So you want to advocate for science, and don't know where to start? Well it's very easy!
Step 1: Create goals and objectives. Get a few of your friends together to plan. It's always helpful to have a team! Think about the goals of the event - do you want to bring together people to advocate for a specific bill, or just general science research? Do you want to call Congress, your state government, city officials? Figure out exactly what your outcomes are, as it will make planning much easier.
Step 2: Set a time, place, and date. Contact any allies you have at the institution you wish to host the event. Come to them with a plan, and work with them to secure a date, time, and room. It doesn't need to be fancy, just make sure it has cell phone reception, and chairs and tables!
Step 3: Build a coalition. Use your network to learn about any groups of people and entities that can partner up with your event. Especially if you already have a plan in place, it's much easier to get other groups on board. They will be able to reach swaths of people you otherwise cannot reach. Include organizations like ASBMB, FASEB, and Research!America that already do great work. (Contact R!A's Policy and Advocacy Associate Rachel Weissman - email@example.com). They will also contain many resources. You MUST call your institution's government affairs office. Include them in your coalition. Go over the exact plan with them, send them all of your materials so they can give you the okay.
Step 4: Figure logistics. It's time to determine exactly how the event will play out. The flexibility of Eat and Advocate for attendees is its biggest asset, but can be tricky for you as organizers. Train a small team of volunteers to individually help out attendees that come. Set up your food (if applicable - $100 can feed 50 people!)
Read our "EA Logistics File" to get a feel of how we did ours. Everything should be straightforward and informal so attendees don't feel intimidated! Prepare twitter, email, and phone call templates for your messaging.
Step 5: Advertise. First, create an RSVP tool via Eventbrite to monitor interest. Now it's time to utilize your network to spread the word! We created a simple flyer (below). Send out a simple email urging for volunteers, include the RSVP link. This email should go out at least 1 week before the event! Don't forget to contact your internal and external media sources that may want to cover the event. You never know who will say yes!
Step 6: Host a mock call session. With your volunteers, host a quick mock session and experience calling, tweeting, and emailing for yourself. Work out the kinks then. Figure out which numbers work, what emails bounce, and which legislative aide is the most responsive. This can be done minutes before the event.
Step 7: Host the Event! Take a deep breath, and get excited! As people come in, welcome them and introduce them to a volunteer. During the event, it was fun for attendees to be vocal about their calls, who they called, etc. Make it fun for all! We gave out stickers to attendees. Make sure people sign in (sign in sheet below).
Step 8: Debrief and summarize. Congratulations! It's done! Wasn't that hard, right? Utilize the sign-in sheet to sum up the effect your event had. Now for the most important part - what went well? What could be improved for later? You have now created a community of advocates. Be sure to email them soon after the event, detailing the impact of your event. Leave open the possibility of reactivating this new coalition for future advocacy events!
Step 9: Tell us about it! Once your event is complete, please contact us about it. We are looking to build a national network of grassroots efforts in science advocacy. Just a reminder, these steps can easily be adapted to advocate for just about anything. Also feel free to email me with any questions or comments.
By: Lily Raines
I’ve been very fortunate in a lot of ways the past few months. I was fortunate that the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) was looking for science outreach interns last year. I was lucky to be offered the spot, and lucky that my advisor continued to be a great mentor and let me go work with them for three months. That wasn’t surprising, as he’s always been a great mentor and even spoke at our very first science café (see photo below), but I know it’s a unique position to be in as a grad student. I had a great time and learned a lot working at ASBMB with Geoff Hunt (@TheGeoffHunt), and I highly recommend anyone interested in science outreach check out their website for great resources. There’s information on awesome programs going on near you (yes you!) and resources to help us all reach out more effectively.
One of the many projects I got to help with was the very initial planning stages of the Science Communication and Outreach Career Symposium. This was dreamed up and run by Teresa Evans (@TEvansMoore) as a way to connect students within the University of Texas system and to teach attendees about all sorts of careers scientists can pursue. As the program became more and more defined, I became more and more jealous I didn’t live in Texas! It looked like the perfect conference for me and a great networking opportunity, but I found it hard to imagine covering a plane ticket and two nights at a hotel on my own. Travel awards for graduate students are typically reserved for research conferences where students present their work, so I resigned myself to checking the Twitterverse and asking my friends about it afterward.
My next lucky break came when the Biomedical Careers Initiative (BCI) announced they were having a travel award contest specifically for students to go to career focused conferences! The timing could not have been better, and I was lucky enough to win an award to cover travel costs. I stuffed my research poster leftover from the last Biophysical Society Annual Meeting into a too-small poster tube and packed my bags.
In summary, the conference was exactly what I’d hoped it would be. I met so many people doing amazing work, both from Texas and among the ASBMB Public Outreach Committee members I’d only known through conference calls, and that was really inspiring. I got a lot of actionable advice from people who have made science outreach their career, and I learned things we can do to improve Project Bridge’s own work in Baltimore. Twitter is de rigueur, and I’ve been trying harder to get myself out there and meet even more people (in person and online). Teresa Evans wrote up a great summary of the conference, including notes from all the career sessions, that I highly recommend reading. It’s better than any illegible notes I took!
The ASBMB is looking for science outreach and science writing interns to start February 2016, so if you’re a Hopkins Ph.D. student and interested in pursuing either of these careers, I highly recommend it! Maybe you too can give your career transition a kick start and start on a series of lucky breaks. Even if you’re not into outreach for a career, they have lots of other internships and other resources to help whichever path you decide to take.
If you want to talk about internships or outreach more, feel free to get in touch with me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by Twitter (@LilyR42), or come meet me at one of our awesome events around town!
It all started with a conversation at a holiday party, at a bar in Baltimore City. I had my first interaction with Susan Magsamen, now-SVP of Early Learning at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and amazing network connector-extraordinaire. This conversation, which started with a beer-soaked hand shake (as I spilled some beer on my arm before shaking Susan’s hands), led to another conversation at the DJ Dance party two years later during the Neuroscience Retreat. After updating Susan on the activities of Project Bridge, I was invited to attend the Conversations on Early Learning in Boston.
It was my first trip in which my arriving and departing flight were on the same day. There was no time for sight-seeing, so I was focused on making the most of my twelve hours in Boston. After arriving at the Boston Children’s Museum, I watched Susan conduct interviews with the panelists for the day. It was at this time, as I was attempting to quietly live tweet the interview, that I understood the scope of the event.
The full force of advocates for early childhood learning, education, and playful learning (or plearning), were convening. The panelists consisted of: Anna Housely Juster, Ph.D, is the Senior Director of Childhood Development and Community Engagement. Laura Huerta-Migus, the president of the Association of Children’s Museums, Roberta Golinkoff, Professor of Psychology, University of Delaware, Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Professor of Psychology, Temple University, Bryn Parchman, President and CEO, Port Discovery Children's Museum. What struck me the most about this panel was the diversity of occupations regarding early learning. Roberta and Kathy are prominent researchers building the literature, while Bryn and Anna apply this research to activities impacting thousands of children. Laura advocates for policies that benefit the early learning community. This was a great example of how groups of the same interest but different areas of expertise should work together. Sharing ideas and connecting with others is an effective way to provide the best resources to move the field forward.
The mini ultimate block party kicked off the event, allowing participants of the later panel to experience firsthand the power of playful learning. With Curious George, the Man in the Yellow Hat, and Pablo from Curiosityville in tow, kids of all ages were engaged in different types of play, including free play and guided play. During the presentations by the five speakers, they thankfully incorporated adult play time into the 2 hour block. We, the audience, were given 10 minutes of free play. There were toys laden around the room, from plastic balls, materials to make piñatas, to doll houses and superhero capes. I myself tinkered with the rigamagig, a lego/kinect set of deconstructed wooden and plastic pieces to allow participants to build whatever their hearts desired. During a guided play session, the Lego Foundation gave each audience member six lego pieces, with the simple instruction to “make a duck”. With only one minute, we all had a chance to construct our own iteration of making a duck. This simple task tapped into our long term memory, accessed our kinesthetic abilities and sparked our imaginations. It was a great way to demonstrate the power of guided play. Also it was a lot of fun to play with Legos!
I came to Boston not knowing what to expect, and not realizing the rich world of early childhood learning and its impact on society. Having met the amazing players and advocates of this field, I am now inspired to start similar initiatives through Project Bridge. More on that later, but I think it’s time to close the laptop, go outside, and play.
Check out this link for photos of the day!
Check out our first publication about Project Bridge here!
"When asked about the most important thing a scientist needs to know when interacting with the public, Daniel advised to keep the level of detail to a minimum so that people will still see the big picture. “Once they see the big picture, there needs to be some type of connection to their life — why does this matter? Why should I care? How does it affect me? Getting the public involved in the discussion only helps to better our own understanding and streamline our science.”
As with anything, practice makes perfect, and a natural starting place is with friends and family. Daniel suggests to “try explaining your science research with them, and see if they can explain it back to you. It’s always fun, and even if you make mistakes, you can keep trying. After all, it is how Project Bridge was formed!”
This is a great article from the Pew Research Center showing the importance of effective science communication (with lots of data!). Although people generally support science research, we must do more to close the gap of knowledge. Click to the full article HERE!
According to a recent study published by the University of Chicago and discussed in the LA Times, many Americans believe in different science conspiracies such as cell phones causing cancer. 37% of Americans believe the long-held but disproven myth that vaccinations cause autism. This misconception has led to outbreaks of preventable diseases in the US and Europe in the last few years.
This new study demonstrates the need for why Project Bridge and other organizations like it is desperately needed. As scientists, it is our obligation to effectively tell our stories and debunk these life-threatening myths.
Check out this article in Scientific American article detailing the effect of the 16 days of government shutdown on science research.