“Bench Talk: The Week in Science” celebrated its fifth year on Louisville’s Forward Radio (WFMP-LP, 106.5 FM) in its usual way: by treating its listeners to entertaining and informative reports from the world of science.
Bench Talk host Dave Robinson marked the occasion with a show focused on noteworthy scientific advances that unfolded over the course of years on a common date: August 28, the same day the episode was broadcast. (Among the accomplishments highlighted on the episode: On Aug. 28, 1845, the first edition of Scientific American magazine was published; on Aug. 28, 1884, the first known photo of a tornado was made near Howard, South Dakota; and on August 28, 1909 paleontologist Charles Walcott discovered the Burgess Shale fossils in the Canadian Rockies.)
Robinson began the episode that marked the five-year anniversary with a comment on Bench Talk’s longevity.
“Considering that the median podcaster only produces 12 episodes and is on the air only about six months before they quit in frustration, our 178 episodes produced steadily over the past five years is something we are proud of,” he said.
We asked Robinson to reflect on the accomplishments of Bench Talk and he sent the following thoughtful reply:
“There are at least three common misconceptions about science that we wanted to address in our radio show: 1) the general public often assumes that STEM is too difficult for them to understand, 2) they think that STEM is dull and boring, and 3) they don’t see the relevance of science in their daily lives. I believe that our radio show and podcast is doing a good job of grappling with these misconceptions. We try to discuss a wide variety of STEM topics, as well as science policy and science-education issues. In addition, to reporting on the latest scientific discoveries we have also tried to provide a balanced and rational voice on controversial topics like gun violence, climate change and the environment, COVID-19 conspiracy theories, science issues facing the Kentucky Legislature, police shootings, economic inequality, race/gender/sexual orientation issues, sports accidents, and sustainable agriculture.
We always envisioned ‘Bench Talk’ to be a collaboration with researchers and academicians from a wide variety of STEM disciplines within the natural sciences, mathematics and social sciences. No one person can be an expert on all of these disciplines! We have featured at least 89 different scientists, or science-communicators on our show over the past five years. Our most gratifying collaboration has been with the Kentucky Academy of Science through the ‘Bench Talk Live’ series, as well as stories (or interviews with professional and student scientists) by KAS officers like J Scott Miller, Amanda Fuller, and Rob Weber.
We believe that scientists have unique skills, experiences, and perspectives that the general public can benefit from hearing. Whether its things like reviewing the current literature, or describing how to set up a laboratory experiment and analyze data, or discussing the ethics of a science controversy, I feel that STEM professionals have a responsibility to communicate with the general public. We can’t be silent in the face of unsound thinking or misinformation. So if any scientists out there want to try their hand at science communication, let me know!”
You can listen to the latest “Bench Talk” or check out the show’s archives at: https://www.forwardradio.org/bench-talk