PCU Popular Writing Retreat, 5-7 May 2017

11 May 2017 - 13:30

Over the weekend, a group of Plant Conservation Unit (PCU) postgraduate students and staff attended the first-ever PCU popular writing retreat, held at Rainbow Glen self-catering cottages in the peaceful town of Montagu in the Western Cape. The aim of the retreat was for each attendee to produce a product (written/ drawn/ recorded etc.) that effectively communicates their research to the public. The importance of communicating our science more generally emerged during the five-year review of the PCU held in November 2016. Our writing retreat was an attempt to address this need.

Shortly after arriving, the team gathered to share their individual objectives for the weekend. It was a round table setting in which each person obtained feedback on their idea(s) from the others. The retreat was designed to discuss, brainstorm and produce various different outputs to communicate our research to the general public in fun, effective and useful ways. The team then had a day and a half to produce either an outline of their work or a draft product, on which the rest of the team could give further feedback before heading home. It wasn't all work, however, as we got to enjoy a short hike up a koppie where we had a great view of the town and surrounds. 

Outputs from this weekend will be published through a variety of platforms including popular science articles in issues like Quest or Veld & Flora, newspaper articles, eye-catching leaflets and infographics, video tutorials and YouTube videos which will be disseminated to various stakeholders in farming areas, local communities, schools, policy and government, citizen science and social media realm.

Overall, it was a challenging, thought-provoking and informative process as each attendee navigated through their expectations and various ideas to popularise their research, allowing a space for creativity to flow into the science. The weekend also gave a chance to interact with each other in a more informal setting and we hope to organise something similar in the future.

From left to right (back): Prof. Timm Hoffman (Director of the PCU), Yolanda Chirango, Glynis Humphrey, Sam Jack (first pic) or James Puttick (second pic), Zander Venter, Samantha Venter & Carien Kleinjan
Seated left to right: Cherie Forbes & Gina Arena

Timm pointing to Rainbow Glen (green roofs closest to the koppie)

Rainbow Glen self-catering cottages, Montagu

View of Montagu from the Koppie

On the bridge! From left to right: Gina Arena, Glynis Humphrey, Sam Jack, Carien Kleinjan, Timm Hoffman, Zander Venter, Samantha Venter, Cherie Forbes & Yolanda Chirango

~ Article written by Gina Arena & Samantha Venter & images supplied by James Puttick