On Friday, Science Magazine, one of the most prestigious publications in the science world, published an op-ed that denigrates women who do science communication. I have not linked the piece intentionally. The author of this article, a female PhD student, said that these efforts contribute to superficial views of women, and that participating in science communication takes away from research and makes us lesser scientists.
It’s bad enough that women in science struggle with gender bias and stereotypes on a daily basis, let alone get criticized on a national platform for taking their science to social networking sites. This is awful for several reasons, not least of all that the author called out by name my friend and colleague @science.sam. She punched down by suggesting we stay away from fun photos and engaging content, and instead stick to the research if we want to be taken seriously in science and society. It was bitter, mean, and completely inappropriate for a prestigious magazine to promote.
I share my science because I’m passionate about wildlife and because I really enjoy the kind community here on Instagram. I also share science because it makes me happy and it’s part of who I am as a person. How we choose to share science, or who we are, or what we’re up to should be celebarated as diverse and multifaceted ways to increase awareness of science, or awareness of women in science. Wheher you identify as a woman or not, you literally don’t need an agenda to do #scicomm, and neither do you need permission from anyone if you do.
This kind of rhetoric is why I’m part of a team on a crowd-funded project investigating perceptions of scientists on Instagram. We want to show the warm and friendly side of science in order to increase awareness and participation in STEM. We make science better, stronger, when we work together. Learn more about our project here. We have some preliminary results and are moving into the next phase of the project.
How do we put a positive spin on all this? Well, we can continue doing evidence-based, innovative work that makes science accessible and inclusive for ALL. It's unfortunate that Science Magazine let this op-ed get published, as it impacts the careers of two female scientists. It also reinforces the precedent that science communication efforts are not worthy of investment, and that those who participate in such activities may be less qualified as scientists than those who do not. By continuing with the efforts seen on my website, social media pages, and for those doing the same across the globe, we can highlight the importance and necessity of such efforts.