A decade of failures in Science Communication.

Eleven years is a long life for a science blog. Southern Fried Science was born in 2008, when the main writers were all graduate students. Over the last decade the online landscape has changed. Science Communication changed with it, adapting and evolving to meet an ever-shifting ecosystem. Looking back on the last decade and thinking about the next, it’s becoming easier to see where we went wrong. It’s not quite as easy to determine what we need to correct the course.

This is not a scientific assessment, this is my own personal observations from the last decade of running Southern Fried Science, from teaching Social Media for Environmental Communications for the last 7 years, from working with Upwell, one of the most dynamic and visionary ocean NGOs ever conceived, from helping build and launch multiple online platforms, dozens of novel programs, and hundreds of outreach campaigns, and from spending a lot of time since November 2016 reflecting on what we’ve done wrong.

That Hideous Deficit

Do we really need another 200 words on how bad the deficit model is and why it needs to die?

Apparently, yes.

The basic premise: that science perception and policy is shaped by an information deficit and that if we just make good science education content and spread it, we can combat the spread of misinformation, people will learn, and everything will get better.

It doesn’t work. It never worked. And it ignores the reality that misinformation is manufactured for political and financial gain, with tremendous incentives and, often, far better funding than science outreach campaigns. But beyond that, multiple studies have shown that, when confronted with information that challenges their fundamental world view, people don’t throw out their worldview, they reject the science, creating a more entrenched and intractable audience.

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To tweet to whom – a tweeting guide for marine scientists

Logic is a tweeting bird” – Spock, Star Trek

Social media can be a great tool for spreading and disseminating published science. Potentially it can reach a wide audience and for free !

Most platforms allow you to insert links to direct readers to the original paper or publication. If you are working in an area that is relevant to conservation or policy, social media can be a great way of getting papers to the right audience that may need that information (Parsons et al., 2014). Moreover, there is now increasing data that using social media can increase download and citation rates of scientific papers, which in turn is good for the careers of scientists in an academic setting.

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Southern Fried Science year-in-review, Palau’s Giant, a new challenge for deep-sea mining, Porgs are Puffins, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: December 25, 2017.

Happy Holidays from the Southern Fried Science Team!

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

  • Do-it-yourself science is taking off. A growing movement seeks to make the tools of science available to everyone (including you). I love that The Economist now has a “Punk Science” heading.
  • Palau now requires all tourists to sign an environmental pledge when they enter the country. All flights in now feature this delightful short film.

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Twitter Ocean Chess, lessons from the Vaquita, awe of the deep, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: November 13, 2017

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

  • Ocean policy news breaking this week. We’ll have a comment template ready to go when it does. Please check back. We can’t announce until we know exactly what we’re dealing with.
  • Still time to register for OceanDotComm! Science Communication folks! Are you ready for OceanDotComm? Register now!

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Wine bottle found in the deep North Atlantic. Laura Robinson, University of Bristol, and the Natural Environment Research Council. Expedition JC094 was funded by the European Research Council.

My wife, on the other hand, is a social scientist who works on development here in Mexico. When we first started dating, I used to tease her for being a soft little scientist in her soft little science. I now understand that helping a community pull itself out of poverty is more complex than brain surgery or quantum physics.

There is no magic equation for community organizing but she begins by understanding that “the community” isn’t some monolithic creature that thinks as a unit. There are complex politics and power dynamics at work that can either aid or destroy all her efforts.

I now understand why the vaquita is going extinct. They sent too many people like me into the region and not enough like her.

source.

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See a Great White Shark from the inside with OpenROV, Vaquita, Narwhals, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: November 6, 2017

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

  • Yes, that is the esophagus of a great white shark, in the wild. No, you should not attempt to replicate this experience.

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The most shocking, insightful ocean conservation solutions, as presented by a poorly-built Twitter bot.

We made a bot. It’s not a very good bot but it does prognosticate on novel ocean conservation solutions. @OceanCon_Bot has been running for almost a month and it’s produced some real gems. Solid, salt-of-the-earth, diamond-in-the-rough, gabbro-in-your-lab, bro, solutions. And these are among my favorites.

We definitely need to stop presenting those condescending academics, but why so down on transparency, @OceanCon_Bot?

Catalyze lionfish and address Caribbean extinction? I guess you can’t really do both.

Ok, it’s possible we created an evil ocean bot.

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How to help Houston, GameBoy SONAR, buy a lighthouse, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: August 28, 2017

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

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For science communication, hashtag games are a scientist’s secret weapon.

#ExplainAFilmPlotBadly, #StupidCommonNames, #LOTRyourResearch.

Hashtag games. A few times a week, these weird, funny, quirky wordplay challenges explode across twitter, driving the most serious, and sometimes even super-serious, tweeters to pause for a moment of levity and let you know what they think Jaws is really about.

jaws

Goofy, whimsical, and extremely silly, one might wonder why scientists and science communicators would want to jump into these games, potentially compromising the reputation they’ve built up as a Serious Scientist (TM), unswayed by such foolishness.

The answer is simple: Playing hashtag games makes you a better communicator of science.

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Combating fake science in popular media – six months later

As noted earlier, David and my paper on twitter, social media, Shark Week, and fake documentaries came out last week. Since scientific publishing has a “long tail” — the time between when we actually wrote the paper and when it was published, in this case, was almost 9 months — we thought it might be a useful exercise to discuss our paper in the context of the months leading up to and following the most recent Shark Week. Enjoy!

You can find the original paper here: Fish tales: Combating fake science in popular media.

If you could only follow five people on Twitter, who would they be?

Every few years, I published a Field Guide to Ocean Science and Conservation on Twitter. Rather than a comprehensive list of the best ocean twitter accounts (a list that would stretch out over more than 500 accounts as of last count), these guides are designed to point readers towards central nodes in the online conversation, from which they could then build upon by following and engaging in conversation. Instead of being a “best of”, the field guides are all about connectivity and how to build it.

I was just beginning to prepare this year’s guide a few weeks ago, when David Lang at OpenROV caught me with an even more challenging question: If you could only follow 5 people on twitter, who would they be? Again, not the “best”, or the funniest, or whatever metric you use to decide who to follow but the five that, if I were absolutely forced to cut my following list down to, would capture the widest breadth depth of the twitter conversations I care about: the most effective community builders, the central-est nodes, the people whose insight is most valuable and who curate and disseminate the most important content. After talking for a while about who the list would include, I was surprised to discover that the majority were people who I followed, but only ever interacted with rarely, if at all. Read More