When #scicomm criticism took a wrong turn

Let’s talk about the real reasons for #scicomm being increasingly popular.

Click here to read the letter.

A couple of days ago Science – a highly-regarded scientific magazine has published a letter which has shaken science communicators’ world. A faulty understanding of the reasons why science communicators publish their posts/pictures /videos caused the most outrage (click on the picture to read the full story).

I have to say I am a newbie in the science communication field, nevertheless I’ve been enjoying it from day one. The real aims for opening this blog and turning my Instagram account into motivational and popular science resource were not to solve the gender inequality issues. I started motivelina.com to spread the knowledge and to shrink the barrier between a scientist and general public. I simply felt that if I meant to stay in a lab behind closed doors for most of my life, I may as well just never become a researcher. Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Michio Kaku, Sam Harris and many others started sharing their knowledge way before Instagram was popular and they did an amazing job, becoming role models for people like myself.

We live in 21st century which means that all professions become more public and the only way to not be alienated and misunderstood by the society is to open up. Doctors, lawyers, journalists, politicians, housewives – all of them are sharing their knowledge online. And it’s brilliant! It was never as easy to learn how a day of a teacher/vet/surfer looks like. Why do we have to witness undermining the public roles of the female scientists?

We all want to live in a wiser and less hateful (or less envious) societies. We come out of our comfort zones and publish posts hoping that  BigPharma/ GMO/ vaccinations/ microwaves/ the shape of the Earth are not going to be the issues in future. We share in order to get people’s trust, engagement and inspire younger generations to follow our career paths!

The letter reads as an envious attack on a particular Instagram account. The author of this quite badly written piece of work tries to show-off hate towards her campus friend (@Science.Sam). How? By demonstrating that she should spend more time fighting ‘policy changes at governmental institutions’ rather than taking pictures on Instagram. Wright mentions the gender inequality issues by saying:

I have come to understand #scicomm on Instagram as a digital demonstration of the efforts that many female scientists exert daily to correct for gender disparities.

Can we for once not include gender pay gaps and inequalities into every single outreach activity done by women? Firstly, equal amount of men and women in the lab would not help science. It would be more desirable to employ people based on their interest in science rather than their gender. Secondly, if Wright wanted to help women in the science field (and she seems like she is willing to), she should stop criticising successful women and start teaching the unsuccessful ones how to smash their interviews or have balls to ask for a pay rise.

Let’s not cry because there are more men in science. We are not bothered that there are more women than men in nursing.

When I’ve read this:

Female scientists spend demonstrably more time teaching, mentoring, and participating in community outreach than their male colleagues, just as there are far more female #scicommers on Instagram than male.

I thought of all the male scientists, who I mentioned in the first paragraph. They spent enormous amount of time writing books, creating podcasts or lecturing. The words ‘demonstrably more time’ did not convince me at all.

Wright also says:

When I next interview for a job, I won’t have an Instagram page to show that my love of science doesn’t make me boring and unfriendly. Publicly documenting the cute outfit I wear and the sweet smile I brandish in the lab isn’t going to help me build a fulfilling career in a field.

Personally, I don’t think any extra-curriculum hobby like owing an instagram account or baking will get you a job in science. Nevertheless, I’m sure that nowadays good networking skills can get you a job quite easily.

If we want to help out women in our filed – hey, let’s not criticise them! This shows why women struggle in professional life – because per every amazing, self-driven, top-quality female worker, there will be five of her work colleagues (also women), so envious and ruthless, that they will try to destroy her career. It is the painful truth which I experienced myself. Instead of empowering each other, we judge – very often publicly. In my opinion, this is far more important issue than gender inequality. Because if we sort things out in our own garden, it will be easier to come forward to tackle bigger problems.

How is #scicomm community doing?

The response is absolutely enormous. Scientist outreach movements like #scientistswhoselfie increase their popularity gaining new supporters every hour. It might be that the criticism of the scientists activity on Instagram has taken a wrong turn and instead of putting people off from outreach projects, will make it more popular.

Please feel free to use the comment section below to attach links to your own outreach projects, accounts, blogs and I will be more than happy to follow you and promote them on this blog!

Ewelina

  • motivelina.com

    Do you think the barrier between scientists and general public shrank due to the work of science communicators? Let me know you views!

  • Lay It Out

    Thanks for this. I had originally missed the Science article, but just checked it out.

    It’s a surprisingly bitter and petty-sounding article for a journal like Science to have published. It honestly sounds more like a criticism of pretty, feminine women daring to be pretty and feminine in public! A very disappointing article.

    I think that any way of making scientists (whether female or male) seem more normal, human or accessible can only be a good thing. And as a lot of the general public receive the majority of news or information through social media, what better way to communicate our science too!

    We’ve recently ventured into the world of #scicomm with a new podcast (called Lay It Out) where we attempt to explain scientific papers to our non-scientist friends. It would be wonderful if you checked us out 😊
    https://layitout.podbean.com/
    https://layitoutpodcast.wordpress.com/

    I have very similar reasons to you for starting this project. I didn’t think for a second that it would improve gender equality (although it is ANOTHER 3 women talking about science). I just wanted to help with the public understanding of science and to be honest it’s quite a lot of fun too!

    • motivelina.com

      Hi Lay It Out!
      Thanks for reaching out to me, I’m very excited to connect with other people (women!!), who also enjoy sharing science. I will definitely follow your journey!
      I totally agree with your remarks on that article. I’m utterly surprised by the fact that Science has published something so controversial. We have other magazines for these kind of comments but let’s leave the scientific ones objective and thoughtful.

      Well spotted the social media role in our society. Of course it is all done with a great cause! Scientists can be pretty, funny and have good public speaking skills – why would they stick to the traditional means of communication? We are living in amazing times, let’s see what future brings 🙂

      Best wishes to all Lay It Out members and creators!

  • floatinggold

    I have to agree with your arguments regarding “equality” between men and women (or in any other instance). It’s not fair to hire the same amount of men and women. Why wouldn’t you want to hire the best? And it’s really annoying to see how social media plays an important role in getting a job.

    • motivelina.com

      I’m glad you understand my point. It’s also fighting that our future employers will most likely check all the social media accounts of ours before employing us.