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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Holidays are over . . . time to get back to the hard work of pondering the mysteries of the Universe!

One of my favorite sci sites these days is the Facebook site, “I F***g Love Science.”  MIT’s Scope magazine recently (December 18, 2012) did an article about the site’s founder, Elise Andrew.  (Take a look at the whole scoop yourself  Ms. Andrew started the site, it seems, less than a year ago as a mental release from the pressures of finishing her dissertation.  (Sadly, I just ate lots of chocolate, but to be fair, there wasn’t any Facebook in the Stone Ages of the 1980s and 1990s).  Point is, she started a site that went viral. I’m sure part of that (OK, I admit it! A LOT of it!) is due to the shock value of the name.  Put “F**k” or “F***g” on anything and it immediately becomes more interesting.  Like forbidden fruit.  But the site itself is fascinating! She pulls together both mainstream and offbeat stories, has cool photos, cartoons and infographics and has over 2.3 million – yes, MILLION – “Likes.”  Because of her success, all of us who do science education and outreach need to do 3 things:

1) Thank our lucky stars (yeah, I meant the pun!) that she got burnt out working on her dissertation! If everything had been going hunky-dory, she might not have gotten bummed out enough to start the site!

2) Figure out what she is doing right – and like every good educator – copy it!  (It’s OK! We call it sharing “best practices!”) No, we all don’t want to start dropping the “F-bomb” in all our sites and blogs and presentations.  Even too much of a good thing is still too much!  Maybe it’s the eclectic mix of her stories (bugs, snakes, DNA, clouds, exoplanets . . . ), maybe it’s the sometimes irreverent tone (“Planet Infected by Humans” is a good example), maybe it’s the simple fact that she posts A LOT.  It keeps her site in front of our face – and it keeps me, at least, eager to open my Fb to see what’s new in the last hour or two!  Right now, she has the magic touch! May we all be so lucky!

3) Plot a course for what’s next for her 2.3 million “Likes.” Social media is very faddish (My Space, anyone?) and viral stories and sites can become stale and the butt of twitter jokes within months (sometimes weeks, days, or even hours!)  She’s been going strong for the better part of a year, but what happens later?  She’s grabbed people’s attention, but now what?  Can we get some of those people involved in citizen science projects? Send them over to Zooniverse?  Plug some of the free online MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) for those who want to “read more about it?”  Get people tapped into their local astronomy clubs or wildlife sanctuaries or ??.  Ideas, people, we need ideas!!

There’s an opportunity here to advance science outreach long-term . . . just need to f***g find it! 

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