25 Days of CoDI: Day 5

On the fifth day of CoDI Gary left me questioning, the safety of cancer screening. 


Gary Kerr: Is Cancer Screening Harmful?


What is your background?

Gary Kerr

I’m a scientist-turned-social scientist and a science communicator. My background is in Genetics. I studied Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow. Following on from Glasgow I gained a PhD in genetics and cell biology from the University of Warwick. Whilst working as a laboratory scientist, I realised that my scientific skills would be best used outside of the lab. So, I became a science communicator and presented science shows in primary schools. I worked for various science festivals but I realised that I missed both the academic freedom and deep critical thinking required in academia.

What do you do now?

I am a Researcher in Science Communication at the University of Salford, Manchester. I research the role of science communication events, such as science festivals, in shaping society and how people view and interact with scientists. Scientists are sometimes seen as elusive and secretive. Consequently one part of my research is looking at how the general public interact with scientists and looking at how that relationship could be improved. Furthermore, I also do freelance science communication work. This includes assuming the roles of presenter, trainer, curator, producer and manager at various science festivals across the UK – this is very important for my research. In order to understand the society and sub-culture which I study, I need to immerse myself in that world so that I can see and understand that world (and thus critique it) through the eyes of that sub-culture.

 How does your CoDI talk fit with your research?

My CoDI talk combines my previous experience in Medical Genetics with my current research in the social dimensions of science and technology. As a result, it fits in perfectly with my research. So I really want to use the show to examine the relationship between scientists and the public. I want to  question what it means to be an ‘expert’ giving ‘expert advice’.

I want to understand why we don’t question expert advice in some cases, but completely disregard it in other cases.


Why are you participating in CoDI 2016?

I participated in CoDI in 2014, and questioned whether or not designer babies were a slippery slope for society. This was an interesting event as there was so much audience debate and discussion. We manged to change the mind of 3 people in the event. Initially they were very clearly against having designer babies. They did however come round to the idea of it, so long as it was properly regulated and not used for cosmetic purposes. I’m interested in this format of event from a research angle: How can scientists best engage the public to inform and engage with complex topics?

What are you looking forward to most from CoDI?

I’m very much looking forward to playing devil’s advocate. I will be throwing out facts and figures and challenging people’s opinions on blindly believing scientific claims.

I want to challenge people to go out to the world and ask for evidence when they hear claims about medicine and science. And of course, I’m looking forward to a bit of banter on stage with the wonderful Susan Morrisson!

Gary’s show takes place on Monday 8th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:  http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/104/performance/1539/book-tickets

Gary Cancer Screening