03 January 2012

The evolution of that evolution video

So you and about 36,000 of your friends have seen the video some pals and I put together that features women scientists explaining why teaching evolution is so important.  That pales in comparison to the million-plus views of the Miss USA contestants sharing their thoughts on the topic, but it's a small step in the right direction.

Before the holiday break, our group started to share some initial thoughts on the next step.  I don't think we've reached a clear consensus yet, but I do know we will all be at ScienceOnline 2012, we will be talking with a lot of scientists and science communicators, and we will try to grab some video.  I'm really looking forward to it for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is obvious. Of the entire team of "producers" - Matt Shipman, Kevin Zelnio, Andrea Kuszewski, Jamie Vernon, and our video editor - I think I've only spoken in person with two of them. (Funny how the Internet works.) Of the sixteen scientists featured in the video, I've only spoken in person with three of them.  I know at least a few of them will be at ScienceOnline, and I'd like to meet and thank them if possible.

The next reason is also obvious - to figure out how to build on our success.  This video was about evolution, but there are other important science/culture topics.  When it comes to this project or others like it, I have my own "big picture" goals that are by no means unique or original. For example, I want:
  • more popular support and respect for science and scientists generally.
  • policy makers to perceive a serious political downside to censoring sound science or attacking scientists.
  • companies or organized groups to find it much harder to obfuscate science.
  • more people (including scientists) to view science and science careers as accessible to anyone.  
I suspect the others in the group share basically the same goals, though they obviously have different perspectives and add different wrinkles of awesomeness to them.  There are plenty of science communicators working toward these goals, doing some amazing things, achieving far more success than I could hope to accomplish. I'm just trying to do my part, and I'm so grateful to the others in the group for letting me spitfire with them.

To make more progress, I'd like to see more collaborators and I'd like to really try more outreach beyond the science community.  Our group made a video, and we all liked it, and so did a lot of our friends and colleagues.  But to be candid, I think we did much more "content development" than "strategic outreach." Most of the people we "reached" were through our own social networks - people who, almost by definition, shared our opinions and ideas on the topic.

Don't get me wrong - I love that sites like Boing Boing, Scientific American, and Guardian science blogs shared the video.  That's very, very important.  We need scientists to get excited about communication, about being ambassadors.  We need them to understand this can be effective and even fun. But you don't change attitudes simply by talking with people who already agree with you.

So I'm even happier that Matt Shipman shared the video with the pop culture blog Jezebel. I'm quite certain that single post reached more non-scientists than anything else we did.  Matt also got Feminist Philosophers to share it.  Through that kind of outreach, Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan used Carin Bondar's line from the video as his Quote For the Day on December 4.

To take the next step, I think we have to be more creative, more engaging, more accessible. I think that means leaving the comfort zone a little more.  My participation in things like this has evolved, and I've learned a lot by leaving my comfortable world of PR - from Science Cheerleader, to #scimom, to the video. I hope some of the scientists, writers, and others I meet at ScienceOnline 2012 will take a small step toward my world as well.  I'm really looking forward to what's next.


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First video in new year =)

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