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SciTalk Interview

Posted on 31 March 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
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WriteWords talks to novelist and scientist Dr Ann Lackie, who runs SciTalk, aimed at bringing writers and scientists together

Tell us something about your background.

There are two main reasons for setting up SciTalk. As a scientist and novelist myself, I’m very aware of the incredible variety of ideas and images that modern science provides for a fiction-writer – and very few non-scientists know about this vast untapped source of inspiration. Secondly, where science and scientists appear in fiction, the science is all too often ‘bad science’ or inaccurate, and the scientists are unrealistic in the way they work.
I’ve always been an enthusiast for bringing scientists and artists and writers together – it’s part of what I do (see http://www.plumblandconsulting.co.uk) - so the logical next step was to set up a website where writers could search a database of scientific topics and find scientists willing to help them discover more. My collaborator, Peter Normington – he’s a physicist and information scientist – and I were awarded a grant by NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, www.nesta.org.uk ) to do this – and the resource is now up and running.

My main aim is to get writers and scientists to meet – to talk to and learn from each other – and to get writers into labs or other work-places, even out on field-work. That way writers can learn how scientists interact with each other and what ‘doing science’ actually means – and eventually, if they are inspired to use this knowledge in their plays or novels, the insights are handed on to readers and audiences in turn. Knowledge about the exciting things that go on in UK science – not just the big issues, but the smaller ideas too - reaches ever-growing numbers of people.

How do writers benefit from contact?

The scientists on the database are all self-selected enthusiasts who genuinely want to help non-specialists understand what they do, and why it’s exciting. And they’re also very willing to answer queries – or if they can’t provide answers, to point the writer in the direction of someone else who might be able to help. Scientists benefit from the contact too because they have to start thinking about their research in different ways, seeing it through the eyes of an outsider – one writer has even been giving her scientist contact some help with writing!

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Nik Perring at 16:25 on 31 March 2006  Report this post
What a fantastic idea!

Great stuff,


Dee at 17:02 on 31 March 2006  Report this post
This is a great idea. I've already had some valuable help from the site, and hope to have more soon.


EmmaD at 19:07 on 31 March 2006  Report this post
It's such a great idea, tackling such an important source of mis- and non-understanding.


rogernmorris at 09:13 on 01 April 2006  Report this post
A very interesting initiative. Perhaps it will see the demise of the 'mad scientist' stereotype?

The 'Bad Science' column in the Guardian is also worth a read. It's very entertainingly done and hits a few 'scientific' myths head-on.

Account Closed at 15:42 on 04 April 2006  Report this post
This really is a brilliant and sometimes inspiring resource. I've been using it to help with a thriller I've just finished (sport enhancements are the theme) and found it really useful.


Zigeroon at 14:45 on 24 April 2006  Report this post
Great idea. Off to use the initiative in the hope that there are a few quantum mechanics on there with a sense of humour.


Sue H at 15:47 on 29 April 2006  Report this post
It really is a fantastic site. I've had a lot of help from them on genetic research, which I'd never have found or even remotely understood otherwise!

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