Five years of #pintNL
Organising #pint22, I came to the realisation that it would be my fifth Pint of Science Netherlands. Well, I guess the past two years have been an interesting time to organise science communication events (although, a very important time to continue outreach to the general public). Regardless, I have had the tremendous opportunity to steer the Pint of Science Netherlands organisation and work with fantastic volunteers from across the Netherlands for the past five #pintNL events.
Wrapping up of this year’s events brought me much joy as, while there were some cobwebs to be dusted, we were able to engage with the general public across seven cities over 23 events in three days in the Netherlands. Talking to attendees, I can share in their excitement how one is able to understand new topics previously thought outside their comfort zone and delightfully engage in further discussions. After organising events from my house for the past two editions of #pintNL, I was thrilled to be back.
So, how did this journey begin?
Kickstarting Pint of Science Netherlands
It all started with a phone call to Pint of Science UK on organising an event in London for work. Seeing as there was no Pint of Science set up in the Netherlands, I was rather easily swayed to pick up the task of organising the events (seeing as I had some experience during my time in London). Well, I was too easily swayed ;)
Pint of Science Netherlands was set-up in February 2018, which gave me roughly three months to organise a team to find venues and speakers, promote events and ensure that there was enough traction to keep the ball rolling for the coming years. Looking back, this chaotic period was exciting and watching the events unfold for the first time in the Netherlands is something that I will always cherish. We started with four events across three cities (Amsterdam, Utrecht and Wageningen) with a team of five volunteers. To our delight, the audience was fully engaged with our events - there was even one night where people ended up discussing the talks until 2 am in the morning (and the bar had to kick them out!).
Building on our initial success
Building from the success of #pint18, the organisation for the following year’s event began in earnest. From the three initial cities, we grew to eight cities (Groningen, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Eindhoven and Den Haag joining in on the festivities) and were organising events with 100+ volunteers. I took the time then to visit each city to meet with all the city coordinators and volunteers. One, to walk through the process of organising an event but to also state my thanks for dedicating their time and effort to helping out in science communication.
To my delight, #pint19 was a resounding success with 38 events across the eight cities. The cherry on top of the sundae was that there were 12 events organised in Dutch. From my name and how I am writing this in English, you can see that I am not a native Dutch speaker. My Dutch was rather poor then and it is a bit better currently. Well, good enough to talk on the radio and host an event in Dutch (but still not good enough to make a Dutch version of this summary!).
Since our initiation, I have stressed the importance of organising events in Dutch. As our aim is to conduct science communication (wetenschapscommunicatie), events in Dutch would help bridge the gap better between the presenting researchers and the general public. I mean, we are organising the events in the Netherlands - there should at least be some events in Dutch!
Pint of Science Netherlands didn’t hit a sophomore slump and were quickly gaining traction for #pint20. We were looking to expand to two new cities (Leiden and Rotterdam) and were making headway to reach half the events organised in Dutch.
Then COVID19 hit.
It was rather surreal watching it slowly unfold and encapsulate everything. From research to work to Pint of Science, everything was turned upside down. It was hard to keep things tied together then. I was wondering how to communicate effectively to teams to take care of themselves first, as the strain on peoples’ mental health was heightened in the period of uncertainty.
Of course, in times of adversity, the opportunity arises to attempt something new. In conjunction with other Pint of Science countries, the Pint of Science Netherlands team transitioned to organising online content. While it was a steep learning curve for us, the success we had in organising online events (dubbed #pintNLthuis) has been a highlight for me this past couple of years.
We are back live (?)
Entering 2022, the Netherlands was in a rather strange situation compared to its European neighbours, as we were the only country in Europe in lockdown. This also put a strain on whether we would be able to organise live events in May, as the uncertainty of how long the lockdown would last weighed heavily on our mind.
Luckily, the lockdown did not last long into the year. Our kick off meeting in February was exhilarating. Although there was some crunch time faced by the teams, I was happily surprised how invigorated everyone was to get back to organising events live. I mentioned that due to time constraints and expected laggardness to transition back to live events to not push themselves to organise too many events. I guess that had a reverse effect on everyone as I was delightfully surprised by the eagerness to organise live events. In the end, we had 23 events across three days, which was far more than I had ever imagined for this year. It was, truely, a remarkable effort by the volunteers to get everything organised for #pint22.
Musings on the past five #pintNL events
For those unaware, coordinating Pint of Science Netherlands is a voluntary position. For the majority of the period I have been managing Pint of Science Netherlands, I have also been working in biotech companies and pursuing my PhD. A bit nuts? Yes, but that’s another story.
Watching how the organisation has been able to scale-up from a handful of volunteers to a nationwide network of driven young researchers has been a crowning achievement for me. There have been trials and tribulations (COVID19 and non-COVID19 related) but being able to work together with driven individuals has kept me going for the past four and a half years. While it has not been always gone smoothly (especially in delivering blog posts that I keep on promising to Eline or my never-ending battle with the Wix platform to get the website presentable), I have been extremely lucky to have a group of volunteers patient with me and supporting me to continue the work with Pint of Science Netherlands. I definitely would not have been able to continue this work without you.
Extending my never ending gratitude to everyone who made it possible
While I have the pleasure of writing this piece of looking back on #pintNL events, its ongoing success would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of each and every volunteer that has given countless hours to organising their events. As we have an open door policy for helping out at our events, I have met dozens of dedicated young researchers, eager to bring the latest research to the general public in an accessible manner. To previous and current volunteers, thank you for everything.
Naturally, my gratitude also extends to the speakers of our events. While giving talks to an academic audience is commonplace for researchers, having to adjust your talk to fit an audience who may be completely unaware of what you do is a daunting task. I guess having a pint before the talks help with the nerves, so it is a good thing we are organising these events in bars! Nevertheless, thank you for accepting our invitations to give these talks in a gezellig environment. I hope it has been as fun for you as it has been for us to host you.
As we are a non-for-profit organisation, we would not have been able to continue organising these events without our dedicated sponsors, some of who have been supporting us for multiple years. We look to keep our events accessible to everyone by hosting the events for free (or providing a drink if we incur a ticket cost). Therefore, without your sponsorship, we would not have been able to grow as much as we have. It is an honour to be supported by organisations and institutions that believe science should be accessible to everyone, regardless of education background.
Last but not least, I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, the audience for attending our events for the past five years. While some of you may have been dragged by volunteers to attend events, I have had the pleasure to meet audience members who were just curious about the topic and decided to attend. As we look to continue organising events (hopefully to more cities and more events in Dutch), your participation ensures the work we undertake builds towards tearing down ivory towers and make science accessible to everyone who is interested. Thank you.
I hope to continue to be part of Pint of Science’s journey to bring science to the general public for years to come (even perhaps to have the opportunity to write a ‘look back from 10 years of #pintNL’). And I hope to have the opportunity to be able to chat with you, our audience, at an upcoming event to share in your excitement of learning about something new from our speakers.
On behalf of Pint of Science Netherlands