McGill Physics Department and Law Journal join the e-culture

By Marie-Astrid Heyde

Two new series of audio podcasts have recently started to feed McGill iTunes U and AstroPhysics and the McGill Law Journal. They are the first McGill podcasts series created and run by students.

In January, the Physics Department started an astronomy public committee and brainstormed on ideas for public outreach activities.

“It was James Kennedy who suggested the publication of podcasts,” says Sebastien Guillot. PhD students Guillot and Kennedy are co-organizing and co-hosting the productions. Post-doc Ryan Lynch is also part of the initiative. At the beginning, a laptop microphone was the only equipment they had at their disposal. Mike Collicutt, MA Music Technology 2011, soon joined the team as a technical producer, and brought along audio equipment that would improve sound quality and audio editing.

 On-demand research talks

Each Tuesday, a professional researcher from Canada, the US or elsewhere, is invited to talk about his/her research interests as part of a weekly seminar at the Physics Department. Researchers are asked to explain their research and its importance in layman’s terms.

“The goal of these podcasts is to inform the general public about what is being done in very varied fields of astrophysical research. It is working nicely so far as all the interviewees are very enthusiastic about the recordings,” Guillot says.

In addition to the invited speakers, astrophysics professors will soon be interviewed about research being done at McGill.

Recent topics include cosmology and galaxy clusters, nuclear astrophysics and supernova explosions. Last week, Adam Showman, a professor from the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona, talked about extra-solar planets. The recording should be online in the next few days.

 Adapting to today’s formats

The McGill Law Journal is a long-standing publication that promotes the development of legal scholarship. From its start in 1952, the student-run initiative has garnered significant recognition in Canada and around the world. The new podcast series is as an effort “to adapt to today’s e-culture by giving our readership an alternate source for commentary on the latest developments and trends in the law,” says Alexandra Masciuch, Chairperson of the podcast committee.

Will Colish, Editor-in-Chief of Volume 57 of the Journal, introduced the podcast idea last spring.

“The podcast series will be published in addition to, and not in place of, our traditional print scholarship,” stresses Masciuch. Although specific interviews might require some knowledge of legal jargon, the general public should also enjoy the podcasts.

And speaking of language: “The Journal is a bilingual publication, thus reflecting an essential characteristic of the Faculty of Law,” Masciuch says. In keeping with this, the podcasts will be published in either English or French, or in both languages. As for topics, they are chosen based on what the Journal’s podcasts committee thinks will be of interest to its audience.

Professor Roderick Macdonald opened the series with the impact of information technology on law, legal scholarship, litigation and access to justice in the 21st Century. Professor Emeritus Pierre-Gabriel Jobin was interviewed on the Good Samaritan Law, and former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie was invited to talk about corporate accountability.

“We are thrilled that we were able to interview three very prominent figures in the Canadian legal community for our inaugural segments,” adds Masciuch.

The next podcasts will be published next fall by the editorial team from Volume 58. The committee is hoping to record one podcast per month during the entire school year.

To hear the podcasts, check out “Collections” on McGill’s iTunes U site or the “Series” tab at