On #Resistance fatigue and self-care

The last couple of days have been rough. I feel like the world is turning upside down, and do not know what to think or how to react. By what I see on my TL and Facebook, it seems like a general feeling that a lot of us are going through. Ok, I know that my sample is kind of biased, but you get the point ūüėČ

There is so much going on, and there’s so much information out there! Lately I’ve been doing a somewhat reverse pomodoro. Working for five minutes, and spending 25 minutes on Twitter/news. Of course at some point we are going to feel overwhelmed. Not to mention work that starts piling up…

We cannot forget that politics is a strategy game, and the current strategy is to throw everything at the same time, and wear us out. And that cannot happen, not if we want to keep resisting! Remember, the fight is far from over, and this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Self-care is an important part of the resistance. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t be ashamed to take a break. Try to energize doing something that brings you pleasure and joy, and then come back. If you’re like me, that simply can’t look away, try to taper it down. Make a Twitter list with only a couple of accounts and follow that, instead of your normal feed. Or, focus in only one topic, and read only news about it.

I don’t know you, but it’s becoming somewhat pathological to want to follow everything and fight against everything. With focus, we can resist, better and stronger! It is more important than ever to keep fighting, but we cannot forget to take care of yourselves first.

sanity

And don’t forget: there are always cute puppies pictures!

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Why screaming louder about Science might not be enough

Science is being seriously threatened. It is certainly amazing to see the scientific community joining efforts and resisting to it. A March for Science is currently being organized, and a newly formed group called 314 Action is encouraging scientists to run for office. Scientists are all fired up to communicate more their science to the general public. But just screaming louder may not bring optimal results. One must understand that science is political, no matter what field it is (@Hood_Biologist).

Studies show both Democrats and Republicans like the same policy better when they’re told it’s supported by their own party. This is called politically motivated reasoning, and leads people to seek out information that reinforces their ideas (confirmation bias), and counter-argue information that contradicts their ideas (disconfirmation bias). We talked about this topic on our last #DiversityJC, in which we discussed the article The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions.

“In the experiment, participants were randomly¬†assigned to receive a table of outcome data that was labeled as either showing how a skin cream affects a rash or how gun control affects crime. The success of the intervention (i.e., skin cream, gun control) was also randomly varied between respondents.

When the table was presented as data about whether a skin cream helped a rash or not, there were no major differences in how people of different ideological leanings interpreted the data. But when the data were instead presented as evidence about the effectiveness of gun control, people‚Äôs interpretation of the results became polarized by ideology.”

So it doesn’t really matter what the facts are actually showing, people‚Äôs interpretation will vary, depending¬†if the information reinforces or contradicts directional (party) preferences. In this excellent piece GETTING A SCIENTIFIC MESSAGE ACROSS MEANS TAKING HUMAN NATURE INTO ACCOUNT, @NeuWriteSD discusses how¬†in reality, just knowing facts doesn‚Äôt necessarily guarantee that one‚Äôs opinions and behaviors will be consistent with them. One must first consider human nature, and overcome cognitive biases.

In fact I believe that most of the people who are anti-vaccines, anti-global warming, anti-GMO are not really anti-science. Those opinions¬†seem to be less related to ideologies but¬†more related to express their emotional beliefs. In other words, they seem to¬†truly BELIEVE that those are actual threats to themselves and their loved ones. In her new book, Strangers in Their Own Land, sociologist Arlie Hochschild says that “while people might vote against their economic needs, they’re actually voting to serve their emotional needs.” (H/T)¬†this week’s episode of the Hidden Brain.

But how can we fight¬†it? A recent study showed that this politically motivated reasoning can be tamped down – with CURIOSITY! You can read The Atlantic’s article about it here or dig into the full paper.¬†In that paper, the authors present evidence that, as science curiosity increases, subjects tend not to polarize in their judgements¬†but rather¬†adjust their opinions¬†of them. The¬†authors demonstrate the utility of the new ‚Äúscience of science communication‚ÄĚ, suggesting that it is possible to construct a valid science curiosity
instrument to reach those people, and scientists need to be sufficiently concrete about its focus, avoids social appeal effects, and not rely exclusively on self-report measures.

One other approach that we can keep in mind is brought by the principle of behavioral economics, that states that when it comes to human beings, there is a conflict between¬†the passions and the impartial spectator. The most famous paper published back in 1979 describes that “the ways in which alternatives are framed‚ÄĒnot simply their relative value‚ÄĒheavily influence the decisions people make“. So taking those principles into account, we should aim not only to describe Science¬†but frame it in an optimal way for our audience to “buy it”.

Easy? Of course not. But we must use all efforts and strategies to fight for Science and make sure that our message is delivered – and understood – properly.

What’s the best way to share Science in social media?

Last week Scicurious started a discussion on Twitter about how only 24% of the US population actually uses Twitter. As Science Communication shares its content mainly through Twitter, are we really getting our voice out there?

Although roughly one-quarter of online adults (24%) use Twitter, one have to keep in mind that this number is probably even smaller among academics. In our current world of “Publish or Perish” and constant obligation¬†to be constantly writing (and re-writing) grants, many academics just claim “who has time for that?“. Indeed, there was a piece on Academics Anonymous last year from a PhD student, advocating against academic usage of social media, claiming that scientists¬†should not “should not have to parade ourselves on social media to please our employers or be considered enthusiastic“. Yes. There is still this view that social media is a waste of time, and in order to be a successful scientist you need to make science the center of your life:

Also, there is so much published on the internet every day, most of the readers do not reach the end of the articles. Readers can‚Äôt stay focused. According to the article’s author: “Maybe this is just our cultural lot: We live in the age of skimming. I want to finish the whole thing, I really do. I wish you would, too. Really‚ÄĒstop quitting! But who am I kidding. I‚Äôm busy. You‚Äôre busy. There‚Äôs always something else to read, watch, play, or eat.”

So it is tough. You gotta be creative, concise, and you have a limited audience. Yes, there are other forms of social media out there. The Pew research study also showed that 79% of internet users uses Facebook, remaining the most popular social media platform, beating Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn (all with around 30% of users).

I totally agree with that! In the case of social media, it is always easier to communicate to your peers. Your network is always kind of bias, and because of that, somewhat limited. But I do believe it is more about the audience and the content. There is no way anyone can possibly reach everybody, even if you cover all different platforms. So you need to define your goals, your audience, and aim for it.

Personally, I am a fan of blogging. Last year I wrote a blog post advocating that scientists should write more blog posts. When I talked about it on Twitter, several people replied that they have been blogging less because no one reads it. And now with the recently added feature to thread tweets together, people are writing “mini-blog posts” on Twitter. However, unlike twitter, blog posts will show up on internet searches.When people want to look for information, what do they usually do? They google it! So if your main goal is¬†to reach the general public about your current science, you may want to start writing something “googleable”.

But this is my personal take on that. What’s yours? Do you have a special strategy to reach more people?

Before you do problem solving you have to do problem finding


Earlier this week, I’ve listened to the last episode of the NPR Hidden Brain podcast: How Silicon Valley Can Help You Get Unstuck (Thanks Ian, for the suggestion!). It is a really good one, and you should listen when you have some time.¬†I could totally relate to the first story of the podcast, about a young woman that suddenly¬†realized she wasn’t the person she wanted to be. I believe this have happened to me recently, after the SFN meeting, and I wrote about it here. As the woman from the podcast, I still¬†don’t know exactly what I¬†want to be, but¬†I’m sure that the ideal version of me is out there, and I just have to find her.

Everybody¬†feels stuck at some point. And most of the time, people don’t really know where they want to go, to begin with. People¬†complain that they don’t know what to do with their lives, and¬†they want¬†to find the right¬†pathway (that is already there, and we just need to find it). What people usually don’t realize is that there’s¬†not only one right destination, there are many. In the podcast, Dave Evans, a former product designer from Apple describe design thinking.¬†According to Google, design thinking “refers to creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing”. However, this can be applied to our lives as well.¬†There isn’t just one life, or one career, for any of us. So what we need to do is create several prototypes – create three completely different variations of your life, try some different things, and finally choose the one you WANT to be.

I see many people posting their New Year’s resolutions for 2017. I never do that. I don’t really believe that a new year will begin and I can magically turn into a new person. I am more of a person that suddenly decides things need to change, and just do it. It may take a long time to get to that point, but it doesn’t¬†have to come¬†with a new year, or a Monday. For example, it took me years to decide to quit smoking, and I finally did it on December 26th, 2013. Four days before the new year, and on a Friday! Anyways, I decided to try this prototype design of my life, and here are my three possible pathways¬†for me:

  1. Continue working in Biotech Sales: Let’s be fair. I am far from unhappy with¬†my work. After one year and a half, I feel much more comfortable doing it. I’ve become better at dealing with my customers and I’m already making more money that I was doing as a postdoc. I like the idea of doing a job that is based on creating relationships. As an extreme social person, I love being the hub connecting all teams from my company to the customer. But working home by myself is still a challenge. I wished I could travel to do more visits. Maybe I can try to work on that. Also, I’d like to move into a more administrative position, where I could manage promotions and strategies specifically to the academic environment. I know how both worlds work and I fell I could help make them interact better.
  2. Science Outreach: In the last months, I’ve been spending more and more time doing side projects on the internet.¬†Running our #DiversityJC and #RecoveringAcademic podcast is very exciting, but also, very time-consuming. But I do it, simply because I love doing them. I love the idea to advocate, to help. I also love Science very much. My ideal Science Outreach job would be one where I would need to deal with lots of people, organize events, travel to many conferences, and advocate for Science. Is there a job like that? I am not sure, need to do some research about it.
  3. Come back to academia: About six months ago, my former PI approached me asking for help to write a new R21 grant. As a mathematician, he wanted the view of a neuroscientist on it. We did it, and we are waiting for the review. It took much longer that I thought it would, but it felt good to read neuroscience¬†articles and think! Coming back to academia as a full time researcher is not my ideal plan,¬†but I miss the Science aspect of it, the scientific thinking. I believe¬†if I could do it as a side project, either with option number 1 or 2, I’d take it.

Actually it turns out it was tough to choose only three pathways! I’ve thought about many, many more. My favorite one so far is option number 2. But still very vague. Maybe I need to turn it into three different sub-options? I may do that in a later post, stay tuned!