With new TV series, COSI, WOSU 'quite easily demonstrated' science literacy

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
"QED with Dr. B" host Dr. Frederic Bertley (right) is shown with Dr. Thomas Wittum, professor and chair of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the series' first episode, "Bacteria, Superbugs and Antibodies." Bertley and Wittum are discussing Wittum’s work surrounding the identification of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in rivers and his research that uncovered antibiotic-resistant bacteria at a U.S. livestock farm.

Central Ohioans who are curious about science and seeking to broaden their understanding have a new programming option with a local spin.

The first episode of "QED with Dr. B," a weekly primetime television science series created by the Center of Science and Industry on West Broad Street in Columbus and PBS affiliate WOSU Public Media, aired Jan. 27.

The series is hosted by COSI president and CEO Dr. Frederic Bertley. In each episode, he covers a variety of relevant scientific topics with scientists, engineers and experts from around the world, according to a joint COSI and WOSU news release.

Bertley – a researcher and immunologist with a bachelor's degree and Ph.D. from McGill University and postdoctoral fellowship from Harvard Medical School – has held several positions in science, research and academia.

He said he hopes "QED with Dr. B" presents important scientific issues in a manner that’s less intimidating and piques a viewer’s desire to learn more about the world.

“There’s two fundamental reasons why this program is happening,” Bertley said. “One, there’s growing science illiteracy. We wanted to have a really cool show that made science accessible, engage the audience and gave them some good bits of information.

“The second piece is the (COVID-19 coronavirus) pandemic really underscored why science is critical for all of society. We’re not trying to say all of society needs to be a Ph.D. scientist, but if we were ever confused by how important science is, the pandemic brought it frontline and center.

“This is the time to launch a show that hopefully will get people excited.”

According to COSI and WOSU, there’s a reason “QED” is in the show’s title. It’s a Latin phrase: Quod erat demonstrandum, or “what was to be demonstrated,” but in the show’s case, it is an acronym for “Quite Easily Demonstrated.”

The series pilot, titled "Bacteria, Superbugs and Antibodies," was the first in the 13-episode inaugural season. Other topics to be covered include viruses, race, computers, artificial intelligence, the ethics of gene editing and climate science.

“We wanted to make sure the scientific topics we’re talking about on 'QED' are cutting-edge, relevant topics,” Bertley said. “We wanted to make sure people understand the scientists and what they’re researching to allow us to have the conclusions we have.”

WOSU general manager Tom Rieland said Bertley is the perfect fit to break down the array of topics covered on the show and present them to viewers in an engaging and easily digestible format.

“He’s a force,” Rieland said. “He’s a great personality, great on camera, and we really wanted to work with someone with his credentials and a local person who brings so much to the camera and so much knowledge to every topic we’re tackling.”

The show has been under development for the past three years, but it accelerated in the past two years after the concept came into focus, Bertley said.

Although COVID-19 and the misinformation surrounding it over the past year wasn’t the show’s inspiration, Rieland and Bertley both said the premiere of "QED" is timely.

“We have been planning this for a while, so it’s not like it’s something we came up with because of the issues relating to distrust of science,” Rieland said. “But I will say the timing couldn’t be better.”

“Two years ago, we really got the concept going and said, ‘We have to do this,’ ” Bertley said. “And then the pandemic hit, and that just accelerated the fact of, ‘Let’s get this done now.’ ”

Although "QED" is framed toward an adult audience, Bertley said, the show is accessible for children and teenagers and could be geared toward the classroom with a suite of digital education materials.

“This is an adult show ... but we’re going to make sure on (COSI’s) website and on WOSU’s website that there’s a lot of K-12 material that will link back to the show,” Bertley said. “So a teacher can watch either a whole show in the classroom or a six- or eight-minute segment in the classroom, and then they can go to our website and be able to download and access educational information they can share with their students.”

Those materials will be available on the COSI and WOSU websites in the coming months, he said.

“I’m really excited that not only do we have a cool show, but we’ll also have a lot of educational resources for anybody, especially kids in the K-12 space to get them more excited, more engaged, and get those kiddos to think, ‘You know what, maybe I can be a scientist or engineer, too,’ ” Bertley said.

The episodes of the first season of "QED with Dr. B" are airing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays on WOSU TV, channel 34.1 in central Ohio. The show also will be available to stream at wosu.org.

“The ultimate goal is to get the average person to feel really comfortable and intrigued about science,” Bertley said. “And maybe, they might say, ‘Let me Google and look a little more into this. This is pretty fascinating.’ ”

For more information, go to cosi.org and wosu.org.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve