Guest Post: Science, It’s Your Thing
[Earlier this year, the European Commission launched Science: It’s A Girl Thing. It’s an initiative to inspire young women to take an interest in science, both at school and as a career, to address the strong gender imbalance in that field. The launch video provoked considerable backlash and was withdrawn very quickly. There is now a competition to produce a replacement video. Submissions are coming from a range of people, reflecting genuine popular ideas about how to get more women into science. Voting is open to everyone, and closes on Monday 26th November.
An old friend of mine from school, Flora Vincent, is part of a team who are taking part. In a bit to help raise awareness of their video, I sent Flora a few questions. Her answers ended up as this guest post. Enjoy!]
We are a group of 10 students (the majority of us are scientists; there are 4 men and 6 women) who have come together to use a new tool to answer scientific questions for non-scientists, or for scientists who are just not familiar with the topic. The tool is what we call “Doodle videos”: dynamic drawings completed by a voice-over. You may have heard of minutephysics, ViHart or ASAP Science that are already using this technique successfully on Youtube. We fixed our time limit to less than 2 minutes, so that no one gets bored, and to keep the videos punchy.
It’s actually a combination of circumstances that made us want to participate in the European Commission’s contest “Science it’s a girl thing”. We all had in mind the disastrous attempt of the EU to attract women in science when they released a totally inadequate video mixing techno-music/flashing lights/mini-skirts/make-up/women… and science. Two weeks ago, we were struggling with our first video “Draw me Why the Sky is blue” when Stephane (one of the team members) sent us an email saying “Hey guys, what about that contest?” We all immediately agreed, excited by the subject, the tight deadline (we had two weeks!); in a word,:by the challenge!
It took us two weeks to make the video, but not full-time of course. Actual actions like shooting or editing the video don’t take a lot of time, but all the discussion around the script and the best way to illustrate it took us a few hours in total. If the video had been longer, we could have added other statistics showing that science is gender-biased, and we would have focused more on showing that science is cool and exciting. It was our choice and strategy to insist on the biases in science, but we had less time to talk about why we think scientific jobs are fantastic jobs. Maybe for a next video!
The goal of the video is to encourage more young women to choose science as a career, so our target audience would be girls and women between 10 to 30 years old. But at the same time, because the mechanism we use is a feeling of injustice, we expect this video to talk to everybody, men included.
All the statistics in the video come from the Gender In Science website http://www.genderinscience.org/. Finding the statistics was not the bulk of our work – we focused more on how to present them. We’re conscious that some arguments, for instance the use of male rats in experiments, are totally legitimate and explained. Research papers on the subject seem scarce, but you can find a few blog posts on the web dealing with the subject.
For crash test dummies: http://www.themarysue.com/female-crash-dummy-prototype/
For the prescription drugs (pdf): http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01286r.pdf
For the use of male rat in pain studies (pdf): http://www.iasp-pain.org/AM/AMTemplate.cfm?Section=HOME&SECTION=HOME&CONTENTID=15073&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm
For the increase of performance: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/reding/multimedia/news/2012/03/20120305_en.htm
[Thanks Flora! You can vote for Flora’s video and see the other entries to the competition here.
I also persuaded Flora to submit a Science Shoeoff, so watch this space!]