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?
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.
Trump Administration Guts Endangered Species Act, setting back conservation efforts by decades, dooming thousands of charismatic species to extinction, and sealing his legacy as the racist president that is unambiguously worse than Nixon. Look, at this point, if you aren’t calling your representatives on the regular to demand impeachment, I don’t know what to tell you.
For the last several years, I’ve been working off the weight gained and fitness lost from a decade of grad school, post-doctoral research, job hunting, and, ultimately, launching my own company. The gym, to put it mildly, had not been a priority. Running and weight training went a long way towards getting me back to where I wanted to be, but I had hit a plateau. Every spring and summer I’d make incremental improvements, every winter, I’d fall back into old habits. It was a sustainable situation, but not fantastic.
Last summer, I set a goal for myself. While the weather was just on the wrong side of that threshold that makes running something I’m willing to do first thing in the morning, I would instead swap out my sneakers for an Oculus Rift, and spend an hour, four or five days a week, playing fitness-oriented virtual reality games, for fifty sessions. That schedule would get me through the winter and hopefully keep me more active than I otherwise would.
To better illustrate this plan, I made a GIF, just for you:
Unsurprisingly, the science behind Virtual Reality and exercise is still in its infancy.
Ministry hints Putin’s Arctic ambitions are not realistic. There is unease in several Russian government ministries as officials start to understand that the President’s objectives for the Northern Sea Route can not be reached. The only way to please the president might be to expand the sea route itself.