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Meet the expert - Elisabetta Tola Meet the expert - Elisabetta Tola

Elisabetta Tola has a PhD in Microbiology and an MA in Science Communication at SISSA, Trieste, Italy. She is a lecturer in science communication, multimedia, radio production and in data journalism in various journalism schools and courses.

 She is co-founder of the science communication agency formicablu, in Bologna and Roma, where she coordinates projects exploring cross-media tools in science communication. She has been one of the presenters of the daily science programme Radio3Scienza on RAI Radio 3 since 2005. Elisabetta is currently involved in the production of the weekly science programme PiGreco Party, on air and in podcast since 2004 on Radio Città del Capo, Bologna. 

In 2010, she worked on seismic risk prevention, producing the docu-fiction Non chiamarmi terremoto. Her recent interest include data journalism and communication of agro-biodiversity.

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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
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Following yesterday's discussions, this is a contribution from Gabriel Picot (Universcience) :


My long experience as a teacher and as a museum education manager working with teachers showed me that specific projects led by teachers and science museums (scientific contests, inquiry-based learning, workshops) make a huge difference in the class. According to me, they are the best learning method. One crucial point is that the pupils need to do themselves, and first of all to choose themselves (or have the impression to do so).

Thus, the research projects deliverables could feed in the school and pupils projects. Even if the results are not exploitable yet, the problematic linked to the preliminary knowledge, the method and the chosen protocols is already very interesting and should be accessible in a simple and usual language to the pupils. This means French people need French language ! emoticon The results themselves are not necessarily the most interesting part.

I am now working on a project at Universcience on the current great scientific expeditions (on biodiversity, space, oceanography, Universe…). It would mix the scientific side with a “human adventure” aspect, which could motivate the pupils. For this I will need input from the labs as well as a lot of time investment. But it could be helpful for them to implement some “outreach” workpackages of the European projects for example. It could mean writing diaries, expedition log books, sending regular videos, live data, being active on social networks…
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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
25/07/12 12:15 as a reply to Didier Laval.
Didier Laval:
Following yesterday's discussions, this is a contribution from Gabriel Picot (Universcience) :


My long experience as a teacher and as a museum education manager working with teachers showed me that specific projects led by teachers and science museums (scientific contests, inquiry-based learning, workshops) make a huge difference in the class. According to me, they are the best learning method. One crucial point is that the pupils need to do themselves, and first of all to choose themselves (or have the impression to do so).

Thus, the research projects deliverables could feed in the school and pupils projects. Even if the results are not exploitable yet, the problematic linked to the preliminary knowledge, the method and the chosen protocols is already very interesting and should be accessible in a simple and usual language to the pupils. This means French people need French language ! emoticon The results themselves are not necessarily the most interesting part.

I am now working on a project at Universcience on the current great scientific expeditions (on biodiversity, space, oceanography, Universe…). It would mix the scientific side with a “human adventure” aspect, which could motivate the pupils. For this I will need input from the labs as well as a lot of time investment. But it could be helpful for them to implement some “outreach” workpackages of the European projects for example. It could mean writing diaries, expedition log books, sending regular videos, live data, being active on social networks…


I agree that direct involvement of researchers in the production also of raw materials that could then be used by communicators and teachers together to develop hands on and immersive activites for the students might be a great plus. However, there are differences between certain fields and others: great expeditions have a huge human appeal and that can be used to drive student's interest also onto the scientific part. Other research projects might be more difficult to deal with. What do you think?
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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
25/07/12 13:20 as a reply to Elisabetta Tola.
I think that the example from Universcience is interesting and that the idea to include teachers in projects proves fruitful.
This points to a crucial issue: that "users", whoever they are - visitors, pupils, policy-makers, communicators - should be included in research projects as early as possible.

This, then, challenges our sometimes simplistic and linear ideas of research projects: asking questions, doing research and collecting material, analyzing and writing and then, only at the end, do things like "dissemination" and "outreach".

Instead, as the example from Universcience seems to suggest, "outreach" and "dissemination" can be activities right from the start. And the inclusion of those interested in potential results can have several benefits: asking different kinds of questions, helping to identify and collect empirical material, and potentially co-analysing and co-authoring reports (and making them more readable, accessible and applicable).
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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
25/07/12 14:03 as a reply to Morgan Meyer.
Morgan Meyer:
I think that the example from Universcience is interesting and that the idea to include teachers in projects proves fruitful.
This points to a crucial issue: that "users", whoever they are - visitors, pupils, policy-makers, communicators - should be included in research projects as early as possible.

This, then, challenges our sometimes simplistic and linear ideas of research projects: asking questions, doing research and collecting material, analyzing and writing and then, only at the end, do things like "dissemination" and "outreach".

Instead, as the example from Universcience seems to suggest, "outreach" and "dissemination" can be activities right from the start. And the inclusion of those interested in potential results can have several benefits: asking different kinds of questions, helping to identify and collect empirical material, and potentially co-analysing and co-authoring reports (and making them more readable, accessible and applicable).


I completely agree Morgan on a few points you make:

1. early inclusions of 'users' in the project and not only final destination - this though raises few other problems: involvement means also sharing funding (I do not know in other countries, but in Italy for instance teachers are quite badly paid and are not always willing on taking a lot more committment to other things without an economic incentive) - in a EU project I have been involved into, scientists preferred in the end to keep the money for their research rather than using it for real and effective stakeholders involvement which resulted, as a consequence, in a very weak one

2. co-production of material is a great idea but it requires a lot of effort on all sides: finding a common language, recognising each other skills and competence, and so on. does anyone, besides the ones who have already told us about, have good examples of this? which tools might further help and enhance this cooperative ability and attitude?
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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
25/07/12 15:14 as a reply to Elisabetta Tola.
Gabriel Picot replies: (I am his official translator):


I totally agree with Elisabeth's reaction and Morgan's comment: ivolving young people (and general public) from the start of the research program. However, it's true that all program are not equally appealing for the public. And which tools should be used?

Tara gives a great example: small team, but relying on various partners: planète science for the workshops, CIDEM for citizenship action, the Institut Français for Education for a pedagogical project in schools called Graines d'Explorateurs, the ADEME for Energy awareness, Universcience for the annual forum... Their strenght is a 3 level system:

- labs that works on research and give input to Tara (data, videos...)
- a Tara education cell which value this data and links researchers to partners
- multiple partners which ease the project implementation in classes

And it works: the impact is strong and the the projects numerous.

To summarize: labs can't act alone. They need partners to relay to the public or school.

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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
25/07/12 15:59 as a reply to Didier Laval.
Didier Laval:
Gabriel Picot replies: (I am his official translator):


Tara gives a great example: small team, but relying on various partners: planète science for the workshops, CIDEM for citizenship action, the Institut Français for Education for a pedagogical project in schools called Graines d'Explorateurs, the ADEME for Energy awareness, Universcience for the annual forum... Their strenght is a 3 level system:

- labs that works on research and give input to Tara (data, videos...)
- a Tara education cell which value this data and links researchers to partners
- multiple partners which ease the project implementation in classes

And it works: the impact is strong and the the projects numerous.

To summarize: labs can't act alone. They need partners to relay to the public or school.



ok, I agree. but again, how do you implement a project like this? which are the key steps and tools used by Tara and the other partners involved in this virtuous chain? are they all part of the same project? how are they exchanging materials? is there one place where an outsider interested in it - let's say a science communicator doing a similar work in Italy - can actually get information on ho to organise and set up a similar action in the italian schools?
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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
25/07/12 16:05 as a reply to Elisabetta Tola.
To Elisabettas Point 1 (about the funding):
A quite well working system to include teachers (or non-formal organizations) into research ist the Austrian IMST programme which is running since 2002 (www.imst.ac.at):
The methotology they use is called "intervention research". The university of Klagenfurt does some activities (teacher training, conferences etc.) and does research about innovations in mathematics and science teaching. Within this big frame of research there are several small action research projects of teachers embedded. The teachers get funding for materials, coaching through research experts and some money for their afford to write the research report.
This system of funding is fixed part of the program so there are no money discussions between university and teachers.
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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
25/07/12 17:36 as a reply to Andrea Frantz-Pittner.
Andrea Frantz-Pittner:
To Elisabettas Point 1 (about the funding):
A quite well working system to include teachers (or non-formal organizations) into research ist the Austrian IMST programme which is running since 2002 (www.imst.ac.at):
The methotology they use is called "intervention research". The university of Klagenfurt does some activities (teacher training, conferences etc.) and does research about innovations in mathematics and science teaching. Within this big frame of research there are several small action research projects of teachers embedded. The teachers get funding for materials, coaching through research experts and some money for their afford to write the research report.
This system of funding is fixed part of the program so there are no money discussions between university and teachers.


That sounds quite an interesting system.

Are there other examples we could take into account in other countries as well? I am not aware of such a system in my country, to be honest. But nevertheless maybe some other participants might give us a hint about other possibilities.
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RE: DIscussion day 2 continues
25/07/12 18:52 as a reply to Elisabetta Tola.
how to implement projects like these - Elisabetta's question - and make sure that partners are involved...?

one thing we did in an EU project I am part of was to have a stakeholder meeting in the middle of the project. We presented our initial ideas and topics to a selected audience that we knew had interest in the final outcomes of the project. So we presented them our various ideas BEFORE actually going out and doing empirical work. So that gave us the opportunity to get their views on several things: that our frames are useful to them, that we didn't miss something out, to already disseminate some ideas, to establish contacts... We will have another such meeting towards the end of the project.

So I think a crucial thing is to build in several mechanisms for allowing "user feedback", or whatever you might call it.

Another method I have come across is to have a sort of advisory board or panel of "consultants" for the project, including not only academics but all kinds of people. Getting their view on intermediary reports and ideas is also useful...
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