IAmSciComm Profile picture
Mar 26, 2018 58 tweets 22 min read
Monday, first topic: the journey to #scicomm.
There are plenty of ways to be involved in scicomm, as shown by the variety of hosts for this account.
I’ll discuss how I went from research to #scicomm, but I am curious about you.
What is your primary occupation?
If #scicomm is your primary occupation, which background do you have ?
If research is your primary occupation, what kind of #scicomm/outreach are you mostly involved in?
My journey started in a family where I was the only one wanting to get involved in #STEM . Well, my mother would have loved one for one of her 3 children to be an astrophysicist. It turned out that out of three, the closest was me, who was interested in biology
So in my family, the deal was that you had to the highest/most selective studies you could in your field of interest. In France (yes, I am 🇫🇷) it meant going through “grandes écoles”. No details, but it is one of France’s peculiarities, like carrying baguette on the street.
So shortly afte graduating highschool, I went to @ensdelyon where I started studying molecular and cellular biology (there wasn’t much kind of a choice in terms of the type of biology you could do).
I didn’t really know what I would later at the time, although I knew I liked biology. And then at the end of my first year (so technically speaking, normally 3 years after highschool graduation), I had to do my first internship in a research lab. That changed my life. 🤯
My first experience in a lab was @Biologie_ENS, led by A. Prochiantz. It was mesmerizing to discover the reality of what research is: freedom to answer questions and advance human knowledge.
Yes, also a lot of failed experiment of course 😅
I had trouble leaving the lab to go back to school, and I knew for sure I would never want to do anything else but research (spoiler I am doing sthg else now 😂).
Interestingly enough, my PI A Prochiantz was very active in #scicomm, (books, radio show, theater…).
[this is where I mention it was a pretty cool school, where I met @dlouapre and @zepad who where also both heading for a PhD and now are, at least partially, quite involved in #scicomm. You should come and host this account guys 😉 or the French version of it, @ComSciComCa]
Well, long story short, I embarked for a long research journey, with a main stop in Paris for my PhD with JF Brunet and C Goridis and then in Madison, WI with @SeanBiolCarroll. A thrilling ride. @heloisedufour research journey
So for about a decade I did what I loved and got paid for it, and didn’t seriously think about doing anything else.
(except for occasionally considering selling French fries on beaches when all experiments would go crap, of course. Anyone here with this kind of escape “fantasy”?)
I am super proud of my papers, and obviously think they’re fascinating, because I was fascinated by what I was doing. Yep, researchers are driven by their passions. I understand the fascination might not be equally shared though😅
I got to work with a bunch of super talented, interesting and fun people and I truly cherish those years.
poke to those on twitter (funny the French are not there so much, I'd like to see stats about researcher's presence on social media broken down by country)
and again to all of the others not on twitter
All those years as a researcher, I was also doing #scicomm
Because I wanted to share my passions
Because I felt a moral obligation to other citizen who where funding the research
Because creating knowledge without sharing it felt useless (Seneca says it better)
#whyscicomm
I'll come to it, but I should say already that my reasons have evolved with time. How about you? Why do YOU do #scicomm?
#whyscicomm
Among other things, as a PhD student, I participated in the edition of books of outreach conferences, organized a lab visit for middle school students, taught at the university,... I didn't really know where to go to do things like that so I grabbed or created opportunities.
Interestingly enough, my PhD advisor JF Brunet was also involved in #scicomm. I don't remember it to be a critical factor of choice for where I was going to do my PhD, just thinking that it was making him an even more interesting person to work with.
After my PhD, during my time in the US @UWMadison , several things happened:
- the cultural shock of living there for years (remember I'm French)
- the fact that in the lab, I had to do anything I wanted, as long as it was "big picture"
- the teaching training @scientificteach
The cultural shock: I had stayed in NYC already for a few months, but it is not the same to live in a country where you'll be spending years. Being an #expat is not the same as visiting, you are not just observing, but also taking things more at heart since it impacts you more.
Madison is a really liberal city (hey, they demonstrate for pot legalization, so it's not exactly the MidWest you typically have in mind), with a very educated population. Yet at the farmer's market, there was (and still is I think) a #creationist stand.
I might seem weired to some of you, but I hadn't even met real creationists before. It was sthg I knew existed, but like in a parallel dimension (like as a kid, you know the teacher is a person and doesn't sleep in the classroom, but meeting him at the grocery store is strange)
Or having conversations about whether climate change is real. So ok, I can live with the fact that there is some kind of strange trend of associating peanut butter and jelly, but really, the kind of soft or not so soft #sciencedenial I experienced was awakening for me.
By being confronted first hand to #sciencedenial, I transitioned from being annoyed by it ("rhooo, no! We do know there is no proof that #homeopathy is more effective that a placebo!") to being scared ("wait, the lack of scientific culture has a real impact on the whole society")
When people decide not to vaccinate their children based on wrong assumptions, they also make a decision for those who don't have that choice (allergic people, pregnant women, etc). This is only one example among many others: antibiotics use, climate change,...
I am talking about scientific literacy not only as a specific knowledge on a particular topic, but as a the scientific reasoning, a way to apprehend to world. For ex. having the conceptual tools to distinguish correlation and causation, and being able to make rational decisions.
The big picture: being placed in the situation where I had to develop a project which was big basically from scratch was really scary, but also very empowering.
Being in the position to develop a project from scratch forced me to consider research differently: instead of digging in something interesting, it became finding the big questions for which there is a hole in knowledge, and the related "low hanging fruits" that can be addressed.
and so it came with this addiction with impact: what is the best leverage to achieve something big?
Interestingly enough, my boss in the lab @SeanBiolCarroll, was also very involved in #scicomm through books, movies, so much so that he became VP for education @HHMINEWS.
=>one of his book mentioned at the end of this #scicomm candy by @acapellascience:
So in hindsight, it's interesting that the most important labs I went to, the PIs had a serious interest in #scicomm. I definitely learned a lot from them.
So a bit of advice: PIs, if you want your people to stand up for science in the eyes of the public, teach by example.
Plus, I've heard the opposite: not having a supportive PI is definitely a barrier (not one that can't be passed, but still, a barrier) to young researchers engagement.
For the half of you in research, are you/do you have an outreach supportive PI? If not, what do you do to still get your #scicomm fix? ;)
3rd thing that happened to me was the teaching training @scientificteach. Again, it might sound silly when put like that, but I had never taken into account that there is actually a science of education. And also it forced me to set up my twitter account :)
I realized that I was a "good scientist" in the lab, but that I had never thought of applying the same rigor I'd use for my experiments to my teaching. @sarahmilleruw was heading the program, and damn she did a great job setting up the conditions to come to that realization.
I highly recommend this book, a bit old now and biology biased, but still fantastic entry level material for #HigherEd teachers who want to question their practice (also for those who wonder about how to implement at a higher level than just themselves)
books.google.fr/books/about/Sc…
The discovery of scientific teaching could have been only a personal realization for my own practice, but it actually became with #scicomm and the science & society issue the second motor of my research career's derailment.
I'll talk about it more on Friday, but briefly I became aware through this training program of the #flippedclassroom, and that after investigating it thought it was a silver bullet to help education change at a very big scale in France. It led to the formation of @Classe_Inversee
Anyway so those 3 factors (getting more aware of the critical importance of #scicomm the the society, wanting to have a large impact, and the willingness and presumably found way to change #education) at some point coalesced enough that I decided to put research on hold.
I actually was not really planning on going back to research, but I'm the "belt and suspender" type, so I did not just go cold turkey. I had plans. I don't have the magical recipe for transitioning from academic research to #scicomm as a job, but here is how it happened for me:
Plan A: spend about a 6-8 months starting an NGO for education and figuring out what I'd do in #scicomm. Plan B: if it was not working or I figured I could not live without the bench to apply for a university position in biology (so I preapplied as I had to to keep this option).
Plan C: become a free lance teacher's trainer, Plan D: become a high school biology teacher.
You'll note if you're following that the fries selling option was not retained.
All of that with the manoeuvering of moving back to France my 27 boxes and reoppening all the ones I had left there 5 years earlier :D
Plus, I thought I'd finish writing my paper with my co-author... and I never did (and I still feel guilt about it!)
In the US, I had beefed up my #scicomm experience with for ex. being a mentor for @ScienceBuddies, more teaching, teachers training, doing research for a fantastic book etc. Importantly, none of it had been done with the intent of making it a career.
amzn.to/2tE969N
Also by getting on the outreach committee, and organizing things, it just happened that by doing bits here and there of something I felt was important, I had accumulated quite a large experience in the field and worked with really smart people.
So in the first few months back in France, I was putting the education ngo together when I met with a friend of mine for coffee (a researcher). As we chatted, it happened that he was laureate of a foundation who wanted to develop things in science & society.
There was no job description, it was unclear what was to be done so I was cautious being I hadn't dropped I job I loved but not enough anymore to take one that would be boring. That same night, I sent him my resumé and told him I had ideas about things to do.
I went to the interview having thought of the job I'd like to get & ideas of things to develop. It turns out I ended up creating it. So my two cents:
1 #scicomm is still a place where you can create your position
2 don't take my story as a path to follow as it's pretty peculiar!
Basically the Fondation Schlumberger for Education and Research supports 3 to 4 laureates in life science each year, and there was a need for developing a community of the laureates and have a common action in #scicomm.
What I offered was to build the @CercleFSER, which would not be the press secretary agency of the laureates, but would instead build on their experience and network to develop large spectrum #scicomm actions: like a R&D outreach lab.
Too often in #scicomm, the education & outreach department is actually fused with the communication department (or doesn't exist). But the goals are not necessarily well aligned.
In an economy where institutions fights for funds/talents, it's important to shine more than others.
Working at a foundation makes it much less of a problem, which is nice!
One thing that is crucial for me is to keep the scientific rigor and apply it to #scicomm. I address it the same way I did for my research: looking at what's been done, goals, assessment of results,...and sometimes also drop out preliminary experiments.
I wish everyone in #scicomm would document and put in common what they do, how it works... I feel we would advance faster as a community. The thing is, contrarily to academic research, there is about 0 incentive to spend effort on it (except for #scicomm scientists of course).
Not that the publish or perish system is a good system, but it has the effect of forcing the publication. In #scicomm, I feel it is almost the contrary. Structures are getting funds because they do things that are original. If they share too much, they loose what makes them live.
That being said, we are sitting on results that we don't publish :D Just because of time and priorization.
Well I think that will do for tonight, there is more to say and don't hesitate to comment/answer and those questions.
If you're now primarily #scicomm, and coming from research (apparently about 40%!!) how did you switch?
More generally, how to enhance #scicomm sharing?

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More from @iamscicomm

Sep 7, 2018
*thread alert*

It's time for "transparent graphene microelectrodes to see how cells chit chat" 😁

Let go! 🍀🙂🤩
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Mar 27, 2018
Tuesday’s topic: researcher’s engagement in #scicomm. We’ll touch on a few subjects: S1/ why should (or not) researchers get involved? S2/ researcher vs #scicomm skills, what is important to know when engaging the public? S3/ what motivates/prevents researchers engagement?
Well I know I just started, but I will actually pause since it’s a very involving first @ScienceShakers I’m attending!
Kudos to the organizers of this first #scicomm community meeting in Paris
#scienceshakers
When I started the @CercleFSER, I tried to look at what was already being done, to not replicate it. Basically I tried to apply this big picture framework I had used in research: are there big holes in what is being done and low hanging fruits that can be leverages?
Read 50 tweets

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