David Reffkin was the producer and host of Static Limit, an internationally recognized radio program featuring 65 comprehensive interviews with renowned theoretical, experimental, and observational researchers in astrophysics, particle physics and cosmology.
The following proposal describes an expansion of Static Limit toward a permanent position in a research, university or commercial setting:
PROPOSAL: ARCHIVAL QUALITY RECORDED INTERVIEWS ON COSMOLOGY, ASTROPHYSICS AND PARTICLE PHYSICS FOR ACADEMIC, RESEARCH AND COMMERCIAL ORGANIZATIONS
The general public, even those especially interested in science, rarely hear physicists speak about their own work. Usually the context is a prepared public lecture or a short segment on radio or television. Most of the relevant Internet audio and video clips are replications of these types of events.
I believe that broadcast (and Netcast) of conversational interviews, based on a fully scientific footing, but delivered within a more casual, personable discussion, increases the public’s
- understanding of the work
- perception of its meaning and value
- potential support for it
In some cases, participation in the program satisfies a requirement for research grant recipients who must present their work to the public.
Static Limit was a radio series I launched in 2003, airing on KUSF-FM (University of San Francisco) and Netcast. The guest list was comprised mostly of renowned theoretical, experimental and observational physicists. The extraordinarily positive reactions of the audience and the guests themselves encouraged me to broaden the scope and outreach of this program and offer it to the community of physics departments and organizations.
I propose to more formally extend this program, beyond radio broadcasting, to a format that is suitable for permanent, accessible archiving. With an audience of both the public at large and the scientific community in particular, I see these possibilities as important and worthy of consideration:
- An ongoing series of recorded conversations, documenting current research and trends
- A panel conversation with two or three physicists who work in a particular area with differing approaches
- A series of interviews with certain researchers over extended periods, documenting progress over time
The final product of these recordings could take several forms: airplay on radio stations and the Net, part of a new or established archive, Web or cloud storage, an educational resource, e-book publication, or sold in a commercial setting. This is open to modification and I welcome ideas by physicists and administrators.
Regarding broadcast interviews with physicists, it appears there are too few that include discussions with theoreticians, experimentalists and other researchers. Their inherent difficulty with in-depth presentations is the need for commercial interruptions, restricting discussion to the current “hot” topic, listener call-ins, and added guests.
My programs are founded on principles that encourage extended, meaningful conversation. I present the guests as interesting people who happen to work in science. For example, we may talk about other parts of their lives that have some interesting influence on their career. These qualities would be retained in the development of this proposal:
- uninterrupted, naturally flowing conversations, typically 60 to 90 minutes
- the ability to redirect the conversation as inspiration and interesting topics arise
- consideration of both the immediacy of information and the long-term value of the interview
- awareness of the need to give listeners attainable intellectual challenges
Segments of the audience are among the readership of peer-reviewed journals as well as popular books and magazines, though some undoubtedly pursue little reading in these areas. I present shows that satisfy the curiosity of this diverse listenership, with the goal of offering a chance for everyone to learn about science (and perhaps about life beyond science) from each guest.
To create these programs I would visit the participating institution (or another appropriate setting) to record the interviews either as session recordings or in a public panel discussion format. The choice of recording technician and equipment would be determined by the nature of the event and the location. I would edit the recording (as I always do, to delete lulls, false starts, etc. – not for editorial content). The remaining post-production would be handled in-house or contracted out, depending on the directions that the series will take – broadcast, archive, Webcast, educational or commercial distribution.
I would receive a negotiated fee plus expenses per program, measured by units of time or in a contract retainer. The final distribution routes and products would partly determine the fee, and a royalty or “further use” scale would be set. (To this point I have been producing Static Limit on a voluntary basis.)
Additional costs would probably be minimal, given the availability at most institutions of recording equipment and a technician. Alternatively, I could operate the recording equipment.
My formal training/career is in music. Many of my professional and volunteer efforts extend over decades of service. Numerous leadership positions reflect a long history of responsibility and loyalty to employers and clients, always maintaining a creative, disciplined and highly organized nature. For example, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people, producing broadcast and published pieces that will be interesting and relevant in the long term. These qualities are retained in the Static Limit series.
In an increasingly difficult environment for the music business, I succeed because of absolute dedication to completing high-quality work on time and the firm belief in commitment to an agreement. To further my education and professionalism in science journalism, I occasionally attend important conferences and colloquia.