Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 Communicating Science National Workshop (a.k.a ComSciCon17). I applied to this workshop for at least the last three years and finally, I got in! It was worth the wait.
There were so many amazing things about the workshop (the speakers, the attendees, the swag) but my top three were the panel on digital storytelling, the panel on diversity in science communication, and the Story Collider workshop. (The ePosterboard session is also up there but I’m trying to keep it to three.)
I just finished a semester-long class on digital storytelling at Tufts (you can see my final project here). Let me tell you, making videos is time consuming. I was seriously impressed by Dr. Ali Mattu who produces his own videos on his YouTube channel, The Psych Show, and is also a clinical psychologist at Columbia University. As someone who wants to stay in academia and continue communicating science to a broad audience, Dr. Mattu gives me hope that it’s possible! His video on exposure therapy is also
hysterical (and appropriate for this blog).
I also liked this panel because it showed the diversity of what “digital storytelling” means: in addition to YouTube-er Dr. Mattu, there was a museum educator from the Boston Museum of Science, a film producer from the Ocean Media Institue, and a video game designer! I cannot wait to use Nicky’s video games in science outreach and education!
Diversity in Science Communication
This panel was truly inspiring. As a first-generation college student, and a woman in STEM and beekeeping, I feel the lack of diversity on a regular basis. Two quick examples: 1) I was once introduced to a beekeeper, as a beekeeper, and he automatically shook my fiancé’s hand and said: “You must be the beekeeper.” 2) After a scientific presentation I gave, someone came up to me and said: “Not bad for a cute little girl.” What I look like, my sex, and my height (5’ ½”) have absolutely nothing to do with my science or my public speaking. But thanks?
The diversity panel gave me hope. Fittingly, the diversity panelists were diverse and discussed what it's like to be a minority by race, sex, socioeconomic background, and sexuality. Despite discrimination and various barriers (which shouldn't actually be barriers), each panelist is successful. It wasn't easy but they did it. It isn't easy but they're doing it. They are helping to change the view of “scientist” from that crazy-haired man in the lab coat...to everyone. Lindsey Murphy, better known as Crazy Aunt Lindsey, does this exceptionally well in her YouTube show, The Fab Lab. In her show, Lindsey does science projects with kids outdoors and in the kitchen. Lindsey isn’t a scientist by profession but she is still a scientist, and so is each child on her show.
Although I already knew this on some level, this panel solidified that we are all in this together. We can all be active allies by advocating, understanding, and listening to the people around us. Also, science is for everyone! Spread the word!
This. Workshop. Was. INCREDIBLE. Story Collider is a non-profit that humanizes science through stories. In this workshop, Executive Director (and to be honest, serious badass) Liz Neeley and Producer Nisse Greenberg led us through the structure of story to uncover our own stories. In groups of three, we were pushed to get personal and tell our science stories. I found this especially hard since I had recently done a TEDx talk—what other story could I have that’s worth sharing? At the end of the workshop, I had a decent draft of my story. I will continue working on it and pitch it to Story Collider! Fingers crossed!
To end, I would like to say THANK YOU to the graduate students who founded this conference, everyone and anyone who had a role in organizing, the amazing speakers, and the attendees. The attendees at this conference were awesome people doing awesome things: Jaye creates science comics, Molly hosts a YouTube show that brings science out of the lab, Dana and Katie work to bring research to the public, and Laura created a more efficient way to judge science fairs! These are only some of the incredible attendees I met. I hope that we can all stay connected (yay Twitter!) for years to come.
If you are a graduate student and have any interest in science communication, I highly recommend this conference.