Every question made me more excited to answer the next, and all the questions have given me a renewed enthusiasm for my work!
Matt, research technician and IAS winner
I’m a Scientist is an online public engagement competition that gets technicians, and other people in science, talking to school students across the UK.
Technicians develop their communication skills, gain a fresh perspective on their work, and raise awareness of their vital work, helping students see the role as something ‘for them’. Taking part supports the career development goals of the Technician Commitment, signed by 60+ UK HE institutions.
Applications for the competition are open year round – The next open activity is 9–20 March 2020, for British Science Week.
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The activity is split into different themed ‘zones’. This March, there are zones for people related to:
- AI and machine learning
- Particle physics
- Childhood psychology
- Chemistry, particularly around energy
- Community and social psychology
- Antimicrobial resistance
Plus general zones suitable for anyone with a science background! Find out more about the zones this March.
Thanks to Royal Society of Chemistry, British Psychological Society, the Society for Applied Microbiology, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and Wellcome for funding these zones.
There’s also Medical Research Zone, running 2–27 March, especially for technical staff related to the MRC. Find out more about Medical Research Zone 2020.
How it works
Everything happens online so it’s easy for you to be involved right from your desk or smartphone and at times that suit your schedule.
Technicians put up a profile on this site, answer students’ questions about science, their work, the universe and beyond. They engage directly with students in live text-based chats. Students vote for their favourite scientist to win £500 to spend on further public engagement.
When the activity happens
The questions students ask
Live chats with classes
Live chats last 30 minutes; they are text-based, fast paced and fun. We limit the chats to 3 a day, but usually there will be fewer. We don’t expect you to attend every chat!
Time commitment is flexible and the format is designed to so you can fit taking part into your normal schedule as much as possible.
Most people say they spend around 2 hours a day on the activity; 1 hour on live chats and another hour answering students’ questions, which can be during the evening, outside of the work day. Each activity usually takes place over two weeks. See how IAS fits into the schedule of a busy scientist.
Getting your manager onside
Taking part is two-weeks of on demand CPD, contributing to important areas of the Researcher Development Framework and helping your institution meet the Technician Commitment. Although some of the activity (live chats) takes place in work hours, you only sign up to what you can reasonably fit into your normal schedule. If a couple of days you’re not free at all, that will usually be fine. We’re more than happy to chat about any time commitment concerns, call on 01225 326 892 or contact email@example.com
Zones: A group of scientists and schools
The activity is divided into zones with at least five scientists each. Some are general zones, named after a chemical element and featuring a mix of scientists from different areas, like the Lawrencium Zone. Others are themed zones, such as Nuclear Zone or the Relationships Zone. Several zones run at the same time, for example there were 17 zones running in the March 2019 event.
Evictions up the excitement
Starting on Tuesday of the second week, the person with the fewest votes will be evicted at 3pm each day, until one is left to be crowned the winner on the last Friday! Students get a new vote every day that week.
Prize money for your projects?
One scientist in every zone wins £500 to be spent on a science communication project: school visits, science fair exhibits, videos or podcasts, blogs, arranging class visits to your lab. Check out how past winners have spent their money.
Equipment you need
All that’s needed is a computer with internet access. The live chats are text-based (no video or audio needed) and run through this site.
Who can apply
The activity shows students the wide variety of careers that science leads to, so is open to technicians and researchers from academia (from PhD students to professors) and anyone from industry with a background in science. If you’re not sure you’re eligible, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I get selected?
Scientists write a short summary explaining their work to 13/14 year olds when they apply. Students and teachers rate these summaries, to guide who is selected for each zone. Read more about the application process here.
How to apply