Tag Archives: Twitter

Sciobeantown At the New England Aquarium

The Aquarium at night, courtesy of my cell phone.

The Aquarium at night, courtesy of my cell phone.

Last night I posed a question to a few sciobeantown folks asking what was their “gateway science” – the topic that got them interested in science in general, the thing that hooked them. It seemed to me that the most common answers were either space or had something to do with animals, whether on land or at sea. This got me thinking about how if animals are the gateway, then zoos and aquariums are really the gatekeepers – the ones with the ability to open up a whole world of science.

This is a fairly fitting observation, since sciobeantown had just left the New England Aquarium when this conversation took place. I quite unabashedly love the aquarium, and its affiliated IMAX theater; it is where I spent my 25th birthday, because I am a grown up. The reason sciobeantown decided to take it to the Aquarium for our October event was because we wanted to give our group a little taste of ScioOceans, a conference going on in Miami geared toward communicating online about, what else, ocean science.

The Aquarium recently reopened several exhibits after being under construction (the penguins are back!) Additionally, they moved their public lectures out of their classroom space and into the IMAX theater – because power points are more acceptable when they are epic IMAX power points. We attended their most popular event of the year the John Carlson Lecture presented by MIT’s Lorenz Center. The topic for this talk was Sea Ice, Climate and Observational Mathematics and was given by John Wettlaufer a professor at Yale and Oxford.

Lectures are so much better in IMAX!

Lectures are so much better in IMAX!

I was fairly impressed by the turn out, it seemed to me that there was a real range of people, from students to retirees who seemed interested and engaged. Like all things, the talk had some positive and negative things. I loved that Wettlaufer took the time to explain what it means to be a scientist, and how science is so many different things all adding their own value. I also loved that he addressed uncertainty and spoke a bit about the perception of science. I felt like he went into a little too much detail about his research itself – by all means, show us what you do, but the screen of equations at a public talk was a little much for me.

Overall I thought it was a great experience, and I’m glad we were able to attend and bring our livetweeting skills. I’ve put together a storify of our tweets in case you’d like to know more about exactly what was covered in the talk. Special thanks to the New England Aquarium for having us, I’m looking forward to coming back to check out the new exhibits! Also, if you are interested you can follow the Aquarium on twitter @neaq and follow along with @ScioOceans #ScioOceans.

#Sci4hels Question Time #5 – What is the obligation of a science journalist when it comes to education?

I’m manning the sci4hels ship this week for question time. For question #5, we’ve decided to talk about whether science journalists have an extra obligation to educate compared to journalists who focus on other areas. We’ll be entertaining this topic on twitter at the hashtag #sci4hels on Thursday 5/9 at 1pm EST. I hope you’ll be able to join us, so, you know, I don’t end up talking to myself.
via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons

This question has me particularly excited, because for me it ties back to the larger questions of “why am I doing what I’m doing?” and even more importantly “what do I want to be doing?” Since I turned 25 two months ago I’ve been joking a lot about having a quarter-life crisis, but several things have gone on in my life recently that spurred me to take stock of just about everything, including my career.

I often grapple with questions about whether I can consider what I do journalism, whether I’m okay with not doing journalism, if what I even want is to be a journalist, and where those boundaries are – but those are questions for another discussion (and in fact are being tackled in some capacity by another panel at WCSJ13.) Still, it relates to whether or not education is or should be a part of science journalism.
If I do want to help educate the public about science, and if that is an important part of what I want to accomplish in my career does that mean I should be a science journalist? Why not be a teacher? (Oh, so many reasons.) I could work at a museum and educate the public. I could be a public information officer and help educate. I could be an outreach officer for any number of scientific organizations. If you want to educate, why do it through journalism?
There are a lot of questions related to this including: are there other aspects of being a journalist, specifically a science journalist that compliment being an educator? Does being an educator play a role in science journalism that it doesn’t for business or political writers? Writing scientific explainers is definitely journalism – but is it just one kind of journalism or is it something that pervades all science journalism? One of my favorite take-aways from Scio13 came out of the session on explanatory journalism where Carl Zimmer made the comment (which I’m paraphrasing) that good science journalism should never read like you are dropping a textbook on someone. I think that ties in well with this topic, because if you want to be an educator and you want to do it through journalism – well then how do you do that effectively?
While you could approach this question in a lot of different ways, I would really like to hear from people about whether being an educator was part of what made you want to become a science journalist, and what role you think education plays in your work. Bora has tackled this question before in the blog post/on Twitter with Is Education What Journalists Do? Again, I’ll be posting this question to Twitter on Thursday 5/9 at 1pm EST at the #sci4hels hashtag – I hope you’ll join in.Update 5/9: 
So what happened? Here’s the storify recap – it was apparently both useful and not useful, but a lot of people had a lot to say, so thank you for participating everyone!

[View the story “#sci4hels Question Time #5 – Education and Sci Journos” on Storify]

Tweeting at the Science Museum

When I was in the seventh grade I got “lost” in the American Museum of Natural History while on a field trip. I got distracted in the Hall of Gems and Minerals and next thing I knew my group was gone. Following the directions drilled into us prior to departing from our middle school cafeteria that morning, I saw my English teacher with her group of students entering the hall and wandered over to her to announce the obvious, “I’m not where I’m supposed to be.” I was quickly reunited with the correct group and the day passed without other incident.

This memory has to be similar to memories held by students all over the tri-state area who have made the trek into the museum’s halls. Places like the American Museum of Natural History, or even The DaVinci Science Center where I would find myself interning nearly a decade after my adventure in the Hall of Gems and Minerals are special to me because they hold such great memories of exploring science as a kid, and helping kids explore science as an adult. I’ve always looked at science museums or science centers from that kid-centric lens. But these places have a lot more to offer, particularly for adults and I think one way science museums and centers can reach adults is through social media.

I’ve noticed this particularly since I started following the American Museum of Natural History on Twitter. Social media presents an enormous opportunity to connect with different types of people, and I feel like the American Museum of Natural History in particular is reaching a wide audience and making the most of having a social media presence on a platform like twitter. This isn’t just marketing to soccer moms and elementary school teachers, not with over 91,000 followers. I mean I’m neither of those things and they’ve got my attention. I wanted to share a few things that I’ve noticed about the @AMNH‘s twitter stream that make me think whoever is behind the keyboard over there gets it.

A screenshot of the @AMNH twitter page. I love their background!

A screenshot of the @AMNH twitter page. I love their background!

1. Offering the why, not just the what – Any organization can operate a twitter account and fill it with plugs for their programs. What an organization does is important, but why they do it is more important. The why is what is going to keep people coming back long after that single exhibit they were originally interested in has moved on. While the AMNH account certainly tweets about reserving tickets to special exhibits, the majority of the tweets offer the why. There is actual information to be had here, like this piece on archaeology on St. Catharines Island. Is it promoting the museum? Sure the post’s writer David Hurst Thomas is the curator of North American Archaelogy in the Museum’s Division of Anthropology. But is it offering information you wouldn’t otherwise have? Sure. It is also providing depth to a topic that perhaps wouldn’t have drawn many people to the museum, I mean it’s hard to compete with the blue whale. It gives you a sense of who the people are who work for the AMNH. Which in this case, I think could turn a one time visitor into that person who comes back again and again.

2. Tweeting about other things – Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo has a new baby aardvark, and the Google Science Fair is currently accepting entries. These two things have little to do with one another aside from the fact that I learned about both from the @AMNH twitter account. Tweeting about things other than yourself tells me that one there is a real person behind the account, and two that person is interested in the science community not just getting people through the doors. I like that. It makes me trust not just the information in the twitter stream, but the organization itself.

3. Variety – Even when just dealing with tweets regarding the museum’s own content, there is a tremendous amount of variety in the @AMNH twitter stream. There are picture galleries, videos that explain different of topics, podcasts, hashtaged tweets about lectures or talks, and replies to individual twitter users. There is information about the people who work at or are involved in the museum when they are covered in the media. It all adds up to creating a feeling that this is about people. In terms of marketing, I think this strategy really works because it highlights all the people and topics that the museum is involved in, which makes it seem personal and approachable rather than simply like a box office.

There are plenty of other examples I could give about how a science museum could use social media, or even about what I’ve observed the American Museum of Natural History doing. They are clearly involved in a lot and have embraced social media and the interwebs. But for now, I encourage you to check them on Twitter for yourself. Whether you have kids or are a kid at heart who still gets butterflies entering the hall of African Mammals, a person who just has an interest in science and related topics or cool stuff, or are looking for an example of how to run a professional twitter stream I think there will be value in it for you. The @AMNH is #doingitright and might be worth the follow.