Popularisation of scientific research is currently one of the major challenges related to the social impact of universities’ activities. “Translating” complicated jargon into a language understandable to broader audiences can be considered a separate area of work within academia. It turns out that research communication can be trustworthy, reliable and engaging, and examples of outstanding work in this area should be watched with particular care. Dr Piotr Rzymski works in the Department of Environmental Medicine at the Poznan University of Medical Sciences and has won the Grant Prize in the Popularizer of Science 2021 competition.
Resistance to ignoring science
The competition is organised by the Science in Poland platform of the Polish Press Agency foundation, and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. This year, the gala was held for the 17th time, and the chairman of the competition jury was Prof. Michal Kleiber. The number of applications confirms the prestige of the competition, and among the awarded so far there are: Lower Silesian Science Festival, Prof. Malgorzata Kozlowska-Wojciechowska and the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, to name just a few. This competition has an unusual form, because it awards scientists, people working in the media, social activists, but also institutions that share a passion for spreading knowledge about science and the latest discoveries in this field.
While receiving the Grant Prize, Dr Rzymski uttered words that will be remembered for a long time: “We live in a society where some make virtue out of spitting on science, and others intentionally ignore it for their own economic or political capital. (…). Thus, popularising science is not about awards, prestige, fame or media coverage. Popularising science is a better today and a calmer tomorrow”. His work proves this perfectly, because from the beginning of the pandemic he has been explaining issues related to SARS-CoV-2 in an easy and simple to understand way.
The award received by Dr. Rzymski is the crowning acknowledgement of the entire work related to the popularisation of science, which Dr. Rzymski has been doing for years. The pandemic enabled him to develop even more in the field of disseminating scientific knowledge. His media statements are very popular – he has given over 700 of them since March 2020 – he often educates, comments and explains doubts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was for this commitment and the enormous contribution that he put into spreading scientific knowledge that the competition jury awarded him with the main prize. The laureate is the author of over 90 publications in Tygodnik Polityka, runs a blog titled “To heart through stomach”, cooperates with representatives of each generation, and is also an expert of the “Science against pandemic” initiative. His tireless enthusiasm for popularising scientific knowledge has been finally noticed and appreciated.
Fighting fake news
In a short interview he gave on the occasion of the event, he emphasized the importance of combating fake news. He said that “most fake news is very easy to disprove if you are deeply rooted in science and use it every day.” He highlighted the importance of developing the ability to “challenge various arguments that are not produced on the basis of scientific evidence.” He also reminded us that science needs time to answer questions that bother many people, because “it needs time to conduct research and to characterise a new phenomenon”.
Awards were also granted in the following categories:
Scientist – Dr Anna Losiak from the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Animator – Adam Zbyryt
Team – 3LAB – an innovation lab of High School no. 3 in Gdynia
Institution – Popularization of Science faculty at the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice
Media – Dr Lukasz Lamza
Popularizer of Science is the oldest and most prestigious competition in Poland, which awards scholars, media people, institutions and social activists, whose passion is to share knowledge and uncover the mysteries of modern science for those not associated with the academic community.