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Czech Television’s Stach to young scientists: Our doors are wide open

How to present scientific knowledge to the general public and how to cooperate with mass media in bringing science closer to masses? Czech Television’s science section presenter Daniel Stach discussed these issues with young scientists at a panel hosted by CEITEC.

Daniel Stach talked to young scientists at CEITEC courtyard.

“We like doctoral programme students and postdocs the most because they tend to be as close to research as one can get,” Stach said of why he seeks cooperation with these categories of scientists. He encouraged them to actively present their work and to look for ways to communicate with non-experts. “Is Terezka going to understand this?” he claims to have asked himself when reporting on the recent pandemic, referring to his teenage niece. “Talk to highschoolers about your work. Your goal should be to make them ask questions and convince at least one of them that working with you is a good idea. If you fail at doing so, you are doing it wrong. And then visit an elementary school and try to make pupils ask questions,” he offers a method of bringing science to the general public.

Daniel Stach is the youngest laureate of the Vojtěch Náprstek medal “For achievements in the popularisation of science” of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

As Stach added, complex issues in science must be simplified and explained within the context of daily life – an example of which is explaining sizes in football pitches or car weights; even though journalists often amuse themselves by having to do so. “If you feel like you have oversimplified something, go even further,” he recommends. “And use Twitter so that you get noticed,” he quipped, commenting on social media activities.

Daniel Stach is particularly famous for Czech Television’s programme Hyde Park Civilizace in which he has interviewed 34 Nobel Prize laureates. “It is the flagship of our sections; however we produce approximately two hundred pieces per month targeted at the general public. “Science is all around,” he notes and adds that science-themed articles rank among the most popular articles on Czech Television’s website. “In our experience, when things are happening people turn to ČT24 because they find us trustworthy,” the presenter says; as his department is typically involved in the production of day-to-day news and is in charge of statements and quotes by scientists to current events.

Daniel Stach and Tibor Füzik in a laboratory.

And how should science be presented to the general public? Tibor Füzik who is a CEITEC expert in cryogenic electron microscopy of viruses gave it a try when, in cooperation with Stach, he participated in the production of a short video in which he introduced lab equipment and the scope of his research. “It is important for scientists to bring their field of science to masses; most grants are paid from public budgets. So it is important to present science to ordinary people in ways they will understand,” says Tibor Füzik. Indeed, he would be interested in learning how to explain what he does to the general public. “Daniel Stach’s work is inspirational in terms of how to explain complex issues in very understandable terms,” he notes.

“The first step is always the hardest, but the capabilities Daniel presented are definitely worth trying,” says Josef Houser, Head of the Biomolecular Interactions and Crystallography Core Facility. Kamila Weissová from the Department of Histology and Embryology of the Faculty of Medicine says she appreciates how Czech Television’s science section acknowledges young scientists. “I feel like not enough space is given to PhD students or postdocs despite the fact that they have the passion and energy. And genuine interest could really motivate them even more,” Weissová says, adding that the popularisation of science is a key issue for her as well. “I am aware of certain responsibilities towards society, and I would be interested in talking about my work because I think it is really interesting.”

Attendees were keen to know how Daniel prepares for broadcasting or what he thinks about AI.

Daniel Stach gave her and other young scientists a signal that there is room for them at Czech Television. “Do not hesitate to give me a call,” he said repeatedly, having given the attendees his phone number. He also shared a few bits of information about the world of television, as well as about himself – such as shoe size, or the fact that he does not have a TV in his apartment, or that ChatGPT wrote that he hosts Večerníček – quite the honour, as he says – or the name of his cat who made sure Daniel would not oversleep his commitment. “Our door is wide open and I hope you will take the opportunity,” he finished off with a repeated invitation for cooperation.