• “I saw you on the news!”

      I raised an eyebrow at Markus. I came to Vienna to present my research, but this happened on the first day of the #EGU17 conference.

      “You walked in your poster suit at the Science March, right?”

      I did. I arrived in Vienna early enough so I could join the #marchForScience. I could have walked the march in Amsterdam, but needed to be in Vienna for the EGU General Assembly. Since I would be wearing my suit made out of old academic posters at this conference, it only felt normal to also wear it at the science march. That is how my old research made it onto the Austrian news1 before I even presented my actual research.

      The EGU General Assembly is one of the highlights of my academic year: I get to meet colleagues from all over the world: old friends and new faces. I get to learn about the latest developments in geosciences months (sometimes years) before they appear in the academic literature. I get to partake in the social, educational and outreach events that add even more glitter to this already good week.

      These social, educational and outreach events emphasise that being a researcher is about more than doing research. At EGU there are sessions where senior scientists give advice on how to write a research proposal, grand debates on how young scientists careers should be evaluated, and even workshops on how to communicate your research as poems, followed by the (in)famous poetry slam at the final party on Friday.

      Two particular events made my week. “How me water research made the news” and “What if”

      Revenge of the Nerds

      “How do you always pull it of?” is something I get asked a lot when my research is featured in the media. In the “How my research made the news” session, I got the opportunity to explain my thoughts. I titled my talk “Revenge of the Nerds, how playing Dungeons and Dragons prepared me for the age of narrative driven science journalism”. Tim was so kind to record my talk, so you can watch it below.

      Before you watch it, I do have to mention a brilliant thing that Anna Solcerova mentioned in the same session. Her research made the news big time during EGU and she said that even if you do everything right, follow all the advice given, you still need to be lucky. I think she is absolutely right and looking back: boy did I get lucky.

      After my talk, we played a few games of "No sleep tonight". A simple game in which you create stories together. Chris Skinner made two cool 360 degrees videos of that. Part 1, Part 2.


      I communicate with a lot of scientists using twitter and conferences are a good place to finally meet face to face. Last year I finally met @IAmHazelGibson and @geomechsteph. This year I shook hands with @profIainStewart and @Mceep. Mceep, normally called Matthew Partridge, I know from the webcomic ErrantScience. At EGU I learned he is also a chemist and now we're writing a research proposal together. Matthew, being well versed in nerd-culture, drew this in-joke riddled comic about my talk.


      A killer beer

      Another highlight was the “What if?” session, where scientists are asked to take an extreme idea and calculate it’s consequences with a straight face. This is based on the popular "What if?" columns by XKCD creator Randell Munroe. Our contribution was conceived while drinking Friday afternoon beers with our students. Bart mentioned “you know there is a beer made from rainwater collected from a roof?” At least two people reacted instantly: “Imagine what would happen if we did that with all roofs…”

      We did the math. A group of eight PhDs and MSc students each got a separate topic: how much rain? how much roof area? What is the impact on sewers, health care, economy? All were answering the question: “what would happen if all the water that falls on roofs in Amsterdam is used to make beer?”. In the mean time, I contacted the brewer of this rainwater beer. Thursday we not only presented a poster made by a collection of  students from Delft, but I now also have a brewer as co-author. We had a large crowd at our poster, potentially explained by the fact we brought the actual beer to be served at out poster.

      Poster made by eight students and me on impact of turning all the rain over roofs in Amsterdam into beer.

      Poster made by PhDs, MSc students and me on impact of turning all the rain over roofs in Amsterdam into beer. PDF (5MB).

      The beer production in the Netherlands would double from the rain collected on Amsterdam roofs alone. If consumed locally in Amsterdam everyone aged fifteen and up would need to drink eight liters of beer a day.  A lot of people would die, either due to acute alcohol poisoning or slowly due to increased beer bellies. Truly a killer-beer. It tastes amazing though.

      A killer party

      So there you have it. The week started by making the news with my old research (posters). I talked about how I made the news using Dungeons and Dragons. We presented beer related calculations. When everything was done, we read our poems at the poetry slam and said goodbye to Vienna by partying till the break of dawn at the conveners party. EGU, Vienna, colleagues: you were amazing and I look forward to working, laughing, talking and partying with you at #EGU18.

      1 I tried to find the item that Markus must have seen on the Austrian news, but couldn't find it. If anyone has the footage, I'd love to get a screenshot.