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Making Science Inclusive Requires Partnerships and Collaborations
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Maryam Zaringhalam

 

Science salon highlights from Anchorage, Fort Collins, Knoxville, New York, and DC. 500 Women Scientists. (2018). Digital photographs courtesy of Maryam Zaringhalam, PhD.

After the 2016 election, 500 women scientists signed on to a pledge not only to stand up for science, but also for the rights and dignity of fellow scientists and citizens of the world —women, minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQIA community. The pledge went viral and grew into the grassroots non-profit organization 500 Women Scientists, which has worked since then to make science open, inclusive, and accessible.

 

500 Women Scientists cannot achieve that mission on its own, nor has that been the goal. Since its founding, this organization recognized that it could not speak for all the marginalized communities that exist in STEM. Its inclusive vision hinges on a diversity of voices, perspectives, and potential solutions to the challenges historically marginalized groups face. Organizations that share the spirit of the 500 Women Scientists’ mission have long existed. They have made strides in shaping the conversation around diversity and inclusion in STEM as well as advocating for a scientific enterprise that can truly serve all.

 

500 Women Scientists Collaborates with Ciencia Puerto Rico

At 500 Women Scientists’ fall leadership meeting, leaders of the organization brainstormed ways to leverage a growing audience to amplify work that they admire. At that time, Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR)— a network of nearly 10,000 Puerto Rican scientists committed to serving their community and advancing science on the archipelago — had just published its strategic vision to rebuild science education in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. CienciaPR’s mission to build a global community dedicated to using science to serve humanity aligned with the vision of 500 Women Scientists for the future of science, and the organization is run by three women scientists making it a perfect partner for collaboration.

 

In December, 500 Women Scientists’ leadership reached out to CienciaPR’s Director of Communication, Mónica Feliú-Mójer, PhD, with a campaign to raise money for CienciaPR’s STEM education initiatives called Science Salons for Puerto Rico. The idea was to ask 500 Women Scientist pods (local chapters) to host public events (“science salons”) that would showcase the expertise of their members, spread the word about CienciaPR’s mission, and raise donations to support that work. 500 Women Scientists also partnered with Christine O’Connell, PhD, a science communication expert who helped develop the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, to host a webinar for members who wanted to bolster their public speaking skills to better share their science with general audiences.

 

The campaign was launched in March, coinciding with the six-month anniversary of the Hurricanes and with Women’s History Month. While members of 500 Women Scientists raised money for CienciaPR, the Puerto Rican leadership team had a decade’s worth of experience mobilizing their network toward a given goal that was instrumental in the campaign. The months preceding the launch were spent working out a strategy to spread the word to member pods and to effectively cross-promote the two organizations and their activities.

 

Outcomes of Science Salons for Puerto Rico Campaign

In March and April, pods around the country hosted 15 salons in:

  • Anchorage, AL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Boulder, CO
  • Corvallis, OR
  • Edwardsville, IL
  • Eugene, OR
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Greeley, CO
  • Knoxville, TN
  • New York, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Urbana-Champaign, IL
  • Washington, DC

In total, these events turned out well over 1,000 guests to raise over $7,500 for CienciaPR.

 

The salons also acted as hubs, connecting pods to the expertise and talent that exist within the CienciaPR network. The New York City, NY pod was able to bring on CienciaPR’s Executive Director, Giovanna Guerrero-Medina, PhD, as a speaker to talk more in depth about CienciaPR’s programs and new vision. Fort Collins, CO centered the whole salon on highlighting the stories of Latinx women scientists in their community. Washington, DC’s salon opened with talk from an undergraduate astronomer who shared a story of how she and her family connected over the star-studded skies when she was finally able to call back home after the hurricanes. Members of the CienciaPR network and Spanish-speaking allies have also agreed to translate 500 Women Scientists’ resources and blog posts to broaden its reach and widen its impact beyond English-speaking audiences.

 

The idea was to ask 500 Women Scientist pods (local chapters) to host public events (“science salons”) that would showcase the expertise of their members, spread the word about CienciaPR’s mission, and raise donations to support that work.

 

Hosting salons also created an opportunity for pods to reach out and connect with other organizations. The campaign catalyzed partnerships with organizations like Taste of Science, Graduate Women in Science, and NerdNite, as well as with local establishments that hosted the events. Pods have already re-used the salon model to partner and raise money for other organizations. The Eugene, OR pod, for instance, has since hosted two more salons to raise money for the Climate Reality Project and the Eugene Science Center.

 

The campaign was a great success, and an additional valuable takeaway was cross-pollinating the perspectives of CienciaPR’s and 500 Women Scientists’ membership. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Austin, Guerrero-Medina described CienciaPR as a geographically dispersed, but emotionally connected community dedicated to serving Puerto Rico. Supporting their mission and learning from their leadership, 500 Women Scientists gained much more than they could have achieved on their own. This collaboration renewed and refined their sense for what they hope to achieve around the world together.

 

500 Women Scientists is always looking for partners to advance our mission. If you are interested and have ideas, get in touch at info@500womenscientists.org.

 

Maryam Zaringhalam, PhD, serves on the leadership team of 500 Women Scientists where she uses her expertise in science communication, policy, and advocacy to advance their mission of making science open, inclusive, and accessible.

 

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