What Happens When Scientists Stand Up for Science

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By: Brian Martin, University of Wollongong

The 2017 March for Science was a powerful political statement by scientists. The marchers opposed political interference, budget cuts and lack of support for science at a government level.

More commonly, though, scientists stay in their labs and avoid the public political spotlight.

CSIRO scientist John Church – who initially acted as an individual (not a representative of his research institution) to “stand up for science” in 2015 – is cited as a recent example of the career ramifications that can flow from public activity.

Actually, he’s not alone. For years, outspoken scientists have encountered career difficulties and personal repercussions.

But climate science and the advent of digital and social media shape how scientists speak publicly about science now.

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Video: Communicating Science Using YouTube

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“Using YouTube to connect people who do science, with people who want to learn about science.

YouTube is one of the most effective platforms around for communicating about and learning about science. Yet remarkably, given the number of YouTube users out there with a taste for science, there are surprisingly few scientists making videos.

To us, this presented a no-brainer opportunity to use YouTube as a way of connecting researchers who are passionate about their science, with viewers who are equally passionate about watching videos about it.

And so we created Science Showcase.

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Marching for Science in the Deeply Red – Deep South

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Chattanooga March for Science – April 22nd, 2017 – Courtesy of Shirley Zapf‎

On April 22nd, we watched as the world marched for science. Major media did a fine job covering demonstrations happening across the nation and around the world. However, most of what we saw on television and online focused on the largest events – which took place in big cities. Getting less attention, were hundreds of marches in smaller cities that brought people together in support of science.

With thunderstorms looming, residents of Chattanooga, Tennessee took to the streets to make their voices heard. Chattanooga is located in Hamilton County, where 56% of voters chose Donald Trump (39% chose Hillary Clinton) in November’s Presidential Election. Statewide, Trump topped Clinton 61% to 35%. With numbers like that, you’d think residents would be less inclined to participate in a political march targeting the policies of a person many of them helped elect.

The following is a Q&A with Sara Scott, one of the organizers of the Chattanooga March for Science. She defines herself as a feminist, leftist, and mother who has lived in Chattanooga for four years. I was interested in hearing her thoughts about organizing a pro-science event in the deep south.

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The SCICOMM 25 (April 2017 Recap)

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Welcome To The SCICOMM 25!

This is where I pull together 25 (or more) of the most talked about science communication stories, determined by the engagement rate of stories I’ve shared on Twitter. Many are written by the world’s leading science communicators.

Some offer tips and advice, while others tackle important issues we need to discuss and debate. All of them are worth checking out.

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Video: The Quest To Communicate Science in the US

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“In this panel, ScIQ producer Bec Gill hosts a panel with three science communication experts, and discusses the future challenges and opportunities of communicating science to the public.”

The panel includes Luis Quevedo – El Mundo, Filmmaker, Jayde Lovell – SciQ, The Young Turks, and Lucky Tran – Science Media Relations Officer @ Columbia University