Posted by: Kash Farooq | November 10, 2013

Can you explain your PhD to a layperson?

Update: This is now officially a “thing”. Dozens of speakers have already volunteered to explain their PhD to a bunch a people in a pub. Head over to the PubhD blog for more information.

Can you explain you PhD to a layperson?

Can you explain your PhD to a layperson?

At the end of a recent Nottingham Skeptics talk, a few of us were discussing ideas for future events. We weren’t trying to come up with different talks and subjects areas, but completely different formats. We thought getting PhD students to practice for upcoming vivas by explaining their thesis to an audience like us would make an interesting event.

After further conversations, Regan and I refined this. It wouldn’t really be viva practice for the PhD students – at a viva, students would be speaking to experts in their field of study, not laypeople like us.

So, here is our idea:


Can you explain your PhD to a layperson?


A monthly event at which 3 or 4 local PhD student speakers, from any discipline from Art History to Quantum Mechanics, would explain their work to a layperson. The talks would be about 10 minutes long and would be followed by up to 20 minutes of (friendly!) Q&A.

The “friendly” aspect is important. This isn’t about bringing PhD students into a “lion’s den” to be grilled about their studies. The audience, we hope, will be genuinely interested in hearing about a wide variety of academic areas.

What the PhD students get out of it

A pint!

Plus public speaking and public engagement practice.

What the audience gets out of it

Something interesting to listen to on a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday night (the days of the week when we should be able to get a pub room for free).


We want to make this as cheap as possible. We’d get in touch with local universities for the PhD students (so the travel costs will be low). And we would just have a whip-round to buy each of the speakers a pint. Perhaps, £1 into a pint glass passed around?


We don’t think this event fits under the “Skeptics In The Pub” banner. It’s actually similar to Science Showoff, but is not restricted to science. There are PhDs in all disciplines, so this event would be for all disciplines. Plus the format is different from the “Showoff” events (e.g. there will be a Q&A at this event).

So, we need a new name. Some ideas to get you thinking:

  • PhD and a Pint (from Suze)
  • Pint of PhD (from Suze)
  • PhD in the Pub (from me)
  • #PubPhD (from me, h/t #PubSci)
  • Doc-chat (from Regan)
  • PubhD (from Xamonas Chegwé)
  • Viva Imbiber (from Yves van Gennip)

I think PubhD is my favourite at the moment.

Over to you…

So, what do you think? Do you think it will work? Has this already been done?

As a layperson, would you go to such an event? As a PhD student, would you be willing to speak at such an event?

If there is positive feedback, I’ll approach the local universities to see if they are interested (and would be able to provide, say, 3-4 students per month).

And what should we call it?!

[Image adapted from images created by Wiki Commons users Will Murray (Willscrlt) and Stannered]


There is sufficient interest from an audience perspective, so we’ve gone with the name PubhD (thanks Xamonas!) and started a blog.

Now we just need to find some speakers. So, if you are a PhD student, or post-doc, and are interested in explaining your work to an audience of laypeople in exchange for a pint or two, please contact us!


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