St Andrews, and Dr PippaGoldschmidt, the Genomics Forum’s Writer in Residence. Our scientific advisor is Miles Padgett, Professor of Optics at the University of Glasgow. What Scientists Read is funded by the Scottish Crucible, the professional development and leadership programme developed by NESTA for junior academics. Sarah and I were participants in Scottish Crucible 2011… which is how What Scientists Read got started.