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Science webinar series gives voice to sidelined societal matters, through a model platform

Science, in partnership with Fondation Ipsen launched a webinar series in 2019 to "shine light on science topics that typically go undiscussed in academia". The result: rapidly spread high-quality scientific content that highlights the importance of often sidelined topics including mental health, science communication, diversity, and social justice.

In a webinar series that continues to shine light on science topics that typically go undiscussed in academia, Science's most recent focus was incarceration.

In a 4 December 2019 webinar, "The science incarceration: A realist look at the cost of imprisonment," experts from The Sentencing Project (Washington D.C.), The Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research (London, U.K.), and the University of Michigan discussed the impacts of imprisonment on peoples' behavioral and mental health, and on their neurochemistry and physiology. What these experts have seen will better inform recidivism reduction going forward, they say.

Approximately 220 viewers tuned in to hear the related discussion.

Sean Sanders, Science's Senior Editor of Custom Publishing and moderator for the event, said he hoped viewers would leave the event with a better understanding of the effects of incarceration not only on the inmate, but on their family, their jailors, and on society as a whole. "We hoped that the audience would say, 'Wow, I didn't know that... I want to know more.'"

"It is reassuring that whilst fake science spreads like wildfire," said Dr. James Levine, President of Fondation Ipsen, Science's partner in launching the webinars, "these events provide reliable scientific information."

The webinar is the 11th in a series that Science and Fondation Ipsen created in February of 2019, designed to promote dialog among experts and society. Since launching the webinars, which are freely available online, the events have rapidly spread high-quality scientific content, elevating the importance of often sidelined topics including mental health, science communication, diversity, and social justice.

"Experts from around the world have participated in these events, adding unique perspectives in each case, and making these discussions dynamic and intercultural," said Levine. "Most importantly, the webinars have reached outside of the traditional scientific audience - to the people that science serves."

The 12th webinar, on 18 December 2019, addressed personal finance for scientists, a topic not typically part of a university's curriculum. Yet, managing finances as a postdoc, lab head or other participant in the scientific endeavor requires careful planning.

The "Fiscal fitness for scientists: the price you pay for ignorance" webinar served as an early educational intervention resource to better prepare both young and tenure scientists to plan for financial stability, retirement, and savings.

A peek at the Science Webinars home page

Developing the webinar series - a collaborative effort between Science and Ipsen - involved active listening in the scientific community. "We wanted to try a different angle on topics, even if they were already being covered," said Sanders.

The panelists for each discussion were carefully selected to include guest speakers with different professional and ethnic backgrounds. "We wanted as many voices as possible to make the discussion more dynamic and appealing," Sanders said.

While most panelists were experienced speakers, they still received training to enhance their communication skills to best convey their messaging through online platforms. In Sanders' coaching before the live broadcasts, he pushed experts out of their comfort zones.

To measure the level of impact of each discussion, Sanders has implemented digital tools - which continue to show high interest in the discussions.

"Members of the scientific community are eager to tune in because of the quality of the panels, their interest in the topics, and due to the reputation of the journal Science," said Levine.

Science and Fondation Ipsen encourage science communication practitioners and researchers to mimic their model and to initiate online discussions that inject scientific information into areas of societal concern.

You can search the webinar's repository here.


About Valeria

Valeria Sabate Headshot

Valeria currently serves as the Sr. Communication Associate and Intl. Communications Lead for the Science Press Package team, which promotes findings related to forthcoming Science family journal papers to a global press. Val is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in communications with a public and media relations concentration at Johns Hopkins University.

If you’d like to share your own #SciEngage tips with Val, you can reach her on Twitter.