24 July 2017

Humanizing scientists via #AlongsideScience

Posted by Shane Hanlon


The Tweet from Dr. Solomon David that started #AlongsideScience.

By Shane M Hanlon


I’m a morning person. I wake up early during the week to run/bike/go to the gym before I go to work. On the weekends, I still wake up fairly early, either to go for a run or a long bike ride, or to just sit with a coffee, the Washington Post (that I do actually get in print), and to peruse Twitter. Since I primarily follow mostly scientists or science-related accounts on Twitter, Saturday and Sunday morning tweets are usually pretty sparse. However, this Saturday I woke up to (yet another) a science-twitter-hashtag-phenomenon.

#AlongSideScience was trending, or at least it was on my feed. I didn’t know anything about its meaning but gathered from context clues that it was another campaign to show the human side of science, and specifically, scientists. A similar hashtag, #ActualLivingScientist, made it’s rounds a couple months back with the goal of exposing folks to scientists in their daily lives. So, step one: show folks that scientists are everywhere and not some abstract concept of a person only seen in movies/on TV or read about in books. Step two: you’ve met a scientist, now learn about how they’re just like you!

My own #AlongsideScience contribution.

There is mixed evidence on how effective such campaigns are in reaching broad audiences. Science Twitter (as it’s colloquially referred to) is full of scientists following scientists (which can be a good thing) with less non-scientists following scientists (largely anecdotal but see Darling et al. 2013). Having said that, as scientists, it’s great to show each other that’s it’s OK (and necessary) to spend time outside of the lab/field and pursue other things that make us happy. And even if we’re only reaching a small non-scientist audience, by showing even a few folks that scientists can and do have non-scientific (or maybe just work-related) interests can be really helpful in showing the people behind science.

Shane M Hanlon is an AGU Sharing Science Senior Specialist. Find him @EcologyOfShane.