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12 January 2019
Soapbox Science 2019: Women Scientists, Speak Out!

(Published - 12 January 2019)

Historically, women have been underrepresented in the sciences, and especially in the *story* of science - most people would have a hard time naming even five great female scientists.

Did you know that Imogen Wright is developing cutting-edge user-friendly software solutions that analyse DNA sequences - producing simple, clear clinical reports? Or that Prof Leslie Petrik’s environmental nanoscience efforts have led to award-winning methods of mitigating the massive environmental damage done by mining activities?

The list goes on and on. There’s plenty of amazing and world-changing research being done by Women in Science in labs and fields and oceans and all kinds of other environments, all over the world.

That’s why it’s so fantastic that Cape Town will be hosting the first South African Soapbox Science event in September 2019 at the V&A Waterfront - a public non-profit event promoting women in science...and their science, naturally.

“This is a unique opportunity for us as professional scientists to engage in conversations around our work and our lives, with the most diverse public,” says Dr Lucia Marchetti, SARChI Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UWC and UCT, and coordinator of the South African Soapbox Science local organising team.

The SA team led by researchers from UWC as well as UCT, Wits, IDIA, SAAO, SKA and iThemba LABS has a dynamic record of public engagement - for example: Dr Lucia Marchetti is serving in the International Astronomical Union “Communicating Astronomy with the Public” committee. She was among the Soapbox Science speakers in London in 2015 during her postdoctoral fellowship in the UK, and is part of the scientific team collaborating with artists on the Hemelliggaam exhibition. Dr Carolina Odmann (Associate Director: Development & Outreach for the Inter-University Institute for IDIA) has recently been recognised for her pioneering work in astronomy outreach, development and education with a special IAU Prize by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) at the 2018 XXX IAU General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

“The format of the event is always the same everywhere: no PowerPoint slide, no amphitheatre – just remarkable women in science who are there to amaze with their latest discoveries, and to answer any science question the public have been burning to ask.”

The main goal is offering the public an opportunity to meet and interact with female scientists in places one wouldn’t normally expect (a shopping mall, for example), thus increasing the visibility of women in science.

The SA team is still looking for their speakers for this year’s event! The Soapbox Science event is a free event, open to every field of science, so if you are a female scientist and you are passionate about your science as well as science communication, this event is for you!

Have a look at The call will close on Friday, 1 March 2019 at 11am (GMT) hurry and sign up!

After the call is closed the local organising committee, together with the Soapbox Science central UK office, will review the applications and select a maximum of 12 speakers for the day. The selected speakers will also receive training in public speaking and science communication before the event - what matters most is the story they have to tell, and their passion for telling it.

“This year’s event will take place at a busy outdoor corner of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town during the September school holidays,” Dr Marchetti notes. “We are really grateful for this opportunity and we hope that the weather will collaborate with us! Otherwise, do not worry - we have an in-door back-up plan!”

Soapbox Science: What’s In It For Me?

Why should you apply to be a Soapbox Science speaker? Well, if you do, you’ll get to:

  • Receive training at the bespoke Soapbox Science workshop;

  • Make valuable connections with other scientists and join an alumni community of over 1000 inspirational speakers; and,

  • Publicise your work through blogs and other media opportunities.

But more than that, you’ll also get to:

  • Help improve the visibility of women in science;

  • Engage with people who might not otherwise encounter science; and,

  • Meet other fantastic women in science and join our growing Soapbox Science community.

“This would be a great opportunity for UWC and the other partner Institutions to showcase some of their scientists and research, and we want as many representatives of the many amazing UWC research projects - and as many amazing UWC women - as possible highlighted, both locally and internationally,” Dr Marchetti says.

Want to know more? Just visit the website and/or contact the SA Local Coordinator (Dr. Lucia Marchetti - UCT/UWC - for more details.