How to podcast for researchers
1. What is podcasting?
Watch this animation to get a brief overview of podcasting; it illustrates the concept of podcasting in several stages. It is an homage to the In Plain English series created by common craft.
Podcasting (a bit more technical):
A Podcast is a file (typically consisting of audio but can contain video or other information) that is uploaded to the internet and published. When the file is published it is combined with an an RSS XML file; the file is actually given it's own URL which is inserted into an RSS file within an XML tag.
Now that the podcast exists it can be registered with content aggregators (such as iTunes - more on how to register with iTunes later), this enables potential listeners to find and subscribe to the podcast. The content aggregator will alert them when a new episode is available.
I asked Jen Gupta, a third year PhD student in the school of Physics and Astronomy, what she got out of taking part in the Jodcast (A podcast from Jodrell bank, setup by a group of Postgraduate Researchers in the school of Physics and Astronomy).
Transcript: The Jodcast was the first public engagement I'd done, I am now the person who will go up and do something, I will volunteer myself for more things, I have now become the chair of the postgraduate committee because I am seen as the person who will get things done. It's also provided a really good opportunity to just go and talk to people, so I think that as a PhD student I can quite often feel intimidated about going and talking to a senior member of staff especially if they are visiting here from somewhere else, they want to talk to their friend who are staff members here and things like that. The Jodcast gives me a reason to go to talk to them, you never feel stupid, because you can always say can you explain that for the listeners - even if you don't understand it yourself you lie, and say "just for the benefit of the listeners could you explain that a little bit more. I have met so many people and hopefully I will get to the point where I can go to any Astrophysics department in the country and hopefully know someone there. Its a really good way to network.
Jen told me that podcasting has increased her confidence, improved her communication skills and given her opportunities to network. Involvement in the Jodcast and other public engagement activities, has enabled Jen to raise her profile:
“Its good because, we have got so many students here, staff don’t always know who everyone are, but they definitely know who I am. So from that point of view its good because you don’t want to be the anonymous student who just does their studies, and then leaves, and then you want to get a job but noone can think who you are.”
“The professors don’t come and say you guys should do a podcast on this. For one thing it was entirely our own idea to start it. We felt like it was something that the department would benefit from…we pick the topics we want…we get the people involved…we work a little bit with a budget. We don’t have money of our own but we are able to ask for money from professors [in our department] and these are all things that you are going to need to learn to do, because you will need to do all these things if you are trying to start up a research programme of your own and you don’t have professor doing that work for you”.
But more important than any of that stuff is that...
It's fun; talking about stuff that you are interested in with like minded people is an enjoyable activity, and it is probably something you do already - most of you will have friends and colleagues that you talk about your research with, creating a podcast can be an extension of that. It is an opportunity to share your passion for your subject with other people, to learn more about your field of research, and to create something that other people will enjoy.
Gavin McMeeking on the barometer:
"Its what we like to do, we study this stuff anyway, we spend most of our days thinking about it, talking about it. We have these conversations anyway."