Welcome to Week One of the SciFund Challenge outreach training class! With this class, we have two goals. One: to build outreach skill levels. Two: to build a sense of community among class participants. So let’s get started with both!
For this week, we’ll be diving into the opportunities and pitfalls that outreach presents for scientists. We’ll also get started with Twitter and video.
Fun and friendly tasks for Week One
1. Don’t panic! There are a lot of steps here, but almost all of them are very quick. There are a few technology things that we want to introduce you to this week and, since some of us are technologically less inclined, we want to lay out these things out very precisely. Hence the long (but quick to follow) instructions.
2. Can figure something out or having trouble with something? Send a note out to the SciFund class e-mail list and let’s talk about it. Even better, send a tweet out about it (more on this later).
3. Entrance survey. Fill it out, right away please. This is super important and course participants have all today been e-mailed links to the survey.
4. Your first video. We hope everyone in this class will make tremendous progress with their outreach skills. To see this progress, we want everyone to make a short “before outreach class” video. With the webcam on your computer, record yourself talking about your research, as if you were talking to someone who didn’t know anything about your field. This video should be two minutes or less. Don’t spend much time preparing this video (well under 10 minutes, definitely): no polish, rehearsal, or multiple takes. This video only exists to show you “before”. If you are on a Mac, here is how to film yourself using Photo Booth (comes built-in with Macs). If you are on a PC, here is how to film yourself using Movie Maker (also built-in).
5. Uploading your first video. We want you to make your video available on the private SciFund wiki (to which only class participants have access). Again, the whole purpose of this is just to document your progress. As a first step, upload your video to YouTube. Don’t worry! The whole world won’t see your video, because you will set your video as unlisted in the privacy settings. Login to the SciFund wiki and you will see instructions on how to place your YouTube video in the wiki.
6. Outreach and you. Researchers new to outreach tend to have a lot of concerns about what outreach might mean for their careers. So, let’s talk about it! As a basis for the discussion, we asked several veteran science communicators to film themselves talking about their science outreach journeys. You can find the collection of short videos here. Please watch the videos. Pay special attention to the first video by Sarah Klain, as she talks about what happens When Science Outreach Goes Wrong. As you are watching the videos, please reflect on the potential relevance of the speakers’ comments on your own life and career.
7. Discussion groups (part 1). This week, we’ll breaking out into discussion groups to talk about what doing outreach might mean for each of us personally. We’ll be having these discussions via one-hour group video conferences, courtesy of Google Hangouts. We have scheduled almost 25 one-hour discussion sections for this week, running at practically all hours of the day. All sections will be facilitated by one of the course instructors. Sign up now for one of the sections at the SciFund wiki (to which all class participants have access). All of the discussion sections are private and the video won’t be saved. There is one exception! In order to keep a recording of what we are doing, one of the sections will be live broadcasted and the video from that one section will be saved. If you want to be part of that particular section, you can sign up for it.
8. Google Hangouts. In order to participate in a Google Hangout, you’ll need two things:
- A Google+ account (which is free). If you have a gmail account already, this is also your Google+ account. If you don’t have a Google+ account, sign up here.
- The Google video/voice plug-in (which is also free). On this page, click the “Install video chat plug-in” button”.
9. Discussion groups (part 2). The way the discussion groups will work is as follows. Before your group time, please do have taken a look at the videos mentioned in step 6 above. A few minutes before your scheduled discussion section is supposed to start, sign in to your Google+ account. At the appointed time, you’ll receive an invite to the Google Hangout. During the Hangout, be sure to have your sound going through headphones! If you don’t, it is almost certain that someone’s speakers and microphone will cause enough feedback to kill the audio feed for everyone. If you are having specific problems with Hangouts, Google has a troubleshooting page on the very topic.
10. Get a Twitter account. Twitter can be an invaluable tool for science outreach. Twitter is also a critical part of the communications strategy for this class. So, sign up for an account. When you set up your Twitter account, there are three simple things you can include to crank up your credibility within the Twitter community: your actual name in your description, a picture of yourself, and a link back to your main website.
11. Download Tweetdeck, which is a free Twitter management program that will make your Twitter experience much easier. Although you can use Twitter without Tweetdeck, you don’t want to .
12. Brand new to Twitter? Here is a great guide, but we’ll start you out with a few FAQs:
What does RT mean? If you like a tweet, you can retweet it to your followers. Adding RT before the tweet shows who it originated from (eg: RT @someoneawesome: Just seen this amazing video of a tornado)
What does MT mean? This is a modified tweet, so used when you change a tweet in someway before retweeting it (eg: MT @someoneawesome: An amazing video of a tornado).
What does h/t mean? This means ‘hat tip’ and is a way of pointing out that you were alerted to the info in the tweet by someone else (eg: Today is World Outreach Day! h/t to @someone for reminding me)
What’s a hashtag? A hashtag (#) is a way of labelling a tweet, eg to relate it to a particular event. We will be using the hashtag #SciFund so please add this when tweeting about the class.
13. Your first tweet. Once you are set up with Twitter and Tweetdeck, send a tweet to the course instructors (Jai Ranganathan: @jranganathan, Siouxsie Wiles: @SiouxsieW, Kelly Weinersmith: @FuSchmu, Anthony Salvagno: @Thescienceofant). Remember to use the #SciFund hashtag in your tweet. We’ll add you to our SciFund Outreachers Twitter list.
14. Connect to the other SciFund class participants on Twitter. Subscribe to Siouxsie’s SciFund Outreachers Twitter list and you’ll see the master list of all tweets sent by our group. You can subscribe to the list on her Twitter page (you’ll need to sign in with your Twitter account details on the page).
15. Connect to prominent science communicators. Siouxsie also keeps a Twitter list of scientists who have high profile outreach presences. This list is extremely incomplete and will grow in the weeks to come, so no offense to those who aren’t included. Subscribe to this list and you’ll see the tweets from this group.
16. On Tweetdeck, add a column for the #SciFund hashtag so you can see specifically the ongoing conversations happening for the class. How do you add a column? In the top right of Tweetdeck, there is a white search box. In that box, enter “#SciFund”. In the window that opens, select the Add Column at the bottom of the window. Note, you can make almost anything of interest a separate column. To make one of Siouxsie’s lists one of your columns, select Add Column in the upper row, followed by Lists. You’ll see the lists to which you are subscribed and you can add them as columns.
17. More tweets. Using the #SciFund hashtag, send at least five tweets giving your reactions to the outreach videos that you watched way, way back in step 6 of these fun and friendly tasks. Reply to at least three #SciFund tweets discussing the videos.
18. Special optional exercise. For those who are looking for more, read the PLOS Biology journal article An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists. This incredible article just came out last week and we’ll be talking about it the days to come.