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Talking Science With The Alan Alda Center

The Hal Marcus of College of Science and Engineering at The University of West Florida launches its 2018 Great Minds Lecture Series this week in downtown Pensacola. The speaker will be talking about communication.

Chances are you’ve heard of Alan Alda. However chances are also that you didn’t know he founded an organization that helps scientists learn to communicate their ideas to the public. This Thursday afternoon, one their instructors will be speaking as part of the UWF Great Minds Lecture Series.

James Rea is a Workshop Instructor with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. He says his primary mission is to take someone who is used to speaking in scientific language or jargon and get them to communicate their message to any audience. "Most people assume when you're talking about communicating science to different audiences that it's all about the language. Are you filtering your jargon? Are you using vivid analogies? And all of that is certainly very important. But Alan [Alda]'s point, and it lies at the very heart of the center and the ideas that he developed that became the center, is this idea that before you worry about the language, first and foremost are you creating and maintaining a connection with the audience that's in front of you. So whether it's one person or 200 people, whether it's live in front of them or over a television interview, are you thinking about them and engaging them in as personal a way as possible? As if you were talking to them over coffee at a coffee shop."

Rea usually conducts two or three day workshops to get this message across, but in Pensacola Thursday he will give a 90 minute, interactive presentation that hits on the most important topics and methods that the center has to offer. He says everyone, not just scientists will get something from the presentation. "We all have something in our lives that we understand deeply that other people don't. Whether it's an attorney, accountant, a science teacher, a math teacher, it may be that you love to play guitar and have a hard time explaining your rig to your friends. Anytime you're in this situation where there's something that you love and understand deeply that those around you don't have experience in, you've entered into the challenges that scientists have. How do I communicate this, my interest in it and the technicalities behind it, to anyone else I talk to?"

James Rea is a Workshop Instructor with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. He’ll be speaking at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition this Thursday afternoon at 6:00 as part of the UWF Great Minds Lecture Series. The presentation is free and open to everyone.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.