Science  04 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6179, pp. 34-37
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6179.34

Results: Science Advocacy

If you had 5 extra hours per week to devote to advocacy for science, how would you use that time? In January, we asked young scientists to send us their ideas. We heard from almost 300 readers. Many felt that their time would be best spent inspiring schoolchildren; creating accessible articles, blogs, and media to explain science; and reaching out to the public through workshops and talks. A sample of the responses can be found below. To allow for as many voices as possible, in some cases we have printed excerpts of longer submissions (indicated by ellipses) and lightly copyedited original text for clarity. To read the complete versions, as well as many more, go to http://scim.ag/NextGen10Results.

Follow Science's NextGen VOICES survey on Twitter with the hashtag #NextGenSci.

Submit Now: Science Ethics

Add your voice to Science! Our new NextGen VOICES survey is now open:

What is the most challenging ethical question facing young investigators in your field?

How should it be addressed?

To submit, go to http://scim.ag/NextGen11

Deadline for submissions is 16 May. A selection of the best responses will be published in the 4 July issue of Science. Submissions should be 250 words or less. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please submit only once.

NextGen Speaks


I would go to middle schools and high schools and give presentations to students demonstrating what real science is.… I believe that they need to be shown that science isn't the endless stream of words and formulas that they find in textbooks. To me, the phrases “wow,” “no way,” and “really?” should represent what students think of science, instead of “I hope I don't fail.”


Vagelos Scholars Program in the Molecular Life Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. E-mail: haninaga{at}sas.upenn.edu


…I would organize and carry out teacher hikes where we would discuss current science topics/debates…. We don't learn to appreciate the world around us from textbooks, nor do we become enthusiastic about meetings with Powerpoint slides. However, most of us enjoy informative conversation, and most of us could use a bit of exercise in the outdoors. Teachers (of all kinds, not only STEM teachers) exert tremendous influence over our next generation of citizens.… When a teacher is interested, the students become interested. Teachers are the most effective advocates for science. Carl Sagan stated, “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge,” and it is the teachers who will change the way of thinking.


AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, DC 20523, USA. E-mail: helen.petach{at}gmail.com


I would volunteer my extra time and resources toward sharing my passion for science with younger students in underprivileged schools. As a former middle school science teacher, I have witnessed the unfortunately low emphasis on science at younger ages, especially in low-income schools, yet I have also seen it excite and change the mindset of the way young students interact with the world. If we want to change the understanding gap between academics and the public, then we need to share our passions with younger generations in order that they may understand the problems, policies, and choices that they will face in the future. KEN LUZYNSKI

Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution, Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, 1160, Austria. E-mail: kenny.luzynski{at}gmail.com


I would give lectures to school pupils and students about science and how it serves society and improves lives. I would also write newspaper articles about harnessing science for the betterment of communities.


Department of Animal Science and Production, Botswana College of Agriculture, Gaborone, 6, Botswana. E-mail: omadibel{at}bca.bw


…I would like to help the students in the poor mountainous areas in Western China to learn the latest scientific advances. …Computers and Internet are not available for many primary and secondary schools there, and the teachers may be “village teachers” who have not received higher education. Consequently, the students there lack understanding of the outside world. Therefore, if I had 5 extra hours per week, I would…take my computer and the most recent scientific knowledge I have learned, and I would teach them. For example, I would teach them about cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and Big Data. I think learning the latest interesting scientific knowledge would broaden their horizons and stimulate their passion for science.…


School of Management, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei, Anhui, 230009, China and Key Laboratory of Process Optimization and Intelligent Decision-Making, Ministry of Education, Hefei, Anhui, 230009, China. E-mail: kailezhou{at}gmail.com


I would train to become a magician. Then, once I have honed my skills, I would go to a school and fascinate all the kids. When I have their full attention, I will reveal all the tricks. But before they lose interest or become deluded, I'll bewitch them with more sophisticated illusions. Then I'll explain that the green rabbit I pulled out of the hat is glowing by expressing green fluorescent protein, that the fog is solid carbon dioxide that sublimates at atmospheric conditions, and that I pulled the right card out of the deck by using a mathematical algorithm. And I will say to the kids that if they study science, they will touch that magic.… CORRADO NAI

Department 4, Materials and Environment, BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, 12205, Berlin, Germany and Department of Microbiology, Free University of Berlin, 14195, Berlin, Germany. E-mail: corrado.nai{at}gmail.com


Visual spam is everywhere. …Many times I find myself wondering, “What if it were as easy to find out about new science discoveries as it is to learn about brand new models of cars, drinks, or women's clothing?” Maybe if we had a little information about the mysteries of nature, we would be inspired to pursue a branch of science…. If I had 5 hours a week to spare, I would start placing posters on my college walls. They would begin with “Did you know…?” and then provide text about interesting scientific facts. I would include related unsolved questions and end with the phrase “Would you help spread the word?” NICOLÁS A. CAPITELLI

Departamento de Matemática, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 1428, Argentina. E-mail: ncapitel{at}dm.uba.ar


I will create a cartoon whose heroes are children (boys and girls) who solve the world's problem thanks to science. Each science specialty (physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, computer science, and so on) would be represented by one character. Those children would be the new “scientific superheroes.” The “bad guys” would be a society of grown-ups who are against change and sharing of knowledge. The idea is to give to children a model with whom they can identify. The long-term objective is to stimulate scientific vocation. When asked the question “What would you like to do as a job?,” young children would answer not only “doctor, teacher, pirate, or princess,” but also “scientist.”°.


Institut de Chimie et des Matériaux Paris-Est, CNRS UMR 7182, Equipe Métaux et Céramiques à Microstructures Contrôlées, 94320, Thiais, France. E-mail laurent-brocq{at}icmpe.cnrs.fr


Maybe it's time to let Science advocate for itself. Science has come to acquire solemnity, whereas it should be about curiosity and amazement. …I believe in taking science into the everyday world of as many people as possible, trying to get the scientist into real-life scenarios. Schools and kindergartens should be able to visit research labs, but also scientists should be able to spend a few hours a week in educational institutions, and not only that, but every cultural space available. We need more likable science geeks and more socially adequate Ph.D.s who are able to not only educate but entertain. I'd use my time trying to bring the sexy back to science, or at least making sure to make someone laugh and learn something while trying. PABLO ADRIÁN GONZÁLEZ

Laboratorio de Agrobiotecnología, Departamento de Fisiología y Biología Molecular y Celular, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina and El Gato y La Caja (elgatoylacaja.com). E-mail: pablo201083{at}gmail.com


The goal of the advocacy is to make science available and interesting to a much broader audience than the scientific community…. To reach the general public and send an effective message, science should exploit the power of social and mainstream media. However, bringing media and science together represents a challenge and requires various skills, from understanding scientific literature to being able to market and communicate it further to broader audience. Thus, for fruitful advocacy, at the beginning, I would devote 5 hours per week to learn from the experts what and how people want to hear from us. Afterward, I would use this time to engage in tweeting interesting results from articles I read, posting about new achievements on a widely used Web portals, or finding ways to participate in TV/radio shows and give thought-provoking talks. If we learn how to use all these social media tools, possibilities are endless…. In the end, if we as scientists don't speak loudly, how will others know and understand the importance of science? MARJANA BRKIC

Department of Neurobiology, Institute for Biological Research, University of Belgrade, 11000, Belgrade, Serbia. E-mail: marjana.brkic{at}ibiss.bg.ac.rs


…I would create a blog that would emphasize the potential practical applications of “useless” research. It would elucidate connections between findings in different fields and potential applications, and crowdsource opinions to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration and debate the most urgent direction for the translation of breakthroughs. …


Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, WC1N 3AR, UK. E-mail: javier.elkin.10{at}ucl.ac.uk


…Having an extra 5 hours, as a young woman scientist, I would take a leadership role in the advancement of diversity in scientific fields. There is a dire need to support diversity in both the academic and corporate scientific workplace. Part of diversity could be achieved by developing a structured program on mentoring and encouraging young girls to pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology. The extra time could be used to hold regular meetings and address issues affecting young women in science without interfering with one's academic or social activities.…


Materials Modelling Centre, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, Polokwane, Limpopo, 0727, South Africa. E-mail: maphangarr{at}yahoo.com


I would devote that time to developing the presence of science on media outlets like YouTube. The new generation of scientists is accustomed to instant gratification; information is at their fingertips in short phrases on a single Web page. YouTube channels dedicated to STEM topics, such as SciShow, have videos with hundreds of thousands of views. Using animated diagrams to describe a cell process or writing out a mathematical concept on a digital screen allows inquisitive young minds to digest the content more easily. Narrated by a witty voice-over in 10 minutes or less, these videos teach a concept without scaring away a student like lengthy journals or hour-long lectures tend to do.


Department of Biochemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. E-mail: megnoll{at}sas.upenn.edu


…I would spend those hours at the hospital, sitting alongside family members of patients. A 5-minute talk with the physician about the health status of their relative is often all the information they receive. I believe that those people deserve a better understanding of the current scientific knowledge about the disorder affecting their relative. In return for giving them a better understanding, I would try to convince them that the impact of nonscientists will be crucial in the next two decades of science. To reach the next level in science, we will need the entire community to support us with ideas and technology share (such as computer power and electricity sharing). With 39 million hospitalizations in the United States every year (according to 2007 data), this group forms a highly accessible and motivated source of scientific supporters. Only in times of crisis do we realize the threats of disease that wait ahead of us in life, and I believe this is the perfect moment to activate this group of people to contribute to science in the next decades…. ELIAS ADRIAENSSENS

Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3QT, UK. E-mail: elias.adriaenssens{at}pharm.ox.ac.uk


…I would create a consortium of concerned young scientists advocating for legislative action on climate change, with a thrust toward scientists in red states. Our major objective would be to write state and national representatives, imploring that they make the hard decision and look long instead of short, valuing societal over personal gain, and enact a price on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that would put renewable technologies on an equal playing field with fossil fuels. The only chance for action in Washington is a ground-up movement of voters demanding responsibility, and what better place to start than with those who understand the implications of climate change the best?


Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94702, USA. E-mail: david.garfield{at}berkeley.edu


…A considerable amount of time and funding must be spent to repeat the same experiments and find the details of optimized conditions. By creation of some comprehensive online databases, these parameters could be organized and shared with others. This would help various research groups to focus only on their main cutting-edge project goals and save their time and financial resources….If I have several extra hours per week to advocate science, I will help to generate such databases, at least in my own field of expertise.


Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. E-mail: arami{at}uw.edu


…With 5 extra hours to dedicate to advocacy, I would want to sit down for lunches with all the congressmen and senators and tell them what science means to me, the next generation of scientists, and most importantly, our country. Maybe if I tell them that it takes an insane amount of love and passion for science to live on $20,000 a year as graduate students and dive headfirst into the unknown that is our current R&D situation, then they will see that funding science means funding dedicated, brilliant people who advance our country's well-being behind the scenes, on old and scratched-up lab benches. I'd round up all the hungry graduate students who will excitedly talk about their projects and remind the congressmen that science is an unstoppable driving force behind innovation. I just hope they will pay for lunch. IRINA TIPER

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA. E-mail: itiper{at}umaryland.edu


I will use the time to initiate the Chinese Scientist oral history project, which will document the history of science through interviews with leading Chinese scientists…. This unique collection of interviews will offer fresh insights into science and scientists in China. I will…carefully survey the backgrounds of leading scientists in each field and select the best candidate willing to share his or her stories, especially autobiographical anecdotes about both career successes and failures.…I will allow each scientist to talk candidly about his or her motivation, career path, frustrations, and triumphs, as well as family and childhood. Finally, I will make the interview video and transcripts free online….


Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 310021, China. E-mail: fengboli{at}gmail.com


First, I would turn off my computer, smartphone, television, iPad, and all other electronics. I would round up a group of children from my neighborhood, the local school, the skate park, or the mall. I would take them outside to a city park, a lake, a creek, a garden. I would bring binoculars and set up a spotting scope and encourage them to look up, look down, look all around, and let their imagination run wild about how what they see got there, how it functions, and how many more questions still need to be answered. In short, I would try as hard as I could to connect young kids to the natural world around them, instilling an interest in science without a single text, tweet, or blog post. ELIZABETH M. PHILLIPS

School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-5020, USA. E-mail: emp11{at}uw.edu


If I had 5 extra hours per week to advocate for science, I would use that time actually DOING science! In my opinion, the best way to advocate for science is to do science and generate exciting results that demonstrate the value of science to society. However, because of the risk of losing funding to support my position, I am instead spending those 5 hours (or more!) submitting proposal after proposal to funding agencies that can fund less than 10% of the applications that they receive….


Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. E-mail: michael_kemp{at}med.unc.edu

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