Three minutes, no PowerPoints and one fascinating scientific topic—FameLab is back, with a new batch of keen scientists competing to be crowned public engagement champions of 2016. FameLab is the UK’s most prominent science communication competition, helping the public understand major scientific issues. The scope of the competition is wide-ranging, from important questions such as ‘why do men have nipples?’ to more trivial concerns such as ‘is nuclear energy a good or a bad thing?’
Established in 2005 by Cheltenham festivals in collaboration with Nesta, FameLab encourages young scientists and engineers with a knack for public engagement to swap the lab for the stage. Participants have three minutes to effectively communicate a scientific concept to the general public, without the comforting backdrop of a PowerPoint presentation. Last year’s winner, Oscari Vinko, won over the panel of esteemed judges with his character Mr Malaria, who convinced the audience of his nefarious talents using only his wit and some self-fashioned headwear.
FameLab was founded originally to entertain and engage the public, whilst also nurturing the talents of young science communicators. The competition’s phenomenal success has seen it grow exponentially, with over 5000 participants across 25 countries. Since 2013, FameLab Academy has brought the FameLab format to secondary schools throughout Gloucestershire, encouraging students to begin communicating science effectively from an early age.
The FameLab journey begins with regional heats and finals. The Edinburgh regional final was held in the National Museum of Scotland in early January. Winners at this stage will progress to the national final, held in London in April 2016. The competition heats up at this stage, as finalists compete for a £1000 cash prize and a further £750 to spend on a science communication activity. It doesn’t end here—the 25 or so national winners advance to the international grand final, to be held at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival in June 2016. FameLab’s YouTube channel hosts a series of great videos from previous finals, including the aforementioned Mr Malaria.
So if you’ve ever fancied yourself as the next Brian Cox or Michael Moseley, perhaps consider getting your entry in early for the 2017 competition, and pick up some tips for success by following the FameLab 2016 (@FameLabUK).