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#KeepMarching: How science communication can sustain a movement

On Earth Day 2017, researchers, communicators and advocates convened to show their solidarity with the March for Science movement, which featured hundreds of thousands of supporters at an estimated 600 marches worldwide. The movement leading up to the marches themselves served as a lightning rod for a global conversation about the role of science in society, and put the spotlight on issues with scientific consensus that have become politicized, such as climate change (#climatechangeisreal) and vaccine safety (#vaccineswork). The marches themselves were a success, but as any activist or organizer will tell you, marching is just the first step: Communication with supporters and the public is key to sustaining the energy of a movement.

“Now, the real work begins,” said Valorie Aquino, co-chair of the March for Science DC (MFS DC) in a PLOS Science Wednesday Ask Me Anything session on redditscience. “We must #keepmarching to channel the energy and momentum from the march into a series of focused and connected actions demonstrating our support for science and science-based policy, and to communicate how science serves or can better serve our communities.”

A sign from the March for Science Chicago. Photo by Laura Ray.
A sign from the March for Science Chicago. Photo by Laura Ray.

Aqunio and the organizers of the March for Science have worked to ensure the movement continues past Earth Day 2017, starting with the Week of Action. Held from April 23-29, each day of the Week of Action celebrated a different theme with a series of daily activities to help marchers reflect on their experience while also staying engaged in the movement.

Science Creates: Highlights from PLOS Science Wednesday AMA with March for Science Organizers

On Wednesday April 26 (“Science Creates”) PLOS hosted Aquino and Stephanie Fine Sasse of the March for Science San Francisco (MFS SF) in a special MFS Week of Action PLOS Science Wednesday AMA on reddit, where they talked about the future of the MFS movement. We included some highlights from the AMA here (some questions edited for clarity).

  • From reddit user p1percub: How will you shape your messaging to support your public stance that “science is political not partisan”?
  • From reddit user firedrops, a Boston MFS organizer: How are you bringing [the satellite marches] into a larger unified network? And how are you involving satellite marches in your decisions about how to move forward and make this a long-lasting movement? Whose vision of the march and what it could be as a movement is being used to determine your goals?

Miss the live portion of the AMA, but still have a question? Please feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments section of this blog post and I’ll try to pass them along to our MFS organizers!

Science Communicates: Today and Every Day

A crowd forms at the March for Science, Washington D.C. Photo by Sheryl Denker.
A crowd forms at the March for Science, Washington D.C. Photo by Sheryl Denker.

Discovery is central to the scientific endeavor. Yet, communicating the value and importance of research and the scientific enterprise more has been an ongoing challenge for many scientists.

The March for Science movement has various tools and activities to bridge the divide between scientists and the public through science communication. Building upon the scicomm theme, here are a few simple tips from the PLOS Communications Team about how scientists can use existing platforms and strategies to connect with the public and influencers in media and politics:

  • Publish your research with an Open Access publisher. If your study is behind a paywall, or requires a library subscription for access, the public, the press, and politicians are less likely to take an interest your work. It’s hard to communicate the value of your research if the study itself is unavailable.
  • Prepare and share an author summary or press release with your work. Science is fundamentally complicated. Make it easier for the non-science public to understand your research by explaining your research question, your process, your findings and the significance of your work in clear, simple, and concise language. Visit PLOS Research News to see how we do it for research published in PLOS journals.
  • Use social media to talk about your research. The rise of social platforms such as Twitter (a favorite of scientists), Facebook, redditscience, Instagram, Snapchat and others allow scientists to connect and share information with the public in new and interesting ways. Sign up and start sharing!
  • When in doubt, ask the experts. Take advantage of the press relations department at your institution to learn more communications strategies and help get your research out to a broader audience. If you’re a PLOS author, ask someone on PLOS Communications for help with disseminating your research.

Improved Communication Will Keep Science in the Spotlight

Science communication has always been important but the looming threats of climate change and deep cuts to federal funding for scientific research creates a new sense of urgency. PLOS is proud to serve as a partner of the March for Science movement, and will continue to stand up for science and scientists.

Featured Image: A crowd assembles at the Justin Herman Plaza for the March for Science San Francisco. An estimated 50,000 people attended the march on April 22 2017. Photo by Brent Firestone, courtesy of March for Science San Francisco.

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