Sing-song Physics: science stories, told by you

6 September 2018

Catchy songs are great way to make a message ‘stick’, but can we use song to enthuse young people about science? What if they’re the ones writing the songs?

At three local events this summer, three researchers (Nathan Adams, Dr Neil Bowles, and Dr Donal Hill) teamed up with songwriter, Jonny Berliner, and 537 local residents to create three brand new songs based on current physics research at the University, covering distant galaxies, planetary science and particle physics.

A new engagement format was developed that introduced young people to the Department’s science and research using intriguing and illuminating hands-on activities and demos presented by researchers, before they were invited to help Jonny write songs that were then performed at the end of the day – including closing the Roar Stage at Cowley Road Carnival.

The songs were shared online, credited to the residents of Oxford, reaching over 90,000 people to date. Young people had the chance to see and hear science as never-before, meet researchers face-to-face and explore fascinating science projects.

The project found that crowd-generated song-writing is an effective way of introducing and involving young people and their influencers to science; and songwriting was an activity that they particularly enjoyed. The project also served as a way to develop and reinforce the participating researchers’ communication and engagement skills.

Michaela Livingstone-Banks, project coordinator and Public Engagement Facilitator, also points out that “There are now three new, incredibly catchy songs about physics research that members of the public and researchers alike can feel a sense of ownership of – and that we can share to keep the engagement going.”. The songs are available to view here: https://www.oxfordsparks.ox.ac.uk/writtenbyyou

Prof Chris Lintott is the PI for Sing-song Physics and the project is funded by the University of Oxford’s Public Enagement with Research Seed Fund 2017/18. The seed fund is now open again for applications, deadline Wednesday 15 October 2018. More information here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/research/public-engagement/support-researchers.