Communicating the Science of Intelligence
A practical course on Scientific Outreach, Intelligence Research Communication, and producing media for general audiences in collaboration with invited experts from the fields of Automated Animal Tracking and Computer Vision.
The rationale behind the proposed course is to teach master students in the Science of Intelligence track about Computer Vision, with a focus on applications relevant to SCIoI’s research interests – primarily Automated Animal Tracking – while simultaneously equipping them with the tools to communicate their future research to non-scientific audiences and the general public. As a still young cluster of excellence, the future of SCIoI and its funding does not only depend on our contributions to the scientific community, but also on our visibility in the general public. As a publicly funded research cluster, we consider it our obligation to not only publish our findings in scientific journals, but to also lower the thresholds for accessibility by non-scientist audiences. We all just weathered a global pandemic which may serve as a cautionary tale of the importance of accessible, yet concise science communication to lay audiences. In a day and age, when the label ‘AI’ is hurled around with increasing inflation, we consider instilling those skillsets into young intelligence researchers more important than ever.
While the thematic emphasis of the course is on Computer Vision, the skillset taught in the hands-on practical part will be all about Outreach, Visibility and Communicating Research. Prior to the lectures of the experts, Benjamin Lang will give a four-part introductory course on Science Communication in general and communicating research to lay audiences via the exemplary medium of podcasts in particular. In the course of the semester, the students will learn how to process scientific information for non-scientific audiences, how to produce a podcast and will, as part of their examination, conduct a brief interview of the invited experts and produce short (~15 min) podcast episodes in groups which will be published on the SCIoI website as well as popular platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, Spreaker, etc.
The course is conceptualized as a in person format, with the invited experts travelling to Berlin & giving the lectures and the interviews in person. This will allow us to make use of the SCIoI media lab equipped with professional recording equipment. In case a desired speaker cannot/is not willing to travel to Berlin, the lecture & interview could also easily be realized remotely. To reach a greater audience or meet a high interest for high-profile speakers, the lectures will also be live-streamed or recorded for later distribution.
This course is directed at all students in the SCIoI master track – no preliminary qualifications are necessary. Thematically, it covers different topics from Computer Vision, with a focus on automated tracking applications. Hence, it is relevant for all students of Computer Science (HU, TU) as well as students of Mind & Brain, as Computer Vision is a topic most aspiring computer scientists will encounter in their studies. With the focus on Automated Animal Tracking applications, it is of particular interest to students interested in continuing their scientific careers at SCIoI. An interest in Science Communication is beneficial, while we believe all aspiring scientists will benefit from the taught skills in outreach and communicating their research. No previous experience in podcasting is required.
The course will span an entire semester with weekly attendance as well as assignments for the students in groups. The current structure is laid out for 14 weeks, depending on whether it will take place during the summer or the winter semester, respectively, it will be expanded by an additional course unit. The introductory course will be taught by Benjamin Lang, assisted by a student assistant, and will introduce the students to key concepts of science communication as well as equip them with the skills necessary to carry out interviews and produce a short science podcast episode. The introductory course will span four weeks, with one course unit per week, which will be 1.5 h each.
The rough content of the course will be:
Week 1: Key Concepts of Science Communication & Outreach
Week 2: Scientific Storytelling and Creating Engagement
Week 3: Effective Visualization and Oral Presentation Skills
Week 4: Conducting Interviews and Podcast Production
In conclusion of the introductory course, the students will be distinguished into groups of four and assigned one invited speaker per group. They will be assigned the most relevant literature of their assigned speaker to read and tasked with preparing for an interview with the expert, using the skills taught in the introductory course. In the weeks after the introductory course, a six-part lecture series by the invited experts will be held. Each speaker will present their research in a roughly 1.5 h lecture, including a short Q&A session. Immediately after each lecture, the respective group will carry out a short (0.5-1 h) interview with the speaker, which will be recorded. This part of the course is intended to be carried out in the SCIoI media lab, which is well equipped to produce audio recordings of professional quality.
In case a desired speaker is not willing to come to Berlin, it is also conceivable to carry out the lecture as well as the interview part remotely – while an option in person is clearly preferred. Over the remainder of the semester, the students will then in groups select which sections of the interviews to use for their respective podcast episode, write a script (which will also be the basis for the final grading), and record an intro-, outro-, as well as intermediate sections to frame the expert statements. The script writing may be carried out by the students on their own schedule, while every third week, instead of a lecture, a workshop session will be held by Benjamin Lang. During those workshop sessions, the students will be able to work on their scripts, process the interviews, and perform a rough audio edit autonomously in groups under the guidance of the applicant. They will also be familiarized with audio editing software such as Audacity and carry out a rough edit of their podcast episodes themselves, while any fine tuning (such as editing out any undesirable noise) will be one of the main tasks of the dedicated student assistant. The goal is for the students to condense their learned skills into a short podcast episode of ~15 min per topic.
In the final week of the semester, a group session will be held (~2 h), in which all podcast episodes will be presented to the course and will be met with feedback and short discussion. This final presentation in addition to the scripts written by the students will be the basis for the grading. Subsequent to the course, the short episodes will be published on popular podcasting platforms (Spotify, YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spreaker) and also embedded or uploaded to the SCIoI webpage. All invited speakers and attending students will be made aware of the publication of the recorded material prior to the course, and the interviewees will be presented with the final cut of their statements prior to release.