It is no secret that the lively Čopova Street in Ljubljana offers abundant opportunities for curious researchers to use the “Ask the Audience” lifeline in a real-life version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Picture a lovely sunny afternoon and a researcher holding a notepad with a Yes and No column for keeping track of people’s answers.
R (researcher): “Excuse me, may I have your opinion on something? Do you feel it is fair for the Biotechnical Faculty to spend one million euros per month on salaries?”
SL (startled lady): “Who? Biotechnical what?”
R: “The Biotechnical Faculty, University of…”
SL: “One million euros?! Are you out of your mind?!”
Apart from a researcher who was still pursuing a PhD in biotechnology at the time and whose identity shall remain secret as per journalistic ethical standards, no respondent said yes.
* * *
The Biotechnical Faculty at the University of Ljubljana is a large institution, even said to be larger than the average European university, comprising a number of isolated ivory towers. Although I kept getting asked what my colleagues and I were doing there, I never knew what anyone apart from me and perhaps three friends at the cafeteria was up to. I couldn’t simply hassle other junior researchers with requests for stories since neither they nor I had time to tell them. I kept thinking of an undefined future when I could spare some time for such discussions, not just with the colleagues at the end of the hallway, with physicists and chemists and … (voice begins to crack) sociologists and (gulp!) philosophers. I envisioned a series of audio interviews where I could chat about life, the universe and everything else with up-and-coming Slovene scientists. Interviews with fresh faces that would inspire the public with their compelling, often surprising projects carried out for the public good (and paid for by public funds) in relative isolation and obscurity. A series with which I could help Slovene scientific creativity escape the confines of the tedious and frequently incomprehensible “news and highlights” sections on obscure faculty and institute websites. That was nine months ago. And now, a new life has finally been born (fanfare): Meta PHoDcast.
What’s in a name? “Meta” was chosen because the podcast is hosted by Meta’s List (graphic design by Tanja Radež). “PHoDcast” (coined by Darja Fišer) communicates in a word that the podcasts will feature PhD candidates about to defend their thesis.
This season, which premieres on Thursday 2 October 2014 and will wrap up in May 2015, will feature about thirty 20-minute interviews with researchers from various scientific fields and as many research institutions as possible. Each week, there is a different topic to look forward to, ranging from gluten-free beer-like beverages and lung cancer research to an ethnological approach to urban legends and much more.
There is no shortage of potential guests. Junior researchers funded by the Slovene Research Agency alone number over 1000 at any given moment, with about 200 new junior researchers replacing fresh PhD graduates each year. In 2013, the Slovene Research Agency dedicated over €24 million to their education and research (which allows us to be a little critical of poor public accessibility to data on the subjects and outcomes of their pursuits). In addition, a number of students are employed on a variety of research projects (as was I) or are covering the expenses of their PhD programme from other sources. This makes it impossible to cover the entire range of their research subjects, meaning our selection will necessarily be arbitrary to some extent if research fields, institutions and genders are to be relatively proportionally represented. We naturally welcome any and all suggestions: if you know an interesting young scientist who will have defended their thesis within a year, contact us at email@example.com. You may also respond to the podcasts on the Meta’s List website or find us on Facebook or Twitter (#MetaPHoDcast). Be sure to tune in!
Author: LUKA AUSEC, holds a doctorate in biosciences and can fluently read DNA – and sometimes literature. Enthusiastic about bending the body and the mind in all directions – and sometimes inwards. Enjoys spreading inspiring ideas – sometimes as tweets.
Translated by: Urša Klinc.