The “Women Doing Science” (WDS) project utilizes social media platforms as effective yet inexpensive science communication tools to highlight women scientists, their diversity, and their scientific work. Alexandra Phillips, a PhD student studying organic geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, presented the Women Doing Science social media campaign at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA. For Alexandra’s presentation titled "Communicating Science to the World from your Phone: Stories from the Women Doing Science Instagram", and for harnessing the power of social media for science communication, Alexandra won an AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) in the Education Section.
Over many years, Alexandra has focused on helping students of all ages discover a love of science through outreach at many different scales. The WDS social media campaign led by Alexandra showcases incredibly diverse women scientists who make critical science happen. Each WDS post is composed of a photo and profile of the featured scientist, including a description of the scientist’s background, their research, and any science sharing, outreach, and communications work by the scientist. Posts are made daily and show women scientists in the lab, the field, or the office.
Diversity is an extraordinarily important element of WDS, in the featured scientists, WDS audiences, and the WDS team. Scientists from diverse disciplines are featured, including geoscientists, dieticians, engineers, mathematicians, and many others. Beyond diversity in disciplines, WDS aims for diversity in the women scientists themselves, with respect to race, disability, and career path. Women of color are actively recruited to be featured on WDS social media platforms. The WDS Instagram has a large international audience. Of the 70,000 followers, 70% are from countries beyond the United States. A quarter of the posts are written in two languages: English and the scientist’s native language. Alexandra cites WDS’s efforts to compose the posts in multiple languages as one reason for the overwhelming international response to the WDS Instagram. Even if English is considered the language of science, English doesn’t have to be the only language of science communication. The WDS team includes a diversity officer to help recruit women of color to share their science on WDS platforms, as well as a diverse team of science writers and translators who edit the scientists’ biographies.
The 2019 Fall Meeting enabled Alexandra to meet and connect with fellow presenters in a session that focused on science communication with large audiences through video, blogs, social media, and more. These valuable connections allowed the presenters to share and learn from each other. For anyone looking to use social media as a science communication tool, Alexandra advises that there is no single correct way to do so. Science can be communicated on platforms like Instagram by writing from a first person or third person point of view, or with limited text (maybe two sentences) or long paragraphs, or in other ways. Alexandra emphasizes that the most important part is the step taken to try and communicate your science and to engage with other people from all types of audiences.
Women Doing Science may be found on Instagram (@women.doing.science), twitter (@womendoingsci), and facebook (facebook.com/women.doing.science). Please check out the amazing scientists and their work, as well as the fantastic work of the entire WDS team!