2016, my year of SciComm
No one really knows what a new year will hold for them, and 2016 was a hard year for almost everyone! But that is not what this post is about, because even in all of the badness that occurred in 2016, for me, it was also the year I found my love of science communication! For a science geek who loves nothing more than talking about science, #scicomm allowed me to take my passion for all things science and combine it with my obsession with social media, to spread the good word to all of you! You are welcome!
But all joking aside, as a researcher, I know that most of the work I perform will generally only be accessible to others in academia. We preach to the choir with our published manuscripts, our lectures at national meetings, within our committee meetings and at our summits. Which, don’t get me wrong, is intellectually stimulating and professionally energizing, but it does nothing to spread our collective work and findings to those I would argue would benefit most — the people!
With that in mind, I set out to make 2016 the year of #scicomm. At the beginning of the year I was fortunate to be asked to host a #podcast focused on women in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). I called this podcast STEAMrollrs because it featured women who were paving the way in those areas. The podcast allowed me to interview some of the coolest women I have ever had the privilege to speak with; their individual passion for their work left me continually energized and excited each and every episode. These are a dynamic and diverse group of women who are leaders in their respective STEAM fields from rocket science to robotics to programming and engineering; you will not be disappointed I promise you! The podcast is produced by Remarkable Chatter in partnership with the STEM Everyday podcast, and is targeted at middle and high school teachers and students — how great is that?! You can hear all of the amazing interviews from season 1 on my website. Season 2 will hopefully begin recording in early 2017, so stay tuned!
In 2016 I was also able to use my more honed skill of writing (podcast interviewing is so much more difficult than it seems) to contribute to multiple internet blogging sites including the Huffington Post, Medium, the Social Innovation Journal, and Geekadelphia. These platforms allowed me to write about a multitude of topics that included science, but also politics, religion, travel, and local events. Of course, as we all know, science is everywhere, but as an observer and participant in this world, my #scicomm is only enhanced when I learn about, and discuss, other topics as well.
But my passion and focus really is on the work I do everyday, and my favorite forum for giving that gift of science to the masses is social media. This year I was also able to use social media in a more dynamic forum thanks to the #scicomm Twitter group Real Scientists. Real Scientists hands over their Twitter account reins to scientists, researchers, clinicians, science communicators and policy makers so that they can present their work to the Twitterverse. I wrote about my engaging experience curating this account for the Huffington Post. In short though, it was an amazing, dynamic week, allowing me to discuss resuscitation science and the work we do at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Resuscitation Science with the masses. And most importantly, I was also able to end the week with a mass #CPR training using Periscope, reaching over 200 people worldwide in just minutes - #techforgood! From that experience I also had the idea to live-stream the Women in Resuscitation event at the American Heart Association’s Resuscitation Science Symposium this past November, with the goal of taking our work outside of the conference room walls. This year’s event highlighted #genderbias in academia for #womeninscience. But that is also, another topic for another time!
Speaking of #techforgood, this year I switched my research focus out of the clinical setting to the magical world of innovation and technology. And what a magical world it is in deed! I was able to discuss my current work on using technology to improve bystander response to cardiac arrest in an issue of the Philadelphia Social Innovation Journal. Emerging from that work, I recently founded a new company, ImmERge Labs (see what I did there!), which will focus on using mixed reality platforms such as virtual reality and augmented reality, for emergency response training and education. As I am entering into this new field, I felt it was important that I up my game, so in 2016 I enrolled in programming classes through Girl Develop It, and exposed myself to introductory courses at my local maker-space, The Hacktory (#lifelonglearner!). I also decided to participate in a couple hackathon’s (coming in 1st place at my first hackathon hosted by Northeastern University’s School of Nursing — #beginnersluck). A hackathon is an amazing, collaborative, exhausting, experience that allows a multidisciplinary group of healthcare providers, engineers, designers, programmers etc. to work together in a confined time period (usually over a weekend) to come up with innovative solutions to some of the industries toughest problems. What better way to discuss your work than with others interested in collaborating to find a solution to YOUR problem! #scicomm score! I highly recommend everyone one participate in a hackathon, it will change the way you think about your work!
Twenty-sixteen was also the third year of Start Talking Science (STS), a free, science communication event geared toward the general public. I am lucky enough to work with some amazing scientists and researchers on this event which aims to increase public interest in — and awareness of — cutting-edge, local research. During this event it is our hope that we can foster insightful conversations and connections — taking the science out of the Ivory Tower! In addition to STS I was once again a judge at our local city-wide Philadelphia science fair — the George Washington Carver Science Fair! What an honor it is to interact with hundreds of young people interested in research and science! I left both of these events truly inspired and elated, and with a great appreciation and gratitude of the opportunities I am afforded through the fields of science and science communication! If you have the opportunity to judge a middle and/or high-school science fair, do it! You never know who you will inspire to continue on in STEM!
Finally, it is my hope for 2017 that we as a community continue documenting the work we do as researchers and scientists. As we are not quite sure what 2017 will hold for any of us, including science believers, it is going to be important that we continue to put our work out there for all to see, hear, and read! This past year I documented a “week in the life” of a resuscitation researcher — a week in the life of my work, demonstrating the ever-changing, dynamic work researchers and scientists do on a daily basis. The only way we are going to educate the masses and inspire more people, especially young people (and girls in particular) to become interested in STEM fields is to show them what we do. So like all things in the upcoming 2017, be vocal, be active, and continue to use #scicomm for the public good!