Scicomm is critical to translate complex scientific challenges to a range of audiences. But often, the fact that ‘the messenger is just as important as the message’ is ignored. Host Dr Craig Poku (he/they) is joined by the wonderful Sarah Cosgriff (she/they). She discusses her scicomm journey and how her intersecting identities allowed her to engage with new audiences.
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00:00:01 Craig Hi, I’m Dr Craig Poku, and you are listening to the Pride in STEM Podcast, a series that explores the different barriers faced by members of the LGBTQIA+ community. As scientists, we are always taught that numbers and objectivity are the solutions to address problems faced by society. However, storytelling is just as important, especially when it comes to ensuring equality for marginalised communities. Through this series, I hope that you, the listener, will come away with a new insight into what these barriers are and discover pragmatic ways to help us overcome them. In today’s episode, I’ll be talking with Sarah Cosgriff about what it’s like to work against them as a science communicator and about discovering her asexuality. Whenever we think about popular science communicators, most of the more well-known examples are those who are cis male and white. And although the face of science communication is changing, it is still behind the curve for where it should be, especially for those who are in marginalised communities. Here we spoke about Sarah’s career journey, the barriers that she’s faced along the way, and what she’s learned from her experiences. Hello, Sarah. [laughs]
00:01:03 Sarah Hello, Craig.
00:01:04 Craig How are you doing?
00:01:05 Sarah I’m doing fab today. How about you?
00:01:07 Craig I’m very well, thank you. So Sarah, to begin our discussion, could you give us like a two minute introduction about yourself?
00:01:15 Sarah I have been working in science communication for about ten years. I actually started off science communication by leaving a PhD. So I left my PhD ten years ago this year. And, I kind of went with no plan. I just kind of went, I want to pursue this thing called science communication. And luckily it ended up working out amazingly. But, yeah, for about the last ten years I’ve been working with young people, schools, teachers. I’ve worked with youth workers. And there’s all things I’ve ended up specialising in, in more recent years is inclusion in science. So I worked on a girls and physics project and now I work in inclusion schools at the Association for Science Education. And what we do there is we support secondary schools to become more inclusive places. So I do that part-time. I also do, a day a week for schools at UK, then LGBT plus education, charity, who founded LGBT History Month. Not everybody knows that. Actually.
00:02:13 Craig Oh.
00:02:14 Sarah Yeah. So the first LGBT history month was in 2005 and that was following the repeal of Section 28.
00:02:20 Craig Ah. Now that is something I did not know. I mean, like, that’s a new bit of information even for me.
00:02:27 Sarah Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, it was for me as well because, I happened to see a job advert for the at the time doing two days a week for them. Now I do one day a week. And yeah. Until I joined them, I didn’t know the depth of the history until they spoke to me about it. So yeah. and they’ve been doing work for about at least forty years in, sort of LGBT education specific or making schools and institutions. But basically places are more, accepting not just for students, but also for staff as well who work in, as you know, educators. So yeah, so some of the things I do through them is things like STEM resources, so to support, STEM education, educators, even with what we call visualising and neutralising LGBTQ+ people in the classroom. And I also then on top of that, do bits of freelancing. So I often do things like presenting science shows or doing a bit of science communication training. The thing is, when you work part-time and then you’re freelance, you’re kind of a bunch of different things. But the things I really care about is inclusion in science, communication, and doing things like presenting. I love—I’ve always loved presenting.
00:03:37 Craig I would’ve never gotten that vibe from you. [inaudible 00:03:39].
00:03:39 Sarah Really? [laughs]
00:03:39 Craig Yeah, definitely. It’s interesting because like I would describe myself as a bit of a PMA myself. So like I’m a data scientist, I am a food writer, I’m a recipe developer. I also climb. But that’s just more for fun. [laughs] And I think it’s very interesting to be able to have that kind of perspective where you’ve got like, you know, multiple different interests. Because I remember being at school where they’d be like, you have to be one thing and one thing only. And then I was just like, “But I want to do all the things.” And I don’t know if it’s just because I’m on the spectrum or I basically got like an attention deficit fit where I couldn’t focus on just one thing. But I definitely found that my interests were just like fingers in many pies. Pun totally intended. [laughs]
00:04:23 Craig [laughs] You came into science communication by dropping out of your PhD?
00:04:30 Sarah Yeah. And now you are here. So I guess my key question is how did you get to deciding one you wanted to do science communication? And two, getting to the point where you were able to find the opportunities to be where you are now?
00:04:48 Sarah Yeah, so interestingly when I was doing my undergrad, so I did my undergrad at work. We had a science communication module, but it was very focused on media and museums. And it was kind of not, it was not really taken seriously, I think by some people it was kind of seen as a, “Oh, you can get a good mark in this module and this is why people took it.” And it was okay at the time, but it’s when I was, I went to a careers evening while I was doing the PhD and I met various different people from different careers. And I sat in front of somebody who said that they basically translate plant science research for farmers for a living. And that was part of science communication. I didn’t know you could do that. And I was really intrigued by that. And at this point, you know, I’d gone through a doctoral training centre to get onto the PhD. So I’d done my master’s insistence 00:05:36 biology, I’d started a PhD. I was just kind of just going along with things because that felt like the right thing to do.
00:05:43 Craig Yeah. And that’s interesting you say that because I definitely found that. And it’s also an interesting point you pick up about the science communication aspect because people still see it as an add-on. And I noticed this during the PhD where people, “Ugh, we have to do another size communication, bit of work.” But actually it’s so important. And it’s really big and broad. And that was the thing, like leaving the PhD gave me the opportunity to really try lots of different things. And if it wasn’t for that, like somebody around the time said, “Oh, we should join the STEM [inaudible 00:06:15] program to get experience. And I was like, “I don’t know, kids.” I really stereotyped teenagers and the stereotypes were completely wrong. And I am still working with young people today. And you know, that’s something, yeah. As I say, I’ve been doing for ten years. But I don’t think scientists necessarily realise that—I think we can focus a lot about science communication and they say the general public, which is it’s multiple audiences. We kind of also forget that too. But that actually you’re doing it all the time. When you are speaking to people in your lab, when you go to conferences, because you have to think about your audiences. You have to think about the different context, what language, what matters to them. When you’re writing a grant proposal, a funding proposal, because you’ve got to convince panellists that your science is good and they should fund it. You’re doing it all the time. And that’s why it’s such a crucial skill to build. And there’s lots of different ways of doing science communication that isn’t working with kids. It isn’t about just presenting. And it could be, depending on what you want to do, can be really flexible and it doesn’t necessarily require you traveling miles and miles. It can be as simple as writing a Wikipedia page or editing a Wikipedia page. So there are options for you and it doesn’t have to be quite as time consuming either. As well as an important skills to develop.
00:07:34 Craig Yeah, exactly. So like for me, for example, I’ve definitely found in the stuff that I do with food, I always bring in science everywhere. And like in some of the work that I’ve done, quite recently I was able to have the opportunity to be able to talk about how science and food are all related in the content of baking. And I think that’s something that’s really important because I definitely knew that when I spoke about that the audience that would be watching this content is completely different to the audience that I deal with in my, like my role as a data scientist.
00:08:06 Sarah And also, so thinking about why anybody, so not just young people may switch off from science or have a negative relationship with science. They ignore things like what the education system can do. It can get very exam focused in GCC. Then you’ve also got the triple and combined science thing of like, “Well, if you are going to be good at science and like science, you put yourself down the triple route down as you know as well.” And then you’ve got to make really huge like, or really, really huge decision at sixteen for the subject you take at a level. Exactly. Which potentially determines so much of what happens going forward. That’s a lot.
00:08:40 Craig And also the other thing as well is that again, and we are going to be talking about education from the perspective of the UK system. Because that’s something that we both have familiarity with. But I remember being told you can’t do music at the same time as you doing sciences. So I actually opted to do combined sciences in combination with music because I was like, it was either that or do triple sciences and not do music as a result. I needed that creative outlook. And I think that when you’ve really been pigeonholed from the age of ten, that’s why a lot of people get told, “You are not good enough.” If you do not meet what the ideal image of a scientist is, a lot of schools will just play in their biases and just be like, “You’re not good enough.” And we’ve recently heard where there was some government officials who came up with the statement of going, these are the reasons why goals don’t want to do physics. I mean, what are your opinions on that? Would you say that in the work that you’ve done, the BRI science communication, you find it those societal biases?
00:09:37 Sarah Oh yeah.
00:09:37 Craig Yeah.
00:09:38 Sarah Oh absolutely. Yeah.
00:09:39 Craig Could you gimme some insight into that?
00:09:40 Sarah Yeah. Yeah. So I used to work on the improving gender balance program when it was, at the, so at the Institute of Physics. And that’s basically where the inclusion schools project that I now work on sort of comes from. And the approach that we wanted to take was a whole school approach because as much as we can work in science and try to improve things just within the science department, it’s, yet it’s a societal messages. So what we found actually across multiple subjects is that you’ll tend to see, and I appreciate, I’m talking very binary gender here. It’s also sort of the data we have access to as well from a national level. But yeah, you’ll find that boys will be more likely to take certain subjects and girls will be more like to take certain subjects. Like if I said to you think about a subject an A level subject where you may anticipate girls taking it, just name one off the top of your head that would be.
00:10:27 Craig Probably, English.
00:10:29 Sarah Yeah.
00:10:30 Craig history.
00:10:31 Sarah History interestingly is about 50 50. Yeah.
00:10:34 Craig Yeah. So I would think more like the, the humanities and the arts. Generally speaking because that’s sort of, when I was back at school, that was really what was really pushed onto… again, talking in binaries for the purposes of this comparison because that’s the data that we had, that’s what was pushed. I think about when I did physics, we only had one girl in our class to which she then dropped out because the teacher made it out as if like she was not good enough to do that subject.
00:11:01 Sarah Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, so what we find at a national level is about twenty per cent of those who take A level physics are girls. And it’s been like that for thirty years. It’s been that like that for a long time. And you find the same thing in different subjects. So English is a very good example of that. You’ll still see a lot of girls taking that subject. you’ll see drama. But when it comes to history, geography and chemistry, that’s, they’re the ones that are kind of more on the middle ground.
00:11:25 Craig Do you know why?
00:11:27 Sarah Chemistry, I’m, I have inklings on why. And one of the reasons I think there’re probably multiple reasons, but one of the reasons I see the chemistry is we need it for medicine.
00:11:37 Craig Yes.
00:11:38 Sarah Yeah. And it makes you kind of think about like, yeah, I just think it’s very interesting. But from some of the schools I worked with when talking to some of the students and saying, “Okay, what options do you think biology has, chemistry, physics? And interestingly, depending which schools you talk to of course, but a lot of them did say biology and chemistry opens up a lot more options. Physics less in comparison. But even if they still feel like it does. But there was this graph we used to show actually in some of the sessions we ran, which looked at the Russell group universities in particular, and for one year where they looked at the courses which asked that had a requirement for certain A level subjects. And maths is first, like that tends to be required a lot for a lot of different courses. But the second most required one was physics. And when I showed that to some students, they were really surprised by that. So one of, the things we talk about is, different career options and where physics can lead you. But also yeah, the stereotypes associated with it. It’s kind of you know, physics is put on this high, high pedestal of like you are a smart person if you do physics. And you know, and we may have maybe this assumption that well maybe girls don’t go on to do physics because they’re just not good at it. But actually if you look at attainment, girls do equally as good as boys, if not sometimes better. And at a level when you look at a and a star, they perform a bit better than boys as well. The other thing you find in a level classes is that you’ll see high attaining girls and you’ll see high attaining boys, but you also see boys that aren’t necessarily high attaining as well.
00:13:10 Craig Yeah. And that’s a very interesting point to say that because when we look at things such as wan, you find that the women who have made it to that point of their careers already in that top five per cent. And so therefore when you look at say, addressing the gender imbalances within the STEM subjects, you find that you need to be starting at a much earlier stage. But more importantly, the reason I bring this up is because of course one of the things that we talk about are not just gender imbalances but their racial discrepancies as well as sexuality discrepancies and gender identities that also play a part in that kind of work as well. Which kind of leads me into sort of like the next question I guess because over the last few years you came out as asexual and you’ve spoken about this online, you’ve done a lot of work that is really sort of, I guess discussed the barriers that ace people within STEM face. And I guess for me the first question I have to ask is, what is asexuality?
00:14:16 Sarah Well, the definition I like to go with is as somebody who experiences little to no sexual attraction. At least that’s what So, even so that’s the asexuality visibility and education network, they expanded that last year. There’s a bit of a slightly longer definition I quite like too, which is little to no sexual attraction and or sexual desire. Because there’s some, I feel that what I find particularly the ACE community, although I would say I’m not really as engaged with other specific identity communities, is that we’re kind of like if you think you’re on the asexuality spectrum, you are welcome here. And you know you don’t have to fit this, exactly. Which is why I quite like the broader definition. It appeal a bit broad and welcoming because there are some people who feel like talking about sexual desire is important for them. Some of the people don’t like the conflation [laughs] as well. But whereas if you have just a broad, here’s a broad definition, I quite like that to be honest.
00:15:10 Craig Yeah. I quite like broad definitions as well. Because for those who are listening, I identify on the a romantic spectrum which is something I’m still trying to figure out. Like sexuality is weird. [laughs]
00:15:21 Sarah Yeah. Yeah.
00:15:22 Craig That’s the best way I like to think about it. And the reason I mentioned this of course is because I definitely was there going, “Well, I don’t fit what the typical definition of somebody within this box fits.” Could you tell us a little bit about your journey of discovering your asexuality and how that has, I guess, impacted your viewpoint both within STEM and science communication?
00:15:43 Sarah Hmm. That’s a great question. So it was a start of the pandemic. I feel like I’m [laughs] being a bit cliche here because there’s so many people who discover things about themselves during the pandemic.
00:15:54 Craig Oh definitely. So I realise I’m a lot more introverted than I give off the energy. I like way space. I like to just have people leave you alone. It’s quite nice.
00:16:04 Sarah Yeah. Yeah., I’m kind of a bit, I’m a bit the same. I think I realise how much more of my personal time I wanted, whereas before the pandemic I think I realised that. But yeah. It’s just, yeah. So that was one of the things I kind of, came to realise in the pandemic. So I remember it was early August, 2020, and one morning I think all the pieces sort of started coming together. And I was doing a lot of reading online and I’m realising things and then kind of coming to that realisation. But before that, somebody I knew came out to me as Demi. I think that was maybe when I started to try and learn a bit more about what asexuality was. Because before then I saw being asexual equals not ever wanting sex, never ever having sex. And I was kind of like, “That doesn’t fit me because that I am a, I’m a person who’s had sex before and I’ve not hated it either.” So I’m just like, “Okay.” So that, that because I so therefore was like, I never considered it for me. Yeah. Then when I, if you go back to that definition of experiencing little to no sexual attraction, I’ve now realised kind of now in hindsight since that I never knew that wasn’t something I was experiencing because how do you know what you’re not experiencing if you’ve never experienced it? If that makes any sense.
00:17:21 Craig No, that makes perfect sense.
00:17:22 Sarah Yeah. It’s a really hard, but it’s also really harder therefore like no, definitely in yourself. Like am I definitely asexual because it’s a bit, yeah. So it’s one of those things that so I, as I said, I put the pieces together. I was initially really upset about it because I was like, yeah, because I’m married. So that’s the thing, I’m married and I was—it was yeah just basically being in bed one morning reading on my phone and then going, “Oh my God.” Having this huge realisation and my husband is like, “What?” And then I told him and he is like, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.” He wasn’t too surprised is what I would say. And he is been amazing about it but and some around that time when I was reading more about it, trying to learn more, I like read stories of like, or we even watch videos where people told their story and I remember this one in particular where someone talked about how they had this marriage and everything was perfect except for this one thing and that’s why they’re no longer together.
00:18:24 Craig Oh no.
00:18:24 Sarah And that terrified me.
00:18:26 Craig But also I think that highlights the point that when you are in a relationship, whether it’s a friendship or it’s a romantic relationship, you also have to accept that things can change and things can evolve. Because it’s not to say that you woke up one day and you went, “Oh, I’m asexual.” It’s that this has been a part of you this entire time. And you’ve now discovered that new information and that can be quite terrifying to tell somebody who you love because you don’t know how they’re going to react.
00:18:57 Sarah No. No. And I’ve heard horror stories. No, he’s been amazing about it. He’s been so supportive. He’d never, also never made me feel like the way I am is wrong. He’s never sort of say that I should try to change things. He’s never been like that. And this is just how he’s been since we’ve been together. We’ve been together for a long time. But yeah, so he’s always just accepted me and celebrated who I was. And this is just another example of that.
00:19:21 Craig I guess for me. What did you find that you discovering your asexuality changed your impact as a science communicator?
00:19:27 Sarah Yeah. because I did a lot of self-reflection in terms of like, I realised how much I was playing a straight woman. And I didn’t, and I didn’t realise it at the time. But it therefore reframed my ways of thinking with science communication as well. But it’s so driven by growing up in a heteronormative society and [inaudible 00:19:47], so.
00:19:47 Craig What do we mean by heteronormative society?
00:19:50 Sarah So a society which assumes man, woman in a relationship together, I guess.
00:19:56 Craig White picket fence two to five kids.
00:19:58 Sarah Yeah. But then you also have [inaudible 00:19:59]. So it’s kind of the, so people who are allosexual are people who aren’t asexual. And so allo normativity, so based on that, is assumption that people will therefore experience sexual attraction a certain, like on a regular basis and have sexual relationships and also expectations that come from that as well. Because that affects everybody, not just asexual people. But in terms of how this has impacted my work, it’s just given me a different perspective. And that, as I say that self-reflection has got me thinking about these norms and things I’ve grown up with. But also how I do see the world different from other people and not realising that.
00:20:38 Craig Yeah. Because it’s something that I definitely find with the fact that I’m black and queer. So I also use queer as well. Like one of the things that we talk about is like representation in science communication and that different perspective. And I do think that in terms of science communication, it has improved so much in the last few years in terms of like diversity and representation. However, I mean you’ve highlighted on some of the key barriers that could be faced within science communication, the fact that science communication still generally comes from the perspective of heteronormativity. Like what do you think are the key barriers for LGBTQ+ people who want to engage in science communication? Because I think that you’ve alluded to some of these barriers, but I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on that.
00:21:26 Sarah Yeah. I would say that things have gone better, but science communication’s still very white is what I would say. Just thinking about events, conferences, people I know as well. So I would [laughs] just say that upfront. In terms of barriers, I think it’s thinking about the people doing the science communication as well. I mean, we could think about audiences that’s really important, but sometimes we, when it comes to inclusion and diversity in science communication, we sometimes forget about the people doing the science communication. So for example, let’s say you work for a science centre and audience members continue to misgender you. What does a museum or science tend to do about that? What policies do they have in place? Is it adequate?
00:22:10 Craig Yes.
00:22:10 Sarah And if you are somebody who’s right at the bottom of the ladder, do you feel like you can say something about it? Will you get support? And it’s just thinking about things like that. or even, yeah. When you book speakers for events, do you have a code of conduct in place? And even if you have a code of conduct in place, what are you, what is the actions? What are you going to do? Do you know how to, how to handle situations Yeah. If something arises as well. Because that’s the thing, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be harassed, especially trans people at events and be asked really awful questions. And how do you manage that? So are there ways around that? So for example, collecting questions anonymously, which is actually good for your audience. Because then you don’t have that person who feels like they have to put their hand up and may feel like they have a silly question. Or you could have somebody queer in the audience that wants to ask a question but may not be out or want to be out to a load of people they don’t know. So thinking about those things is really, really important. But also feeling like you can bring yourself to work. And this is something I’ve actually been reflecting on particularly this week. So, as you might know, I was recently nominated for the National Diversity Awards [inaudible 00:23:22].
00:23:22 Craig Congratulations.
00:23:23 Sarah Thank you. Thank you so much. but particularly for the positive role model for LGBT category. And I was nominated by a colleague, somebody I work with. And it’s just, I was just thinking about, well one of the things that happened with that, she said, to me, “You know, do you want me to ask the comms team to put that on the website”? And I went, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know if that might be put a bit much, maybe I shouldn’t be pushing that much.” I just didn’t know it was something I could ask for. And they put it on a website. I then saw they put it in a newsletter that went out to a load of schools, and say, encouraging people to vote for me. And I just thought, this is what it’s like to be, you know, to be sort of—this is what, how it should be. Where I’m not just tolerated, but when my colleagues see the benefit of bringing my experiences to work” Now the thing, the caveat with this is like I’m one person. And so I can’t answer all the questions. And also there’ll be lots of different perspectives. But just to know I can bring this my, this part myself to work and not apologise for it. In fact be, you know, it’s praised where I work. That’s how it should be. But the sad thing I was also thinking about is how much I was thinking that’s a privilege to have and it really shouldn’t be. And that’s, and that’s a saddens me because I know that not everyone’s in that situation, but they should be because the field would be so much better for it. And our work with our schools is so much better for it as well.
00:24:50 Craig Exactly. The idea of diversity of thought is something that I always go on about. Because a lot of people will assume that having—it is this idea of intersectionality. It’s this idea that you have, when people talk about diversity of thought, they only really see it from one lens. Whereas in actual fact, I think of it as a lot of the times I will say no to certain gigs because I go, “Unless I know the people, it’s in a very, it’s in an area where my blackness will become a problem.” And that sort of limits me in terms of the opportunities that I can take up. And I’m aware that. Some may argue that I, because I’ve grown up in the UK and because I’ve grown up, with a lot of white people around me, then that way I know how to play the game. But that should not necessarily be the assumption. It’s a very interesting point where you talk about the barriers that are faced because a lot of the times we never talk about the people who are delivering that work. And I know a lot of organisations that don’t have policies that are put into place when things go wrong. Because it’s one thing when you are going, “Oh, everything’s going to go right.” But then it’s another thing you go, “Okay, but what happens if you go wrong.” Telling somebody who is within a marginalised group that they just need to grow a thicker skin or they just need to brush it off or they just need to just be told, “Oh well, it can’t be that bad.” That’s gaslighting. And that also doesn’t take into account that for a lot of people within marginalised communities, if they’re getting to that same point of their career, even if it’s the bottom of the science communication career ladder, they’ve already had to face so many societal barriers.
00:26:28 Sarah Yeah, absolutely. Another thing I was just thinking about, some people have asked me about this of, “Do you wish you knew sooner? Did you wish you had this information when you were younger?” Yeah. I wish I had the information when I was younger, but I’m really glad things have gone the way they have because I’ve been able to get the right support with—I was, you know, I was able to find communities really quickly, work like my team in particular was really great about it. And it’s come at the right time for me, really. In that I’m able to thrive with this. Instead of, you know, worry about who I’m going to tell or will they accept me or facing difficulties at work. I’ve just—I happen to be in a really good place to do that. And as I say it, it benefits the work. I think it’s really important that we do talk about how do we look out for colleagues. And I think especially like something we’ve seen in more recent years where for trans pupil it’s become really political. So if we bring that up in a science space, how do you talk about queer people and also don’t tokenise them. [laughs] And the problem is I think it can feel like it’s complicated to do these things. But as I’ve just told you about, like how I feel accepted at work, it’s really not. It’s really not complicated. It’s just, I just appreciate people appreciating me. That’s always needed. Really.
00:27:50 Craig Yeah. Now, I guess for me, because you are a queer biracial woman within science communication, can I make an assumption that you are always seen as like a role model or being pigeonholed into the role model category for more projects?
00:28:03 Sarah Yeah. Yeah. I sometimes worry that people might see my identities and therefore feel like, “Oh, she knows what she’s talking about there.” And then I’m like, “No. No. No. I’ve had to work to know these things.” I read the reports, I do the work. I don’t automatically be like, “Hey, I know all of the e d I issues simply because of these particular identities.” And my experiences are just my own, like my experiences of being Filipino for example. I always a bit worried about sort of [laughs] talking about that because they aren’t typical Filipino experiences. I grew up in a predominantly white area without the Filipino community around me. It was my mum and I and one or two others that we kind of met along the way. And that’s it. You know, so, they’ll ask questions like, “Do how do you think we should make things better in our workplace? How do I be an ally?” And all those kind of questions. And why are we expecting one person to answer that question?
00:28:58 Craig Exactly. And that’s something that I definitely face in the career that I do. So because I most likely in a lot of spaces I’m the only black queer person in that kind of field, in that marginalised group.
00:29:10 Sarah Yeah. And it takes time. It’s not a quick fix, you know. And it’s about, you know, you got to invest time, you need to get, you know, get inclusion specialists for example. Like that’s really more my answer. Do a long-term plan because we engage a senior leader’s right at start the process.
00:29:26 Craig Yes. And that’s something that’s really important because it’s when they talk about, “Oh, we are going to have ringfence funding for certain PhD students of certain marginalised backgrounds without changing the culture within that space.” And I think like one of the things I guess I’m interested in is, and this may not be applicable to you, but you may have I guess witnessed it in the work that you do. Can you sometimes find that because you’ve been pigeonholed and do these role model situations, can that potentially cause additional barriers? Which is so, and the reason I say this is because I will sometimes see it within the science communication space, that if you pick X, Y, Z to marginalised groups, then that is the only experience that has only been listened to. And what will sometimes happen is that because that person, for example, may go, “I enjoy these opportunities, I enjoy being the face of this project.” It can actually then stop other people of a similar marginalised background being able to engage in those spaces. Do you think that is a reality within the science communication fields? Because I’ve seen it quite a lot in my work.
00:30:35 Sarah So I’m wary about tokenism because I see a lot of like, “Oh, we got this perspective in.” And then we’ve kind of ticked to box. That’s, so that’s, that’s kind of the first thing I think about because you know, you got this perspective in you’re done. That’s just why I’m a bit wary. Hey, I could talk about my experiences for example, being asexual. I’m kind of like, these aren’t the only experiences, actually the beauty of being in the community or at least the spaces I’ve been in. Because it’s not all like this is, it’s really diverse. And if it wasn’t to see the diversity stories, I would’ve been worried about like, am I allowed to use this label for myself, you know? So I think that’s really important.
00:31:15 Craig Yeah. And I think what you’re doing with the A and STEM work that you’ve been doing, even if you are aware that people are uncomfortable about talking about these issues, you still bring those perspectives into the work that you do. And so for that, I think that’s something that’s really important. But I think the thing that I’ve taken for a lot from this conversation is understanding or privilege in spaces. And this is not just applicable to just science communication, but it’s also applicable to STEM as a whole. If you are aware that you’ve got privileges and I’m comfortable enough to talk about my queerness, but I know others aren’t. So then afterwards, then going, how can I use my privilege to be ensure that those stories that are very important are still being heard and taken into account in spaces that are actually have the power to make actionable change. So firstly, Sarah, thank you again for joining me to have this really important chat. Like I’ve had a really good time chatting with you about this. Because I mean, we’ve spoken about some solutions. I guess my final question before we wrap up would be like, if you could provide one solution to improve representation within science communication, what would it be and why?
00:32:20 Sarah One of the things I think of is think about the famous science communicators, you know,
00:32:26 Craig Brian Cox… Steven Hawkins, actually can only reading White men.
00:32:35 Sarah [laughs] Well, I mean exactly my point here as well. Like, , it’s just a fact. You see the same people doing the same things, getting the book deals, getting the TV shows. It’s the same people. You know, one of the things that hap I see happen in science communication is cliques. And it’s just about kind of thinking about what you were just saying about our conversation about recognising your privilege. Use it, actually use it. Bring people up, mentor that person. Think about those early career science communicators and their barriers. What can you do for them? Because that’s something I’ve really appreciated people doing for me. What can you as somebody more established in the field do for them? That is something I think is really important as somebody is more senior. Senior. I think that’s one thing that would greatly help the field is, as I say, people who are more senior, more establish how can they use their positions to make things better.
00:33:28 Craig Exactly. That ensuring that those doors are always going to be open.
00:33:31 Sarah Yeah. And that’s something I try to do, [laughs] I guess.
00:33:34 Craig I try to do it myself.
00:33:35 Sarah Yeah.
00:33:36 Craig It’s hard. But I do try to do it. Sarah, I’ve had a lovely time chat with you about this.
00:33:42 Sarah I’ve had a lovely time too. Thank you for having me on.
00:33:44 Craig Yeah. Thank you for agreeing to do this with us. So the final question is where can people find you and do you have any projects you would like to promote?
00:33:52 Sarah Oh yeah. So Twitter, because that’s web science communicators loop anyway, but yes. So my handle on Twitter is at Sarah underscore Cosgriff. Sarah Pelman, h Cosgriff spelled C-O-S-G-R-I double F. I have a podcast, with my cousins called Queer Cause, which is based on, queer Filipino experiences. We are of the diaspora, but we have interviewed people from the Philippines. Please, check us out. And I also been doing a bit of science TikTok content dabbling here and there am.
00:34:28 Craig You have a good TikToker.
00:34:29 Sarah [laughs] But yeah, my hand on there is ACE dot Sycom. So something I’ve been really delving into recently is trying to figure out how I could use science demonstrations to sort of highlight asexual ace experiences. And that’s something I’ve been really thinking about because sometimes it could be really hard to articulate what it’s like to be Ace. And I’m like, can I use science demos as kind of analogies for that? It’s something I’m playing around with. And, I’ve been really inspired by other people done something similar to that. So I’m figuring that out. and yeah, so that’s where you can find me and things that I’ve been working on as well.
00:35:05 Craig Awesome. Thank you so much Sarah. I would also like to thank Pride in STEM for providing us with the space, for having these conversations as well as to our lovely production team, Matthew Young, Alfredo Carpineti, and Shivani Dave who who’ve been brilliant in putting this podcast together and making it come to life. If you can please rate your podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And finally, if you would like to find out more about Pride in STEM and the word that we do as an organisation, you can follow us at Pride in STEM on both Twitter and Instagram. I’m your host, Dr Craig Poku, and I hope to see you soon.