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Students make podcasts about micro- and bioplastics

Four Master's students Science Communication & Society made two podcasts on the theme Plastic for the end project of their study programme. With the podcasts, they helped the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) to draw attention to plastic pollution. And that was harder than it seemed. 'Be sure to test the microphone before you sit down with a guest.’

Challenge

For the three-week final project of the master's specialisation Science Communication & Society, students could choose from various assignments. The group of Ilse Klop, Ramón van Doorn, Alexander Halksworth and Sija van den Beukel choose the project of the IBL. ‘Han de Winde and Arthur Ram challenged us to bring plastic pollution to the attention of a wide audience,’ says Sija van den Beukel. ‘We had to communicate how microorganisms can contribute to solutions for this problem and, where possible, bring about a change in attitude and behaviour. This seemed like a useful goal, which also fitted in nicely with our study backgrounds’.

The students, from left to right: Ilse Klop, Sija van den Beukel, Alexander Halksworth en Ramón van Doorn

Two podcasts

The group decided to make a podcast because they are becoming more and more popular. ‘It's also a good way to delve deeper into a subject and let an expert in the field speak directly to the public,’ says Van den Beukel. The group made a podcast in both English and Dutch.

In the Dutch podcast, PhD candidate Tom Nederstigt of the Institute of Environmental Sciences Leiden talks about microplastics. In the English podcast, PhD candidate Gerben Stouten of the Delft University of Technology explains how he uses bacteria to produce bioplastics from wastewater. 'We experimented with street interviews in the Dutch podcast and with a storytelling form in English,' adds Van den Beukel. In the podcast, the group also provides tips on what people can do to combat plastic pollution themselves.

A specialised skill

Making a good podcast turned out to be a specialised skill. The students learned a lot from the project. Van den Beukel: ‘In the end, we adapted our target group. The threshold to listen to a podcast is high for people if they are not interested in a certain subject. We have therefore adapted our target group to a higher educated audience that wants to know more about plastic pollution’.

The students would also like to make any future podcast more personal. For example, by getting to know the scientists a little better by calling or speaking to them beforehand. The interviewer could also interrupt or reformulate more often if the researcher makes his or her story too complicated. ‘On top of that, we realised how important the quality of the microphone is,' concludes Van den Beukel. The microphone of one of the interviewed investigators makes it sound like we were sitting in a bathroom. So: always take a test before sitting down with a guest...'.

 

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